Canadian Official Says NEXUS Is 'Being Held Hostage' & The US Is Using 'Heavy-Handed' Tactics

NEXUS allows travellers to quickly and easily enter both countries by land, air and water.

​Canada-U.S. border crossing with "NEXUS only" lanes. Right: Person using a NEXUS kiosk at Ottawa International Airport.
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Canada-U.S. border crossing with "NEXUS only" lanes. Right: Person using a NEXUS kiosk at Ottawa International Airport.

A Canadian official has said that the NEXUS program, which facilitates travel across the Canada-U.S. border , is "being held hostage" by the U.S.

During a conference organized by the Future Borders Coalition and hosted at the Canadian Embassy in Washington on October 13, Ambassador of Canada to the U.S. Kirsten Hillman slammed the U.S. over a dispute that's causing delays to NEXUS.

"I'm going to be super undiplomatic and blunt here because I think this is important for friends sometimes," Hillman, according to CBC News .

"There's an attempt to renegotiate the terms of a 20-year-old program unilaterally and the program is being held hostage to that effort," the ambassador continued, as reported by The Canadian Press . "It's disappointing and it's frustrating for us."

Hillman also claimed that the U.S. is using "heavy-handed" tactics that aren't in line with the cooperative relationship between the two countries.

"There needs to be a recognition that we will work on the challenges, but we can't have the whole program sort of on its knees until we work those through because it's going to take some time," she said.

According to Hillman, the only way to solve the dispute will be for the U.S. to recognize that its request "is not simple and may not be possible."

"We can't just let the whole program fall apart," the ambassador said.

Apparently, the dispute with the U.S. is over protections for U.S. staff at Canadian centres which include American customs officers being allowed to carry firearms.

What is NEXUS?

NEXUS is a joint program between Canada and the U.S. that's for pre-approved, low-risk travellers entering Canada or the U.S at designated air, land and marine ports of entry.

NEXUS members can enter both countries easily and quickly by using automated self-serve kiosks in airports, dedicated lanes at land border crossings and by calling Telephone Reporting Centres before they arrive if travelling by boat.

Who qualifies for NEXUS?

To be eligible for NEXUS, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada or the U.S., or a Mexican citizen who is also a member of the Viajero Confiable program.

Permanent residents of Canada and the U.S. must have resided as legal residents of either country for a minimum of three years before the date of their application.

You also have to be admissible to Canada and the U.S. under applicable immigration laws, pass background security checks conducted by Canada and the U.S., and meet any other NEXUS requirements.

A NEXUS card is valid for five years.

What is the NEXUS application?

To become a NEXUS member you first need to check if you're eligible.

Then, you need to gather documents proving your citizenship or permanent residency. You also need proof of residency which could be a valid driver's licence or a document with your current address.

Once you have all of the relevant information, you can complete your application online which will be processed through the Trusted Traveler Programs System

There is a fee of US$50 — which is about CA$69 — for each applicant who is 18 years of age or older. You need a valid credit card to pay the non-refundable processing fee.

Determining your eligibility could take six to eight weeks.

When your application has received conditional approval you will be contacted to schedule an interview.

If you pass that initial security check, you'll be interviewed at a joint Canada–U.S. NEXUS enrollment centre. At that time, you'll be photographed, fingerprinted and undergo an iris scan.

Why are there NEXUS delays?

As of April 19, 2022, enrollment centres in the U.S. have reopened but Canadian enrollment centres still haven't.

Canada Border Services Agency told Narcity at the time said that both countries were "in discussions about the timing" of reopening of Canadian centres.

Enrollment centres in Canada are reportedly still closed because of the dispute about the U.S. wanting its officials to be able to carry guns while working at Canadian locations.

"I think it's really important that we are able to stay true to our values as Canadians but respect the way we need to work together," Trudeau said about the situation in July, according to CBC. "Those are conversations that are ongoing and I hope that they'll be resolved soon."

The continuing closure of Canadian centres has caused a NEXUS backlog , with hundreds of thousands of applications being delayed.

If you need to be interviewed for your NEXUS application, you have to schedule your interview on the U.S. side of the border.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Lisa Belmonte
Senior Creator
Lisa Belmonte is a Senior Creator for Narcity Media focused on jobs and careers and is based in Ontario.