Trusted Traveler programs are a huge time savings when traveling internationally. I’m a fan and take advantage of them when possible. I have NEXUS, allowing for expedited entry into Canada and that includes full Global Entry membership for expedited US arrivals plus TSA PreCheck. I recently went through the process of renewing NEXUS and wanted to share my experience.
NEXUS or Global Entry?
NEXUS costs $50 for 5 years, which is half the price of Global Entry with the same benefits plus expedited entry into Canada. Global Entry requires an application which looks for travel and criminal history, plus a non-refundable fee of $100. Once granted conditional approval, the next step is an interview. The interview consists of questions about travel history and any criminal history. Much of these details were already covered on the application. In the case of NEXUS, applicants interview with both US and Canadian border agents.
I used my business travel as justification for NEXUS. Discussion of details of my work in Canada made up the bulk of my interview with the Canadian border officer. I don’t know how strict it would be for a leisure traveler interviewing for NEXUS. I doubt it would be so thorough, but I’m not certain. If given the choice between NEXUS and Global Entry, so long as an enrollment center is convenient, why not get more benefits for half the price?
NEXUS interview locations are much more limited compared with sites that offer Global Entry Enrollment, simply for the fact that there are less sites with both US and Canadian agents in the same place, and generally they are near the border.
How Long Is NEXUS/Global Entry Membership Valid?
Both NEXUS and Global Entry are good for ~5 years. Once approved, your membership will expire 5 years from your next birthday. If you get approved just after your birthday, there would be almost 6 years until it expires. In the case of renewal, the 5 year clock begins after the previous card expires.
My Experience Renewing NEXUS
The renewal process is very similar to the initial application, completed on the GOES website. First, there is a multi-step application online, including a complete 5-year travel history. After completing the application and paying the fee, the application status moves to Pending Review. Eventually, if approved, status moves to Conditional Approval. The next step is an interview. Keep in mind, applicants must schedule an interview within 30 days of notification, otherwise conditional approval goes away. Once scheduled, adjusting the appointment time as many times as needed is fine. Since I applied for NEXUS, the wait time can take somewhat longer than for Global Entry. In my case it was several months before I received conditional approval. Keep this in mind for renewals, you can apply starting one year before expiration.
I have heard of some people not requiring an interview when renewing NEXUS and/or Global Entry, but I was not that fortunate. One of the agents I interviewed with mentioned that is “One in a thousand”. I hope it is not that rare…
Detroit Enrollment Center
As mentioned, only a limited set locations offering NEXUS interviews. Some are in or near major airports in Canada, and there are other places near(-ish) the border including Seattle and Detroit. Availability for interviews in Seattle and Toronto are typically booked far in advance. No problem if you live near one of these locations, but no such luck for me. With no travel planned near any enrollment center, I decided to drive to Detroit and get this taken care of.
The Detroit Enrollment Center is at the base of the Ambassador Bridge near downtown. The location is somewhat complicated to find, and a missed turn will put you on the bridge into Canada. Also, navigating using Google Maps does not route properly, but Waze does. Once I arrived at the center, despite being early (for once!), my interview began right away.
Interviewing with Both USA and Canada Customs Agents
A Canadian agent called me up first, and as I remember from my first interview, most questions were about my work in Canada. She stressed the need for me to carry documentation showing items already purchased. After a few minutes of discussing the nature of my work, she marked the sheet as approved. Next the US agent called me over. Her questions were just a review of my travel history, and that I do not have criminal convictions or any customs violations. Not sure why this information is part of the interview, since these items are part of the initial application process.
We chatted for a few minutes, then the agent took my photo for the new NEXUS card. I also scanned my fingerprints. The agent said we had completed the necessary formalities, and I would have my approval email shortly. No phones allowed in the Enrollment center, but by the time I reached my car, I already had an approval email waiting. Since I renewed before my card expired, the old card would be valid until I received and activate my new one.
What about Iris Scans When Using NEXUS in Canadian Airports?
I confirmed that my Iris scan data would remain in the system from before. Keep in mind that NEXUS machines in Canadian airports use iris scans for identifying NEXUS members, and scans are not offered at US enrollment centers. After my initial approval, eventually I got iris scanned on a trip through Canada and I have used NEXUS kiosks on Canada airport arrivals since then.
Final Thoughts on Renewing NEXUS
I highly value the benefits I get via my NEXUS membership. I had no doubt in my mind that I would be renewing NEXUS. Other than some time compiling my additional 5-year travel history for the application, and finding a compatible time for an interview, this process is easy. Hopefully in 5 more years I won’t even have to interview!
Note: I received my new NEXUS card on the 5th business day after my interview.