Due to a long-standing dispute between the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency and Canadian authorities, NEXUS, a much-used and enjoyed program facilitating travel from Canada to the USA is on hold. NEXUS is an immigration program designed for travelers who frequently travel between the U.S. and Canada that includes expedited crossings at land, marine and air borders. In addition to offering the same benefits as Global Entry in terms of the entrance to the USA, a broader program also involving other countries, the NEXUS card is less expensive and can be used for both air and vehicle travel between the two countries. When approved to participate in NEXUS, the applicant receives an identification card to use to enter the United States and Canada at designated NEXUS air, land, and marine ports of entry. The key is the entry into Canada component that is not part of Global Entry.
Membership in the NEXUS program allows successful applicants to reduce their wait times at designated ports of entry by using dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings, using NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada, using Global Entry kiosks when entering the United States, and calling a marine telephone reporting center to report marine arrivals into the United States and Canada.
However, due to the dispute, some 13 NEXUS enrollment centers in Canada are closed. The disagreement is about whether U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) agents should be afforded the same legal protections inside Nexus facilities in Canada as they currently have at ports of entry like at airports in Canada and at the Canada-U.S. border. Canadian officials see no reason for the extra protection at such offices while Americans can’t see how they can do their jobs otherwise.
As far as what is involved in such applications, the process involves completing a questionnaire to determine eligibility, paying a fee, and attending an interview at a NEXUS office. To prove NEXUS eligibility the applicant must provide documents such as a valid passport, a valid driver’s license, and some sometimes other ID papers.
Not surprisingly, if an applicant has a criminal record or has had immigration problems before the application will be denied. The same is true if an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an applicant may be mixed up with things like terrorism, espionage, war crimes. or subversion.
Recently the Business Council of Canada expressed concern over the continued closure of the Nexus trusted-traveler program in a letter to David Cohen, the American Ambassador to Canada. CEO Goldy Hyder said it is “deeply troubling” that the U.S. government has not reopened Nexus enrollment centers.
While news reports suggested the dispute was over whether U.S. officers could have firearms at NEXUS offices, that is not the case. Actually, it is a disagreement over extending immunity from prosecution — the U.S. is reportedly arguing that its employees in Nexus offices deserve the same level of protection as diplomats from Canadian prosecution while doing their job in Canada.
It is helpful to understand how pre-clearance at Canadian airports works to get a clearer picture of what is at stake in the NEXUS squabble. In theory, the area beyond the entrance way to U.S. Customs and Border Protection pre-clearance kiosks is cordoned off and is theoretically American jurisdiction. Legally speaking once one deals with American officers at pre-clearance one is no longer in Canada but is in America. For this to work, the two countries had to agree that USCBP officers were granted the same level of immunity from prosecution for doing their jobs as American diplomats are granted in Canada.
Canadian reluctance in expanding immunity in this way stems from what appears to be a concern or legal impediment about expanding American legal jurisdiction into Canada. The point is complicated and seems to be more theoretical than practical, so it has not been easy to resolve. It appears there is an expectation that the dispute can still be resolved, possibly even before an upcoming promised visit by President Biden to Canada.