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Nexus membership gives you Global Entry at no extra cost, but of late travellers are reporting longer wait times.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/The Globe and Mail

When it comes to Trusted Traveler Programs, such as Nexus, I used to be a skeptic. Sure, the idea of easy border crossing between Canada and the United States is appealing, but they want my fingerprints and to scan my eyes? Not a chance. Then, I watched friends zip through security lines while I lost years of my life waiting to take off my shoes. I’ve had it for almost five years now and have never regretted it.

As Rebecca Purdy, senior spokesperson for the Canada Border Services Agency, explains it: Nexus allows preapproved, low-risk travellers who’ve undergone an extensive background check to clear customs and immigration faster.

But there is a cost. Members pay a US$50 application fee (children under 18 are free and certain Visa cards offer a rebate). An online application is followed by a scheduled in-person interview, photographing, fingerprinting and an iris scan. Your Nexus card can then be used to travel within and between Canada and the United States through dedicated “Trusted Traveler” lanes in Canada and “TSA Pre Check” lanes in the United States.

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Plus, your Nexus membership gives you Global Entry – the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Trusted Traveler program used to handle international returns from countries other than Canada via the U.S. – at no extra charge.

Your membership is good for five years. Remember though that if you are found to have broken the program’s requirements or lied (undeclared food, items over the legal spending limit) your card can be revoked. And if you are using a Nexus lane at a land crossing, everyone in the vehicle must have a Nexus card.

The program may have worked too well. Today, Nexus lines can feel as long as the lines they were meant to avoid. Other options have popped up in recent years.

Mobile Passport doesn’t require the lengthy interview or US$50 fee. If you’re clearing customs in the U.S., you can download the free app and answer some customs questions before joining the Mobile Passport Line at select U.S. airports and cruise ports. Within moments you’ll have a code – good for four hours – that grants you access to the Mobile Passport kiosk, which works similar to an express lane. (You’ll get to the head of the security line faster, but you’ll still need to remove your shoes, take out your laptop, etc.) Upgrading for the annual US$19.49 fee allows you to store your passport information and use the service for a year. You have to hold either a U.S. or Canadian passport.

When it comes to renewing an expiring Nexus card, travellers are reporting longer wait times. “It is recommended that members begin the renewal application three months in advance of their expiry to avoid delays,” Purdy says, adding that “It is no longer necessary for the majority of renewing members who have not had changes to their information and have maintained their low-risk status to attend an interview.”

Need some travel advice or have a question about life on the road? Send your questions to personalconcierge@globeandmail.com.

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