Canada and the United States are promising a new option for Nexus hopefuls who are in the interview stage of their application process as both countries address a heavy backlog of applications.
The reopening of Nexus, which expedites the border clearance process for pre-approved members travelling between Canada and U.S., was delayed when offices on both sides closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A political squabble between Canada and the U.S. related to legal protections for U.S. border officers operating in Canada delayed the reopening of Nexus enrolment offices in Canada.
During the pandemic, new and existing Canadian Nexus-pass holders requiring in-person interviews had to travel to the U.S., where offices opened last April, to finalize their application.
But according to a press release from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on Tuesday (Jan. 10), a dent has been made in the backlog of Nexus applications.
CBSA says it has reduced the number to roughly 100,000, noting that a new option will be made available this spring to further reduce wait times.
The new process would allow air passengers to complete an application interview with a CBSA officer at offices near select Canadian airports.
Applicants would then conduct a similar interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at U.S. Customs before boarding a flight to the U.S.
CBP and CBSA are also their extending hours of service at enrollment centers in the U.S. and expanding the locations where interviews are conducted at the land border.
The two agencies have been able to accelerate approval for more than 80 per cent of renewing applicants and to extend benefits for the remaining qualified renewing applicants for up to five years beyond their membership expiration date while interviews are pending.
Since October 1, 2022, CBP and CBSA say that have completed a “record-breaking” 203,000 NEXUS enrollments.
This includes CBSA interviews at reopened enrollment centers in Canada and separate CBP interviews in Canadian airport preclearance locations for departing applicants.
Applicants, meanwhile, can continue to take advantage of existing options for interviews, including combined interviews at U.S. enrollment centers and two-step, separate Canada-U.S. interviews at designated land borders.
(Previously, interviews were held at the same offices in Canada).
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden discussed Nexus during a meeting at the North American Leaders' Summit in Mexico City on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday night, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the new process is a "win-win" for Canada and the U.S.
"We're going to be able to take a bite out of that backlog in a significant way," Mendicino said, as reported by CBC News.
The NEXUS program currently has more than 1.7 million members, says CBSA.