Expedited travel puts the fun back into travel. As security measures for travel keep getting stricter and stricter, I find having a few aces up my sleeve to be handy. Over the past few years I’ve signed up for Nexus and Global Entry. For those not in the know, Nexus is expedited US or Canadian border crossings. Even with all of my travels until about four years ago I had no idea what it was. Nexus allows expedited processing through the US Canadian border at airports, seaports, car and foot crossings. Prior to joining you’re required to complete an online application, once this has been approved you set up an in person interview, where your identity is verified, finger prints are taken and your personal information is verified. Basically it seems they are confirming you are who you say you are and that you’re not a criminal and that you’ve not done anything wrong or have a criminal record. The interview process was incredibly painless, the main issue for me was getting the time to get to an interview location and a time when they are open for business. The locations are primarily at border crossings on both sides, and some are even at airports. In my case the closest location was at Boeing Field in-between Sea-Tac Airport and downtown Seattle, since I live in the SF Bay Area that is not that close. So in my case I had to wait for a trip to a location that was open when I could be there, in my case it was about 2 months between being provisionally approved and being able to get to an interview. Once that was done, I received my card a few weeks later. Finally at that point I was ready to take advantage of my cards benefits, but I had a problem, I needed to get my iris’s scanned if I wanted to use Nexus at airport borders. Again I had to wait till I had a trip through a Canadian airport when a Nexus office was open, it turns out the only locations that have iris scanners for registration were at airport locations, and I had a hell of a time being at an airport that had an open office when I was there otherwise I would have been set immediately. Anyhow once this was taken care of I was FINALLY good to go.
So what does Nexus actually do. When you land in Canada and you get to Canadian Border Protection, instead of waiting in a short or long line to talk to the man or woman, you go to a kiosk. If you’re unlucky there is one person in front of you. In the 100 or so times I’ve used it that may have happened only once or twice. Once at the kiosk, you scan your iris, that’s how you’re identified. Then you answer a few questions, the same ones that are on the customs form, at that point you get a card that lets you move on. Then you get your bag if you have one and walk out of the immigration hall, where you give the CBP agent your Nexus print out and the customs form, and off you go. In most cases I’m out of security in three minutes. It so so fast. As a business traveler, prior to this program, I would usually get extra screening and it would take 20-30 minutes on a light day to get out of customs. I found that when entering Canada as a business travelling the amount of work related paperwork I had to show the CBP was ridiculous, and I was made to feel like a criminal most times. On return to the US, most major airport in Canada actually have US Customs and Immigration facilities so you clear prior to getting on your plane. Again these lines can be hell, I’ve waiting 1 plus hours at Vancouver or Calgary on some occasions. So having Nexus lets you skip the line again. In this case you do the same thing, get your iris scanned, get your card give it to the US Customs agent say hello and off you go. Nexus has definitely made my life easier, and I can’t believe that I spent over 6 years travelling to Canada regularly without it. But hey I got it now and life is good.
Now if you travel internationally besides Canada then Global Entry is for you. The main difference here is that is for expedited entry back into the US from overseas. Again instead of waiting in interminable lines to speak to our friendly agents you go to a kiosk. There you scan your passport and your fingerprints answer a few questions and get a receipt that you show to a border agent before leaving the immigration hall. Then you go grab your bags visit the customs officials give them the form and off you go. As for the sign up process it’s very similar to Nexus, you fill a form online, get preliminarily approved go to an interview prove who you are, provide them your fingerprints, they confirm you are who you are and get approved. Within a few weeks you get a card and now you’re free to move about the world. Also as an added bonus as of November 4, 2012 you can also use Global Entry to enter Australia. From what I understand you also need to have a newer passport that has an RFID chip in it. Not sure what the process actually entails, but from watching Australians, and Kiwis transit customs and immigration in Sydney they have it pretty good. So I imagine it’s something similar to their process.
So before you rush out and sign up for either program there are a few deals out there you must take advantage of. The first of which is if you sign up for Nexus you’re automatically enrolled in Global Entry, so if you get Nexus you get both for the price of one. If for some reason you just don’t want Nexus and just want Global Entry, and you’re a United Airlines Premier Executive 1k flier (their top tier frequent flier who fly over 100,000 miles per year) you actually get Global Entry for free. You apply like normal, but call United and they provide you with some sort of code to get a credit. Also if you have the American Express Platinum card $450 annual fee, you get Global Entry for free too. So in my opinion if you don’t have status with UA, the best option is to buy Nexus on your own and get free Global Entry.
What do they cost:
Nexus $50 valid for 5 years http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/trusted_traveler/nexus_prog/
Global Entry $100 also valid for 5 years http://www.globalentry.gov/howtoapply.html
In any event if you want quick in’s and out of Canada or the US, these are the programs for you. The journey should be enjoyable and with these programs you can have fond memories of your trip and not memories of long lines.