OTTAWA — Canadian and U.S. border agencies say they have a plan to reduce the backlog for the Nexus trusted-traveller program. Here's what you need to know:
Where does the program stand now?
Travellers who want the streamlined border-crossing benefits of a Nexus card need to go in for an enrolment centre interview by both Canadian and U.S. officials before being granted one, but the Canadian enrolment centres have been closed for nearly a year because of a dispute over legal protections for American customs officers.
With the 13 centres in Canada closed, those looking to apply or renew their cards have had to try at the dozen ones on the U.S. side of the border where there have been long wait times for an appointment.
The closure of the Canadian centres, combined with a rapid return of travel, helped create a backlog that ticked higher than 340,000 applicants as of last July.
What is the proposed solution?
Announced during the trilateral North American Leaders Summit, the heads of the agencies said a new enrolment option will be coming in the spring for those looking to secure approval on Canadian soil. The process will involve interviews by Canadian officials at the reopened enrolment centres, followed by interviews by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at Canadian airport preclearance areas. The agencies said more details will be coming soon.
Who will be able to use the new arrangement?
The agreement will allow interviews for those who are travelling imminently to the U.S. and leaving from an airport where customs preclearance is an option. International airports in Canada that offer preclearance services include those in Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg, as well as Pearson International Airport in Toronto.
What else has been done about the backlog?
The Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have in recent months ramped up the number of interview appointments available, both through longer hours and adding more locations on the U.S. side of the border. Applicants have also been allowed to do a two-step process, with separate interviews in Canada and the U.S. at some land borders.
The agencies said they've also accelerated approvals for more than 80 per cent of renewing applicants, and extended benefits for those waiting for interviews who are looking to renew.
The agencies said that since October they've completed 203,000 enrolments and reduced the net backlog by about 100,000 to about 230,000.
Where does the dispute over U.S. agents at Canadian centres stand?
Officials said the latest announcement is a demonstration of ongoing co-operation, but there was no update on the underlying dispute that led to the Canadian centres being closed. The dispute on clarity over legal protections for U.S. staff in Canada includes the authority to be able to carry a gun while on duty.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 11, 2023.
The Canadian Press