Tag Archives: Nexus

Shoes

6 Mar

UK Border

During my recent travels, I was lucky enough to encounter a security scheme that was distinctly post post-9/11 and rational.

Security at Toronto Pearson and London Heathrow did not make us remove our shoes.

At Pearson, it was because my family holds NEXUS passes, meaning we are pre-screened and designated as low-risk, trusted travelers. We flash the NEXUS card and get to cut the line, and when we arrive at screening, we were able to keep our shoes on. Oh, glorious day! 

Although Heathrow made us remove iPads as well as laptops from our carryons, shoes could stay on there, too.

When approaching security at T5 at Heathrow, there were greeters at the entryway handing out free liter-sized ziploc bags for passengers to use for liquids. There were easily 20 open security lanes, all moving rapidly with minimal lines. The bins used for loose items were conveniently obtained via an automatic dispenser under the conveyor belt – not by having to go back for a mess of buckets for 4 people and their stuff.

But the shoes – not having to remove shoes makes a huge difference in terms of speed and at least perceived convenience.

Beyond the Border

8 Dec

On Wednesday, the United States and Canada signed an agreement that Congressman Brian Higgins’ office describes as, historic…declaring a shared responsibility for enhanced security and efficient access for the legitimate movement of people, goods, and services between the northern border.”

I could go on a tangent about how post-9/11 border security stymies our ability to properly create a Tor-Buff-Chester megaregion / regional economy, but harmonization of customs regulations and easing the flow of commercial and tourist traffic between the US and Canada is a good start.  If we had true high-speed rail in North America, it would be completely possible for someone to live in Buffalo and commute to Rochester or Toronto. And vice-versa.

Under this “Beyond the Border” agreement, we’ll see expansion of NEXUS lanes for trusted travelers (a $50 perk that gives you a dedicated bridge in Niagara Falls and speedy inspection), Customs pre-screens at point of departure, rather than at border crossings, and what amounts to somewhat of a re-think as to how we handle cross-border cargo traffic.

Some Canadians are upset because the agreement will require the CBSA to share information about suspected terrorists with the TSA, and participate in the no-fly list we keep.  Canadian screening of visitors from visa waiver countries will be more closely aligned with that of the US.

Easing the flow of traffic at the border crossings themselves may obviate the need for Peace Bridge expansion and other changes that have been debated to death in our community. It’s too early to tell whether this new agreement might lead to a renewed interest or second look at shared border management, but the Canadian border hasn’t exactly been an Administration priority in the last few years, so it’s heartening to see something change, however small.

Ultimately, though, it would make sense for Canadian and American immigration and Customs schemes to be harmonized and unified, so that entry to one is entry to both, creating a North American Schengen zone.

 

NEXUS Update

16 May

We just underwent the NEXUS application process and interview. For the 4 of us, it took about an hour.

You’re allowed to bring your typical exemptions into and out of Canada, and they trust you to stick to that when using a NEXUS lane. They have zero tolerance for even the smallest infraction.

Notably, however, the NEXUS pass is recognized as proof of citizenship by the US, but not by Canada.

You still need a passport or enhanced driver’s license or passport card ready fob inspection when entering Canada via NEXUS lane. The Canadian interviewer anticipates that Parliament will change this rule sometime in 2009.

The cards should be here in about a week.

Nexus vs. Passport Cards vs. Enhanced Driver’s License

11 May

Those are the three wallet-sized alternatives to carrying a passport with you when you want to make a quick jaunt across a bridge to shop at Sobey’s, grab some Duty Free, or make an IKEA run. Each option costs about the same, and each one requires the same basic paperwork as a passport – proof of citizenship and residency.

I opted for NEXUS.

The Passport card and EDL provide no added value for the extra money I have to pay for the mere wallet-sized convenience. NEXUS, however, does.

Imagine, if you will, it’s a warm summer’s evening, and you’re on the QEW coming back from Toronto. It’s a weekend, and about 500,000 other vehicles have the same idea as you. On days like that, the QE can be backed up for miles. All of the bridges have one-hour-plus waits.

With an EDL or Passport card, you’re in the same damn line as everyone else.

With a NEXUS pass, it’s as if you have your own private border crossing. In order to use the Whirlpool Bridge, you have to have NEXUS. No other proof of citizenship will work.

The process is a bit more involved, though. NEXUS is a “trusted traveler” program, and you have to undergo a background check and interview process before you get the card. The card is about $50 per adult, good for 5 years. Kids under 18 are free.

I sent in our paper applications about a month ago, and received a letter a week or so ago inviting me to set up an interview at a NEXUS office – there’s one in Fort Erie, ON and one in Niagara Falls, NY. The four of us will be interviewed, photographed, and fingerprinted, and our cards will be mailed to us within a couple of weeks.

Upon receipt, we’ll be able to use them at the dedicated (and always empty) NEXUS lanes at all local crossings, and we’ll have the ability to use the empty Whirlpool Bridge, this eliminating a massive inspection headache, especially during the peak tourist season.

I’ll do a post about what the interview process entails after we’ve gone through it.