Monday, April 28, 2008

Nexus Cards

  • Lownewulf received [Nexus Card]!
    [Nexus Card]
    Requires Honored with Canada
    Requires Honored with United States

    Allows the bearer to travel in the nether regions between countries.
    Use: Reduces aggro radius of all border guards by 60% for five minutes.

So myself and Kyna finall got ourselves our Nexus passes. The basic gist of the program is as follows: by consenting to a background check and risk assessment, and ponying up a non-refundable $50 fee, you get to use the fast lanes between the US and Canada for five years. You know, when you drive through the border and there's that lane that's always empty beside you? You get to use that. Even better, with a stop to a participating airport you can get your irises scanned, which enables you to use the same Nexus pass to clear customs at US and Canadian airports, allowing you to sit waiting at the baggage claim in record time!

It was pretty easy; all you do is sign up online. If you pass their screening process, you get an acceptance letter, and are invited to an interview. This interview for us actually happened in a room with both a Candian CBSA officer and a US CBP officer*. One asks you why you want to enroll in Nexus, and if you are a dangerous criminal that probably shouldn't be given a carte blanche to wander the border. If you pass this grueling interview, you're handed off to the other officer, who asks you largely the same thing. The result: they snap your picture and print you a little plastic RFID card right there on the spot, and you're a member.

(* The US CBP officer was surprizingly friendly; probably because she got the slacker desk job, instead of dealing with jerks like me in cars at the border on a day-to-day basis. The Canadian CBSA officer seemed a little less happy with her situation, probably due to being trapped in a small room with a US CBP officer for eight hours a day. )

BUT, the officers warn, HEED OUR WARNINGS! For as the Border Patrol giveth, the Border Patrol can also taketh away.

Then starts the fifteen minute lecture of the many many things that the newly minted Trusted Travellers must refrain from doing, else they risk being forever barred from the cool persons club. And it really is quite the list. I couldn't possibly remember them all. Even worse, the rules are completely different for residents in each country and in each direction. For example, I can't bring beef dogfood into Canada... but that same dogfood is okay coming back into the US, as long as it's not lamb or goat. You have to declare every item you bring into Canada, in writing, but only if you're a Canadian resident. The US rules for personal exemptions doesn't require a written declaration, but it takes an entire booklet just to describe the basic cash exemption. Speaking of cash, if you have a lot of it, you have to use the regular lanes with the peasants.

The caveats go on and on. No using the lanes if you're travelling with the untrusted masses. No using the lanes past bedtime. And so on and so on. I can genuinely envision that even for the simplest of weekend trips that I could spend more time figuring out if I'm eligible to use Nexus than actually waiting at the border.

But, lets be honest. For what adds up to $10 a year and a few minutes of your time, you get to use the fast lane. Skip an hour border wait, even once, and there can never be any doubt that it was a worthwhile investment.