Crossing the Border Quickly with Kids using NEXUS

Back in the good ol’ days, people could quickly cross the Canada-U.S. border without any trouble. Nowadays, increased security measures make border crossing lines longer – both on land and at airports. While no one doubts the importance of border security, it can be difficult to manage kids while waiting in line.  The best solution to crossing the border with ease is to get a NEXUS border crossing card.

Cross border with Kids
The NEXUS card allows either Canadians or Americans to quickly cross the border into Canada or the United States.  What’s more, you can use the NEXUS card to get through airport security faster! The Nexus card costs $50 and is good for five years. Better yet, the card is free for kids under the age of 18!

Passports are strongly recommended to cross the border.  If you have a NEXUS card, you don’t need to have a passport!  If you don’t need a passport to travel overseas, you can save a few bucks by getting a NEXUS card instead.

Am I eligible?

To be eligible for the NEXUS card, you must be a citizen or permanent resident of either Canada or the United States.  Your application may be rejected if you’re inadmissible to Canada or the United States or you have been convicted of a serious criminal offence that has not been pardoned. You can learn more about the eligibility requirements here.
If you have any doubts about your eligibility, contact your local border services agency office to determine if you are eligible for NEXUS. Their number is 1-866-639-8726.

How do I apply?

Applying for a NEXUS card is easiest on-line.  Every person in the household needs to apply for a Nexus card – even children.  You can only take advantage of NEXUS travel lanes if everyone travelling with you has a NEXUS card. Otherwise,  you will need to wait in the regular line with all the rest!

To make an application, visit the Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) website. Be sure to have your documents available, including birth certificates, passports and driver’s licences.

You will need to create a login for each member of the family.  Try to think of a password that can be used for all login profiles to avoid multiple passwords for the family.

You will  wait approximately 30 days for your applications to be reviewed by a processing centre.  Once approved, you will receive an e-mail inviting you to make an appointment for a screening interview.  If you made a paper application, you will receive a letter inviting you to call to book an interview appointment.

What happens at the interview?

You will need to book an appointment for an interview at a designated NEXUS Enrollment Centre. These offices are usually located at major airports and land border crossings. A list of locations are found here.

You will need to book an appointment for each member of your family, including children. You can book your appointment on-line, but it is difficult to get an appointment for all family members at the same time. I recommend calling your local NEXUS Enrollment Center to book your appointment.  Be sure to tell them you are a family that needs to come in at the same time.


For your interview, you will need to bring in the letter/e-mail you received from GOES, any passports or birth certificates and photo identification. At your appointment, you and your family will be interviewed separately by a Canadian and an American border officer.  They will ask for fingerprints and take photographs.  Younger children do not need to have their fingerprints taken.

If you plan to travel by air, you may also have an iris scan that would allow you to use automated kiosks at major airports. Only certain enrollment centers can perform an iris scan.  Again, young children cannot have an iris scan.

After your interview, you should receive your NEXUS cards in about 7 days. The whole process is quite long, taking about 30 to 60 days.

How do I use the Nexus card?

The border officer at your interview will explain all of the rules for using NEXUS.  If you violate any of the rules, you will become ineligible for the NEXUS program.  That is why our rule of thumb is to DECLARE EVERYTHING!

Whenever you cross the border using your NEXUS, declare everything to the border officer.  Young kids always have food – declare it!  Any purchases across the border should also be declared. Very rarely we are told to go into secondary screening – usually to pay some duties.  The time saved using a NEXUS card is worth the rare inconvenience of paying duties.

Be sure to keep your NEXUS profile up to date with any changes to your travel documents. If you update your passport, you will need to drop by a NEXUS Enrollment Centre to provide your new passport information. No appointment is necessary.

Land Border Crossing with NEXUS

Crossing a land border with NEXUS is much faster.  Almost all border crossings have a dedicated NEXUS lane, allowing you to skip to the front of the line!  Once it is your turn, simply wave your NEXUS cards at the white card reader and proceed to the booth. Border officers usually just check the passengers and ask for any declarations.

Remember, all passengers must have their own NEXUS card to use a NEXUS lane.

Crossing the border by air using NEXUS

Entering Canada or the United States is made much easier with a NEXUS card.  There are dedicated lanes where travelers can go through customs using a kiosk that will either take your fingerprints or scan your iris.

But what if you have young kids? If you have young kids, you may not use the kiosks for two reasons.  Either your kids don’t have a registered fingerprints or iris scans or you are travelling with food for the kids.  Kiosks will ask if you have food and automatically direct you to secondary screening if you say yes.

How do you use NEXUS with kids at the airport? Instead of using the kiosks, we were told to go to the ‘airline crew’ or special assistance line.  These border officers will process your NEXUS and take your declaration of animal crackers (without the time consuming trip to secondary screening).

Clearing Airport Security using NEXUS

As an added perk, if you hold a NEXUS card, many major airports across Canada and the United States offer faster airport security screening.

In the United States, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Pre-check program lets members of NEXUS pass through security faster with shorter lines and screenings. Most airlines will let you enter your “Known Traveler Number” when you check in for your flight. NEXUS holders will find this number on the back of their cards as the “PASS ID”. Keep your NEXUS cards handy as you may have to show it at the screening area.

In Canada, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has a Trusted Traveller program that lets NEXUS card holders be expedited through airport security. Again, provide your “Known Traveler Number” at check-in and show your NEXUS card at the start of airport security screening to be directed to a NEXUS line.

There you have it! With a NEXUS card, you can breeze through an airport like Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie…. okay maybe not so much now, but you get the point.



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