I picked up a Nexus pass about a year ago, mainly because I thought it would help with the amount of travelling I have been doing over the years. In theory, a Nexus pass will let you cross the US/Canada border without waiting in those huge line ups.

My first attempt at using my Nexus pass was by road. It’s a bit scary using it, because they have so many restrictions in place for the program. For example, if you do something wrong (like attempt to bring a person across with you who isn’t a Nexus card holder), they can revoke your privileges and take your card away from you indefinitely. Plus, they have a special book of custom paperwork for when you declare anything.

When you cross by road, they have a little machine that you have to hold your card up against which will read the RFID chip embedded in the Nexus card. I found it strange that the machine doesn’t make a beep or let you know it’s read your card. I spent about 20 seconds swiping it in various directions, thinking it might do something, but to no avail. So when I drove up to the lady in the booth, I felt stupid, like I had done something wrong. The machine actually did read the RFID tag, so she just waved me through and that was that.

The true value of my Nexus pass became apparent when I landed in Toronto the other day on my way to Charlotte. I had 90 minutes to clear the US customs side with my luggage and catch my flight. Unfortunately due to the increased security measures, there was a pretty massive line for customs. Thankfully I spotted a Nexus kiosk to the far right, so I decided to try that. There was no agent, which confused me, and made me think I couldn’t use that line. But a lady eventually came over and helped me out without giving me any attitude, which I was relieved for. After getting the machine to scan my retinas, it printed out a card for me which I was then to take to the custom’s agent at the exit.

I handed that guy my completed customs card (which I filled out moments before near the luggage rack) and the print out from the Nexus kiosk. At that point the agent asked me to produce my Nexus card, to which I replied I didn’t think I had it (in fact, I thought it was only required for land crossings). He told me that it was a program requirement to always have it on your person, and I thought I was gonna be screwed and canceled from the program. So I went through my wallet hoping it was there, and thankfully it was. I made my flight with just a few minutes to spare, and I’m sure I would have missed my flight had I not had been able to use the Nexus lane.

I had a similar experience landing in Vancouver — the customs line up was completely full. I had no flight to catch, but I was tired and hungover and I wanted to get home. I strolled over to the Nexus lane, did a retina scan, grabbed my kiosk receipt, waved it to an agent, and then handed it to the guy at the exit. Nobody said a word to me, and I was out of the airport in about 5 minutes instead of waiting over a half hour or more.

So, all three times I’ve used my Nexus pass it’s been a rather easy experience. I’m definitely glad I had it with me on this trip, otherwise I would have spent a few hours waiting in customs lines and also missed a connecting flight to Charlotte.

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