In a letter to their Canadian counterparts last week, four U.S. representatives sought to kick off a joint fix for the growing logjam in the NEXUS system, the Trusted Traveler Program for the U.S.-Canadian Border.
That system requires travelers to undergo in-person interviews with agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). However, processing time has mounted, and according to the CBP, as of Oct. 24, 2022, the processing time for new and renewing NEXUS applicants in need of review has grown to 494 days. Inconsistency has also risen – the agency reported that sometimes no appointments are available at the Niagara Falls, New York enrollment center, while in other areas, some residents can receive next-day appointments without issue.
Part of the problem lies with Canada, as the nation has never reopened its service centers to the same capacity as before the COVID-19 pandemic. This has continued despite a backlog of approximately 334,000 applications for NEXUS.
“In an effort to return to, and eventually surpass, pre-pandemic levels of cross-border travel and economic activity, addressing the difficulties with the NEXUS program are a high priority,” wrote U.S. Reps. Brian Higgins (D-NY), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Rick Larsen (D-WA) and Suzan DelBene (D-WA). “We hope to encourage open, good-faith conversations between the United States and Canada regarding the protections afforded to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers in Canadian facilities and kindly ask for your assistance to achieve a resolution.”
The group – all members of the Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group – concluded that the main issue is whether or not NEXUS service centers are subject to a preclearance agreement between the two countries and whether CBP officers working in Canadian NEXUS service centers have the same legal protections as counterparts working in preclearance locations.
“With appreciation for the implications, sensitivities, and complex nature of these negotiations, and the sovereignty of both countries, we sincerely hope that our two nations, which share a history of policy collaboration for mutual benefit, are able to resolve outstanding questions expeditiously to reopen NEXUS enrollment centers in Canada,” the lawmakers wrote.
The Canada-U.S. Interparliamentary Group is a group of bipartisan, bicameral, and binational legislators that emphasizes collaborative work on security, trade, tourism, and economic opportunities of mutual interest to the United States and Canada.