With the loosening of border restrictions for fully vaccinated Canadians that went into effect this week, Canada took the first step towards lifting the pandemic era restrictions on cross-border travel with the United States since March 2020. However, Canadians have been left wondering as to when more restrictions on border crossing will be lifted, as cross-border land travel is still limited to essential purposes. The current restrictions on non-essential travel are set to expire on July 21 but it is looking increasingly likely that the restrictions will be extended past the July 21 date, as the Canadian government remains ambiguous on specific plans and dates for a full re-opening. Regarding the border, Prime Minister Trudeau said:
“We’re very hopeful that we’re going to see new steps on reopening announced in the coming weeks. We’re going to make sure that we’re not seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases because nobody wants to go back to further restrictions, after having done so much and sacrificed so much to get to this point.”
Based on Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments, it is likely some of the current border restrictions will continue until at least August.
The NEXUS program is an agreement between Canada and the United States which is designed to speed up border crossings for low-risk, pre-approved travellers between Canada and the United States. Participation in NEXUS allows travellers to avoid long lineups and save time at land, air, and sea ports of entry into Canada and the United States. With over 1 million Canadians enrolled in the program, it is a common option for Canadians to have a better experience at the border.
Part of the border restrictions during the pandemic included the closure of the NEXUS lanes at land borders, as the vehicle traffic was not high enough to justify keeping them open. If the border restrictions are lifted opening travel to non-essential reasons, it is likely that the NEXUS lanes will be reopened at the border as well. If you are a NEXUS cardholder or are looking to join the program there are some important considerations to keep in mind.
Before the pandemic, low-risk preapproved Canadian or United States citizens or permanent residents could apply to join the program by filling out an application online. The application requires a $50 USD fee for each applicant, except for those under 18 years old and, the membership lasts for 5 years. If you have been convicted of a prior criminal offence and have not been pardoned or have been a legal resident of Canada or the United States for less than 3 years, your application will likely not be accepted. The application fee is non-refundable so keep that in mind if you are looking to apply. After your application is submitted, if accepted, you will be asked to have an in-person interview at a NEXUS enrollment centre. Currently, the enrollment centres are closed as a result of the COVID-19 border restrictions but will likely resume services once the border opens up in full. If you do want to apply, the government encourages you to wait to submit your application until this time.
For existing NEXUS members, the closure of the border and thus the enrollment centres became an issue if your membership was set to expire as there was no way to renew it. However, an exception was made for existing members where if you start the renewal process for your membership prior to the expiration date on the NEXUS card, you will retain membership privileges for 24 months past the expiry date.
Having a NEXUS card is a nice privilege but it can be taken away if the terms of the membership are violated. Security on either the Canadian and American side of the border has the authority to revoke the card, and as it turns out, the United States Customs and Border Protection has revoked three times the number of Nexus Cards when compared with the Canada Border Services Agency. NEXUS cards can be revoked by border agents if the traveller contravenes customs or immigration program legislation. A common reason for revocation is when a traveller fails to declare something, such as alcohol, food, or currency over $10,000 when crossing the border. In Canada, a recent court ruling made it so NEXUS cards cannot be revoked for minor rules infractions, rather the border agent has to explain why the mistake made by the traveller caused them to lose confidence that the traveller would comply with the regulations in the future.
However, south of the border, there is less protection or recourse if your NEXUS card is revoked by a border agent. The policy from the American border agents is zero tolerance, which results in many NEXUS cards being revoked. There is an appeals process whereby you can appeal a revocation to an ombudsman, but it is not a transparent process according to those with experience with the process. So if you are travelling and using a NEXUS card, be sure to follow customs regulations in order to keep your NEXUS membership, especially when you are using it to enter the United States.
Garson Immigration Law is a firm exclusively dedicated to the practice of immigration law. We successfully guide clients through the immigration process, with an eye toward the ever-changing regulations in light of COVID-19. We will work to find an effective solution for your individual immigration needs and ensure you are positioned for success with respect to your application.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.
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