It isn’t a stretch for me to say I travel a significant bit more than your average recreational traveler. Work demands that I crisscross the skies across North America enough times to earn elite status in a frequent flyer program.
I started business travel in the early 1990’s. I have traveled in Europe, Asia and North America. Traveling in North America was so different. Imagine driving a friend to the airport, parking the car and walking up to the gate to bid adieu. That was reality of travel in America.
And then 9/11 happened. A bunch of crazed fanatics commandeered aircraft and crashed them into New York and Washington DC changing air travel in USA forever. Most people who are clued into world affairs, remember where they were the moment the planes hit WTC.
Air travel in North America came to a grinding halt that day. Literally. All aircraft over American airspace were grounded, I don’t even remember for how long. And then new guidelines for air travel security started emerging.
Today air travel security has become a much changed experience. Large lines snake through departure halls as people look at their watches worried if they will make their flights.
These days I travel frequently between Canada and USA. The border protection agencies of both these countries have come up with NEXUS which is a known traveler program to facilitate speedy travel for regular cross border travels by Air, Land and Sea.
For air travellers this program offers self service kiosks at major Canadian and USA airports which allow travelers to pass through immigration and customs quickly. Membership with the program also automatically enrolls the applicant into Global Entry program which allows them to further enter USA using the Global Entry kiosks at an additional 20 international airports in USA.
The biggest plus is that the traveler is also automatically enrolled into PreCheck, the certified traveler program administered by TSA which allows for speedy processing through security lines. A dedicated lane for TSA precheck members processes them quickly at many American airports. You don’t need to remove shoes, laptops, belts, light jackets and 3-1-1 liquids.
Needles to say, this is a boon for frequent traveler.
The process can be simply started online. You need to navigate to the GOES website and register an account. If you want to register for your family, then you need a separate account for each applicant including minor children. You only need your passport and drivers license if you are a citizen of either USA or Canada. You may apply if you are a legal permanent resident of wither country as well, but additional documents are needed.
After you enter the application, you are prompted to pay $50 and your application goes into review. You can then check back in your account every few days for a status update which in my case was a provisional approval. Once approved, you need to schedule an appointment at an enrolment centre and there are numerous choices available.
Remember, if you have applied for multiple family members, you will have to log into each members account and create an appointment. As long as you book all members on the same day, you don’t need to book times side by side. They will take you all in at the earliest time you have.
Processing at the enrolment centre was simple. I went up to the window where I was given a form to read and sign. Then the Canadian border services guard spoke with me and explained my responsibilities under the program and the benefits. I was then sent back out into the waiting room. Then they called me in to have my fingerprint and IRIS scan after which I was sent to speak with the US border services guard who again explained responsibilities and benefits and advised next steps.
The nexus card is mailed out within 7 to 10 business days of the appointment. This card needs to be activated through your GOES account before you can use it. However, your PASS ID number is issued right away and can be used for TSA PreCheck straight away.
Given how challenging travel has become of late, any advantage to navigate an airport faster with less fuss is definitely worth registering for a known traveler program. They have made registering and enrolling fairly simple so if you are a frequent traveler or live away from home and need to return every once in a while, you might want to look into this.