Eager beaver border crossers get NEXUS briefing

Published on Thu, Jun 13, 2002 by Meg Olson

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Eager beaver border crossers get NEXUS briefing

By Meg Olson

Over 100 eager NEXUS commuter lane hopefuls packed the Performing Arts Center Tuesday night to snap up applications for the system and ask a panel of experts how it would work.

Application forms for the program went up on the internet site of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) last Tuesday and the CCRA office at Pacific Highway has already been swamped with applications. “That pile is now roughly 10,000 high – in a week,” said CCRA chief of client services for the Pacific Highway district Glenn Bonnett. “It’s going up faster and faster.” Applications are expected to be available at ports of entry this week.

CCRA will do the initial processing for the joint U.S./Canada program which gives pre-cleared border users their own lane. The Canadian agency will then hand them over to the U.S. processing center which will send eligible applicants a letter calling them in for an interview. “We will only see people with appointment letters until we get through the backlog,” said Seattle district chief of inspections for the Immigration and Naturalization Service Ron Hays to the June 11 audience. Hays said the PACE lanes, discontinued after September 11, had processed 40 percent of traffic at Peace Arch and Point Roberts when they were open, and had 189,000 participants. “I can’t deal with all of you coming to the enrollment office in the first hour,” he said. The appointment letters will tell applicants when to show up for an interview and will provide a make-up date.

Each applicant, even infants, needs to apply for the program and each will be issued a card. The application fee is US$50/CDN$80 for adults and free for children under 18, whose applications need to be signed by a guardian. Asked if a family would be called in for an interview together, Hays said they had a good chance if they sent their applications in as a packet. “Send the applications in together but if you get several appointment times come in together anyway,” he said. Bonnett added that all family members needed to have received an appointment letter to insure they had made it to that stage through processing.

Grandparents in the audience questioned how they could enroll their grandchildren and Bonnett said the parents did not need to apply themselves, only sign applications as a guardian. Approved children could then travel in NEXUS lanes as long as the driver of the car had a letter from the guardians that they were permitted to travel with them. “The difference here from PACE is you aren’t tied to a car,” Hays said. ‘As long as everyone in the vehicle has a card you could be in a rental car.”
During their interview applicants will be asked questions to insure their admissibility to both countries and those found eligible will be photographed, fingerprinted and issued a card, which Hays said they could use immediately if lanes were open.

Members of the cross-border community had questions about which passport a dual-national should cite on their applications. National chief of inspections Tom Campbell said they should choose which citizenship they wished to register under and use that passport, while checking all citizenship boxes that apply. “One way or another, when you cross the line you have to pick one,” he said. The advice to people with residences on both sides was to list them all in the residence history section of the application.

There were several questions about what would make an applicant ineligible for the program. “Do you need to have a passport?” an audience member asked. “No,” Hays said, “but you need to be able to prove citizenship and residence.” One person asked if a drunk driving conviction would mean a traveler couldn’t be in NEXUS. “A conviction and you’re out of NEXUS,” was the short answer from Norm Hopkins of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Applicants denied admission to the NEXUS program will not be refunded their application fee but will be given avenues for appeal.

Hays said he expects the enrollment office to open and interviews to start June 26. The current estimate for processing time is four to six weeks from when CCRA begins the process, “and that’s when you’re at the top of the stack,” Bonnett said.

Equipment is being installed in NEXUS lanes beginning this week and Hays said he hoped to see the lanes at Peace Arch and Pacific Highway open within days of the enrollment center opening up. “We’ll probably start with less times open than PACE but we’ll move up to more hours as enrollment increases,” he said. Canada and the U.S. will open lanes at the same time but Canadian agencies will not install technology elements until later.

As a car approaches the booth in the NEXUS lane, an antenna reads radio-tagged cards of participants in the car and brings up their information for the inspector. “As long as the card is somewhere in the car, even on the seat, the antenna can read it,” Hays said. Inspectors can send travelers on their way, ask more questions or pull them in for a secondary inspection. “Everyone can count on going to secondary at least once a year,” Hays said. “It’s to keep the honest traveler honest. A problem with PACE was drug smugglers began to approach PACE members. We have taken down smugglers in the PACE lane.”

Many audience members wanted to know what could and couldn’t come through the NEXUS lanes. “Is there going to be that issue of can I have tomato in my sandwich?” asked an audience member. Phil Stanford, U.S. Customs officer in charge at Pacific Highway said he couldn’t give a definitive answer without clearing it with the department of agriculture, but the intention was to make NEXUS less restrictive than PACE. “We’re trying to use a little more common sense with this program,” he said. “Things that are prohibited can’t come in the NEXUS lane. Thinks like mangoes or oranges or anything listed in our brochure.” NEXUS enrollees will get the brochure listing what can and can’t be transported.

Commercial goods will not be allowed.

For more information on the NEXUS program visit www.getnexus.com or call 866/NEXUS26.

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