Feds facing NEXUS renewal rush
Five years ago 23,000 of the first NEXUS applicants swamped the enrollment centers for the new commuter lane system.
Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials know those 23,000 NEXUS cards, valid for five years, are coming up for renewal this summer, and they aren’t sure how they’ll deal with them.
“Everybody’s been focused on the Air NEXUS integration and there hasn’t been a lot of focus on this coming wave,” said Blaine CBP public information officer Willie Hicks. “Right now they’re still reviewing how the renewal process is going to work. The user is going to have to sit tight.”
Hicks said planning for how to process the NEXUS renewals would take place at the national level, and would have to integrate the logistics of processing such a large volume of renewals with possible technological changes.
With the December 2006 integration of the air, highway and marine NEXUS programs, NEXUS users enrolled in the highway program, which represents the bulk of NEXUS enrollees, could use the air program for no additional fee but they would first need to visit the Vancouver International Airport enrollment center to get an iris scan.
NEXUS air program uses the iris scan as well as fingerprints
to confirm the match between cardholder and enrollment
The highway program uses a radio frequency chip in the cards themselves to trigger enrollment information for inspectors to match with the traveler
The official CBP position announced on the agency web site was that “In the future all NEXUS enrollment centers will have iris scan capability.”
Hicks said while that is the intention, it is not yet known whether the agency will be able to roll the iris scan into the coming renewal process.
“We’re looking at how soon we can get that technology in place and we don’t have a timeline,” he said.
Logistically, Hicks said they were looking at setting up a processing priority for renewals based of options including the date the card was first issued and the cardholders date of birth, and lining up additional staff.
The fee and the participation requirements will stay the same as they are now, and program staff will use the existing information in the system to update background checks.
Paula Shore with the Canadian Border Services Agency, which operates NEXUS jointly with the CBP, said they were also increasing staffing in anticipation of the renewal wave.
“We’re well aware we’re going to be very busy,” she said. Shore said once the agencies decided how to handle the renewals they were planning an advertising campaign. “We’ll be letting people know what to do and where to do it,” she said.
Hicks said cardholders should not worry that their cards will expire and they won’t be able to use the dedicated commuter lane while the cumbersome renewal process gets off the ground.
“If we can’t get the renewals done I don’t see that we have any choice but to extend the life of the cards,” he said.
While the official CBP position is that “it is anticipated that all of CBP’s trusted traveler programs – NEXUS, SENTRI and FAST – will fulfill the document requirements under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative,” Hicks cautioned the current NEXUS cards would not meet the requirement for a passport to travel to the U.S., now in place at airports and coming as soon as next year at land borders.
The new cards are anticipated to meet those requirements, Hicks said, but “right now we have a 23,000 backlog and it might take longer to get that done than it would take you to get a passport.”