CBP lightens restrictions for NEXUS cards

Published on Wed, Jul 15, 2009 by Jack Kintner

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Those who have tried to get a NEXUS card for faster cross-border travel but have been denied or had it taken away may want to re-apply.

Following a management review spurred in part by a lively town hall meeting in Point Roberts last spring with representatives of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the stringent NEXUS requirements seem to be easing.

The management review by CBP’s Seattle Field Office reviewed all 180 cases in which NEXUS cards were revoked over the past three years and 50 of them have been returned to their owners.

Blaine port director Greg Alvarez said he likes the program and though the review was started before he arrived he’s taken an active role in helping to get confiscated cards returned.

“We can confiscate the card here, but the decision to revoke them is made by an office in Vermont,” Alvarez said.
“After the management review we asked Vermont to return the cards in these cases where the violations were minor, and those people have since been invited to re-apply.”

Blaine immigration attorney Len Saunders said that he was told by CBP personnel last December about a change in policy regarding criminal convictions on an applicant’s record. “It used to be criminal convictions were disqualifying, but now if [the conviction is] over ten years old and were not drug related then they’re no longer automatically disqualifying,” Saunders said.

Saunders has also had two clients in Point Roberts who had tried multiple times to get NEXUS cards.

In May they were contacted directly by CBP and invited to reapply, and both received cards last month.
“This all may be connected to the April town hall meeting,” Saunders said, adding, “It would be nice to know what the actual policy is. Things have gotten easier but there’s nothing that says specifically what the new policies are. There appears to be no written policy.” A request for a written policy from the CBP went unanswered by press time.

Saunders said that he’s always maintained that minor violations outside the NEXUS program should be given some consideration, “and now they are. It looks like if you have a misdemeanor over 10 years old then that’s no longer automatically disqualifying, nor are old customs violations involving fines as long as the amount wasn’t significant.
“If a client had a $500 penalty from customs then I’m not sure they’ll be successful in reapplying, but if it was minor then it’s probably going to be OK now. The process takes about a month or so to complete.”

Saunders said he used to have limited success until a year ago when he began to work with the official NEXUS program’s ombudsman in Vermont.

“Now I’m about 50/50. Things have definitely gotten easier,” he said.