As you may remember from our last exciting episode, I was in the process of applying for a NEXUS card to expedite clearing the US/Canadian border on business trips.

In mid-September I received a letter from beautiful downtown Williston, Vermont, informing me that my application had been approved and the next step in the process was for me to schedule my interview, at which time final approval would be given or denied — I would, if one of the Chosen Ones, have my irises photographed (for Canadian airport clearance) and my fingerprints taken (for US clearance) and a shiny new NEXUS card would be handed to me while angels sang Hosannas and doves fluttered around in the background.

(Okay, I’m exaggerating…the letter said nothing about doves.)

There are 2 interview centres in the Vancouver area, one of them downtown close to where I worked and one at the Vancouver International Airport, from now on referred to as YVR. I called the downtown office (which uses a long-distance number based in the US, go figure) and was told I could come in…sometime in the middle of December.

Well, crap.

I went ahead and booked the interview (really, what else was there to do?) and then decided to call the YVR office to see if by some miracle I could get in any faster…

…and THAT’S when the angels started singing – they could get me in on November 17th!

After doing some additional research I realized that YVR was the best place to interview because I would have to go there for the iris photos anyway, so it made sense to do everything at once.

The interview was relatively simple and straightforward; I had to bring all of my supporting documents (passports, citizenship card, driver’s license, credit card, DNA sample*) for scanning and sign a form that listed some (but not all) of the things I could do what may cause my NEXUS card to be revoked – including, but not limited to, not letting both the US and Canadian sides know when I renewed my driver’s license or passports (photo changes, document number changes) or changed jobs. I was then asked a few probing questions, such as had I ever been denied entry into the US or Canada, had I ever used another name, and things like that. I do have to wonder, though, how they’d have known if I was lying or not?

After all of the paperwork was finished I was moved down the counter to another woman who explained the use of the TDC (Traveler’s Declaration Card) book which was to be filled out each time I returned to Canada by car (airport not included, sold separately). I won’t go into the details of how it’s to be filled out right now because I’m too damned lazy to scan the entire instruction pamphlet, but here’s a scan of one of the cards (click to embiggen it):



Of course, with my luck, they were out of the English card books…more on this, as well as the instructions on how to fill out the cards, in a future entry.

My irises were then photographed and I was shown how to use the scanning device. It’s a neat gizmo and was even designed with myopic people like me in mind, because it tells you to move closer/farther away/to the left/to the right…and when you’re not wearing your contacts because of the photo-taking and you can’t wear glasses when using the machine, auditory prompts are a godsend (cue those damned angels again).

From there it was a hop, skip and a jump across the street (well, across the width of the International Terminal) to the US NEXUS office where I realized the difference between how interview sign-ins are handled for Canada and the US:

Canada – walk up to the helpful person at the counter and tell them you’re there for your 3:45 appointment, be told that you’ll be called when they’re ready, sit down, wait a couple of minutes, be called in for the interview.

US – Walk into a room with 3 agents (and don’t forget, US Customs is now part of Homeland Security so don’t make any sudden moves!), try to figure out what’s going on, have one of the agents tell you to sign in on a clipboard then go outside and sit down until called in.

30 minutes later…

Went in for the interview, dug out the “no-no” form which they also signed (once completed it had my signature as well as those of the people I was interviewed by, I suppose to ensure I can’t claim ignorance of The Law), handed over my documents for a second round of scanning, answered the same questions as on the Canadian side, and had my fingerprints taken with a neat little electronic device that scans your fingers; it has “positional LEDs” that show green if your fingers are placed correctly or red if you need to try again…fingers of left hand, then fingers of right hand, then thumbs together. I also had my picture taken using a webcam which, surprisingly, is one of the best ID photos I’ve ever had taken.

My card was printed and checked to ensure everything was coded on it and I was told not to use it for 48 hours because it would take that long for my fingerprints to be updated in the database.

That was it…at that point I officially became a “NEXUS Trusted Traveller.” I’m driving to Seattle next weekend so that will be my first opportunity to see what all the fuss is about, so stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion to our sage, to be called THE NEXUS: RESOLUTIONS.

(We won’t talk about the guy who was caught last week crossing the border via the NEXUS lane with a few thousand Ecstasy pills hidden in his gas tank…I guess it’s possible to trust too much.)
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*I was kidding about the DNA sample.

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