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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Millions backlogged in wait for travel programs like NEXUS

U.S. Customs and Border patrol recently reopened NEXUS and other Trusted Traveler Enrollment Centers to interviews after closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 1.7 million nationwide are vying for the few available interviews.  (Hailey Hoffman/Cascadia Daily News)
By Hailey Hoffman Cascadia Daily News

BELLINGHAM – Looking to get a NEXUS pass for easy trips across the Canadian border? It might be a bit of a wait.

On April 19, the U.S. reopened enrollment centers to interviews following a two-year closure during the pandemic, and the many backlogged Trusted Traveler applicants rushed to secure long-awaited interviews.

Trusted Traveler programs – NEXUS, TSA Precheck, Global Entry, etc. – provide travelers with expedited screening when crossing an international border or flying out of an airport if they pass the necessary background checks and pay the $50 to $100 fee.

Throughout the pandemic, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) conditionally approved applicants, but with the enrollment centers closed, they created a backlog of millions of U.S. citizens awaiting in-person interviews to receive approval. The result one month after opening? Approximately 1.7 million people nationwide are vying for interviews, CPD spokesperson Jason Givens said in an email.

In Whatcom County, many rely on NEXUS passes to ease travel between the U.S. and Canada for work or leisure. Currently, all interviews at the enrollment center in Blaine are booked through October. Some people hoping to catch an open slot scour the website daily, to see if any new appointments sooner than six months from now will pop up.

“CBP has reopened the enrollment centers and is attempting to get applicants through the process as expeditiously as possible,” Givens said.

Bellingham resident Debbie Boots has been conditionally approved for a NEXUS pass since December 2020 and has been scouring the website for appointments since they reopened in April. She had hoped to receive her NEXUS pass before her planned summer travel to Canada and travel to Europe in the fall.

“I can still go across the border, but it was a convenience that I paid for and that convenience is not there,” she said.

Her conditional approval was set to expire in December 2021, but Customs extended that approval by a year due to the enrollment centers’ closures. Boots, like many other applicants, hopes to secure an interview in November, before the approval expires.

On the first Monday of each month, Customs extends the booking window by an additional month, meaning on June 6 all interviews for November will be open to approved applicants, Givens said.

NEXUS enrollment centers in Canada remain closed.