NEXUS Membership with a Criminal Record

The trusted-traveler program NEXUS is an attractive option to many people who want to travel easily across the U.S.- Canada border. However, NEXUS is a privilege and only available to travelers who are seen as posing little risk to either country. If you have a criminal record, you may be denied NEXUS membership, even if you have been accepted for Criminal Rehabilitation.

What is NEXUS?

NEXUS is a program for pre-approved, low-risk travelers that allows them to cross the Canada-United States border quickly and easily. It is jointly run by the Canada Border Services Agency and US Customs and Border Protection. After submitting an application, paying the $50 processing fee (free for children under 18), and interviewing with a border officer, successful applicants will be granted a NEXUS card that is valid for 5 years.  

NEXUS reduces wait times for travelers by allowing them to use dedicated processing lanes at land border crossings, and self-serve NEXUS kiosks in Canadian and US airports. Fingerprint and iris scans are used to identify NEXUS travelers at kiosks, saving the time that would usually be needed to go through customs with a border officer.

Who is Eligible?

U.S. or Canadian citizens and permanent residents, and Mexican nationals who are members of Mexico’s trusted-traveler program Viajero Confiable, are eligible to apply for membership. Both Canada and the U.S. must approve your application; denial of either country will prevent your membership to NEXUS.

NEXUS membership is a privilege for low-risk travelers, so you may not be eligible even if you can still travel legally across the US-Canada border. Specifically, you may not be eligible if you:

  • Provide false or incomplete information in your application
  • Have violated customs, immigration, or agricultural regulations or laws in any country
  • Are under ongoing investigation by any federal, state/provincial, or local law enforcement agency
  • Are inadmissible to the U.S. or Canada
  • Cannot satisfy the border agencies of your low-risk status
  • Have been convicted of a criminal offense, have pending charges or outstanding warrants (including DUI)

NEXUS requires its members to be of “good character” and will look at your criminal record when assessing this. Applicants with criminal convictions may only qualify for NEXUS if they do not have more than one Summary (Canada) or Misdemeanor (U.S.) conviction that is over 5 years old, or one Indictable (Canada) or Felony (U.S.) conviction that is over 10 years old, and that was punishable by less than 10 years imprisonment. Therefore, if you have multiple offences on your record, or a recent offence, you will likely be ineligible for NEXUS.

I was Approved for Criminal Rehabilitation – Can I get NEXUS?

NEXUS places great emphasis on ensuring its members pose little risk to either the US or Canada, in order to enhance national security and ensure easy travel for members. For this reason, the requirements for NEXUS may be more strict than those for Criminal Rehabilitation.

NEXUS considers whether you are admissible to Canada, however, admissibility alone does not guarantee you will accepted for NEXUS membership. Criminal rehabilitation does not equate to an expungement or record suspension, therefore it is often not enough to meet the requirements for NEXUS.

I have a Record Suspension or Expungement

For Canadians with a conviction, a record suspension (pardon) is not recognized by the U.S. government and will not remove your inadmissibility or grant you NEXUS membership.

For Americans with a conviction, the Canada Border Services Agency has indicated that it may allow individuals with expungements into NEXUS. Therefore, even if you have been accepted for Criminal Rehabilitation, you will need an expungement (if you have multiple offences or an offence not within the NEXUS requirements above) in order to successfully meet the criteria for the program.

For more information on your eligibility for NEXUS, Criminal Rehabilitation, or to consult a Canadian immigration lawyer, fill out our online assessment form.

FWCanada is a Montreal-based immigration law firm that provides professional legal services on Canadian immigration. For more tips and updates on Canadian immigration follow FWCanada on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin.