Canada, US promise new Nexus interview option in bid to clear application backlog | TBEN news

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Canada and the United States are promising a new interview option for Nexus applicants in an effort to address a backlog of thousands of applications.

The Nexus program, which facilitates the flow of people across the Canada-US border, stalled as offices on both sides were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A dispute over the legal protection of U.S. border agents operating in Canada delayed the reopening of Nexus offices on this side of the border, resulting in a backlog of 300,000 applications.

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A press release from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on Tuesday said the backlog has been reduced to about 100,000 applications, but the new option will be made available this spring to further reduce waiting times.

The new process would allow airline passengers to interview a CBSA official at offices near certain Canadian airports. The applicants would then conduct a similar interview with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at U.S. Customs before boarding a flight to the United States.

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Previously, interviews could be held at the same offices in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and US President Joe Biden discussed the Nexus program at a meeting at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City on Tuesday, according to a reading from the meeting from the prime minister’s office. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden discussed the Nexus program at a meeting at the North American Leaders’ Summit in Mexico City on Tuesday, according to a reading of the meeting from the prime minister’s office.

A disproportionate number – 80 percent – of the 1.7 million people using the program are Canadian.

Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Tuesday evening that the new process is a “win-win” for Canada and the US.

“We will be able to take a bite out of that backlog in a significant way,” he said.

When asked about the potential inconvenience of having to book a flight to the US to complete the interview process, Mendicino defended the new process by saying that travel is the “heart and core of the NEXUS program.”

Dispute over legal protection

Nexus centers in the US reopened in April. But Canada didn’t immediately follow suit because of concerns about expanding legal protections for CBP officers operating on Canadian soil.

Washington had called for that legal protection to be extended to its officers working at Nexus centers — protections those same officers already enjoy at pre-clearance locations at Canada’s airports.

That dispute appears to remain unresolved with the announcement of this new enrollment opportunity.

A similar compromise was reached in December when Canada began reopening its offices at the land border crossing for interviewing applicants. A new two-step interview process was introduced whereby CBSA agents would conduct the interviews in these Canadian offices and their US counterparts would complete a secondary interview on the US side. In the past, Canadian and US border agents conducted interviews together in the same room.