Canadian and American border authorities have approved his proposal to speed up traffic at the Peace Bridge by expanding access and making improvements to the NEXUS card program. Schumer launched his push in Buffalo in November 2011 to increase accessibility of NEXUS cards that allow cardholders to use dedicated “NEXUS Lanes” when traveling over the Peace Bridge, which have fewer security checkpoints because NEXUS cardholders have already undergone a rigorous background check to obtain the card. Currently, western New Yorkers have to visit the Peace Bridge Customs and Border Protection offices in Canada or at the Whirlpool Bridge to acquire a NEXUS card – a process that limits the number of people that are taking advantage of the program. The lack of access has kept more western New Yorkers from obtaining the card, and is likely slowing traffic on the bridge.
To make the NEXUS card more widely available, American and Canadian border authorities have agreed to begin hosting sign-up sessions in malls, post offices, and local businesses so that getting a card is more convenient, like securing a passport. Customs and Border Protection hosted one mobile session for employees of Constellation Inc. in the Rochester area last year, and Schumer fought to create a more permanent and regular rotation to expand access to NEXUS in western New York.
“Simply put, this new plan to make it easier to get a NEXUS card means that more pre-approved workers, vacationers, and shoppers alike will be zipping right across the border to spend their time and money in western New York. For years, traveling back and forth between western New York and Canada has been an absolute headache, with maddening traffic backing drivers up for sometimes over an hour at a time and discouraging travelers on both sides of the border from crossing for business travel, to shop, or for short family day trips,” said Schumer. “This agreement will help speed up traffic at the Peace Bridge by improving and expanding access to the NEXUS card program, which, just like the E-ZPass, makes crossing the border for pre-approved individuals a breeze.”
In November 2011, Schumer joined Andrew Rudnick of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Arlene White from the Bi-National Economic and Tourism Alliance, Bryan Roth of the Canadian Consulate, and Matt Davison from the Peace Bridge Authority as he announced his plan to improve and expand access to the NEXUS card program and expedite travel across the Peace Bridge and other northern border crossings. Specifically, Schumer urged that “mobile NEXUS enrollment centers” be set up in convenient locations on both sides of the border to increase American and Canadian enrollment in the NEXUS program, which prescreens security information of individuals for quicker travel across the border.
The NEXUS alternative inspection program allows pre-screened travelers expedited processing by United States and Canadian officials at dedicated processing lanes at designated northern border ports of entry, NEXUS kiosks at Canadian Preclearance airports, and marine reporting locations. Approved applicants are issued a photo-identification, proximity Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) card. Participants that cross the border via any of these three modes of passage simply have to present their NEXUS card, and can move across quickly because they have already completed an interview and thorough background check with border officials in order to obtain the card. Individuals approved to participate in NEXUS receive an identification card that allows them to receive expedited passage at NEXUS-dedicated car lanes, airport kiosks, and by calling a marine telephone reporting center to report their arrival into the United States and Canada. NEXUS card holders can also cross the border with minimal questioning from customs and immigration officials.
Schumer noted that while the NEXUS program is ideal for families and businesses to cross the border, a total of only 45,000 Western New York residents have NEXUS cards. This is mostly due to the fact that the process to obtain a NEXUS card is time-consuming and burdensome because there are very few locations where the pre-screening of applicants is available. Applicants for a NEXUS card are required to travel to a NEXUS Enrollment Center for an interview. In Western New York, the only enrollment center is located next to the Whirlpool Bridge in Niagara Falls. In Canada, the only enrollment locations that exist outside of border crossings are located inside of international airports.
Schumer is therefore first urging Canadian and American authorities to set up “mobile NEXUS enrollment centers”, in high-traffic locations along the Northern Border to make obtaining a NEXUS card easier. Schumer suggested that these mobile enrollment centers partner with local businesses so that entire workforces can enroll in the NEXUS program, just as CBP once successfully established with Constellation Inc. in Rochester. These “mobile NEXUS enrollment centers” would increase access to the successful but underutilized NEXUS program, and would be greatly beneficial to travelers, workers, and local businesses alike. NEXUS cards allow cardholders to use dedicated “NEXUS Lanes” when traveling over the Peace Bridge and other crossings, which have fewer security checkpoints because NEXUS cardholders have already undergone a rigorous background check to obtain the card. Schumer noted that border crossing for these individuals would be nearly instantaneous, and would increase traffic to and from western New York and would be a shot in the arm for local economies.
Applications can be submitted online, but to obtain a NEXUS card, prospective applications must have a retina scan and conduct an in-person interview, which often discourages individuals who may otherwise seek to obtain a NEXUS card from doing so. By bringing the eye-scan technology and border protection agents to more convenient locations, Schumer successfully pushed to make it more convenient to obtain a card, thus boosting the number of cardholders and reducing the traffic gridlock on the Peace Bridge. Schumer also noted the cost savings for individuals who frequently travel to Canada, but not other international destinations, and do not have a use for a passport. To obtain a passport book and card that is valid for 10 years, first time applications must pay $135 dollars, compared to just $100 to keep a NEXUS card for that same time period. First time NEXUS cardholders must pay $50, and then renew the card for an additional $50 five years later.