Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that NEXUS is only available to Canadian citizens. The pass is also available to permanent residents.
Certain NEXUS card holders in the United States and Canada are being advised to temporarily avoid using the pre-clearance system after reports of travellers having their status revoked.
Two Toronto-based immigration lawyers have confirmed to Global News that they’ve received calls from people who have lost their NEXUS memberships — seemingly without violating any border rules — since Jan. 27, when U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order on immigration.
Government officials have also confirmed they are aware of similar reports.
Almost all of the cases reported to lawyers Stephen Green and Cyndee Todgham Cherniak have involved NEXUS members who hold citizenship in one of the countries affected by the Trump travel ban. But all of them also hold citizenship or permanent residency in either Canada or the United States, which is a prerequisite for the NEXUS program.
“This is something that is quite inexplicable,” said Todgham Cherniak, adding that the number of cases now extends “beyond coincidence.”
NEXUS allows a faster transition through airport screening for trusted travellers, who must apply to join. Applicants are subject to extensive screening, including in-person interviews, employment checks, travel history checks, criminal background checks and other verifications before they receive their card.
“Anyone who applied for NEXUS has gone through extreme vetting,” said Todgham Cherniak.
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Green said he thinks that the rules surrounding the travel ban still haven’t been communicated well enough, meaning individual border guards are reacting to it in different ways.
“It hasn’t gotten down to the people on the ground implementing the policy,” he said.
Trump’s executive order placed a 90-day ban on entry into the United States for nationals of seven predominantly Muslim countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Dual nationals are exempt from the ban, officials have confirmed, but NEXUS members on both sides of the border who hold citizenship in one of those Middle Eastern countries should avoid crossing if possible, said Todgham Cherniak.
“Wait until things settle down a little bit,” she advised.
“If you don’t have to travel to the United States, if you’re flying overseas, don’t fly through LaGuardia (airport), fly Air Canada direct to London or Hong Kong or wherever it is you’re going.”
Green agreed that it’s best to stay away from the border, adding that the two people who contacted his office had their NEXUS membership revoked as they attempted to cross.
“Don’t enter the United Stated yet, and don’t leave the United States if you’re there with your NEXUS pass, until it becomes clear,” he advised travellers with dual-citizenship from one of the seven nations.
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But even staying home may not prevent headaches. According to Todgham Cherniak, the five cases that she has seen were people who had not travelled at all within the past week. They simply received a letter advising them their NEXUS membership was now invalid because they “no longer meet eligibility requirements.”
That’s a standard form letter, she noted, and she sees it all the time.
“Usually it’s when someone has breached a customs law, or they’ve breached a rule of the NEXUS program, every so often someone’s been arrested so they no longer meet eligibility requirements.”
But another basis for revocation, rarely used by officials, is that the card-holder is “no longer of good character.” That may be what’s happening to people with these particular dual-nationalities.
Revoking a NEXUS membership is entirely left to the discretion of border officials in Canada and the U.S.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Friday in the House of Commons that anyone who has their NEXUS membership revoked can appeal to an ombudsman in Canada.
“If people feel that they have been in fact unfairly treated by the process on either side of the border there is an appeal process,” Goodale said.
“Obviously on a governmental level we will be working with our American counterparts to make sure that rules are properly and fairly administered, and that Canadians have the access they are entitled to with a Canadian passport.”
Todgham Cherniak acknowledged that there is a two-step appeal process in Canada, but appealing any NEXUS decisions made by the U.S. can be very time-consuming and often fruitless.
“It does take time, and it does take money,” she said.
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.