(The Windsor Star – Craig Pearson)
NEXUS border-crossing cards are changing to add security, though a U.S. government official says they should also help speed the process. Sometime in the fall, current NEXUS cards – in use for five years to help regular commuters move quickly across the border – will be swapped for second-generation NEXUS cards.
“It’s leaps and bounds more secure,” Chief Ron Smith of U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday. “But beyond the security issue it will also make us more efficient.”
Smith said the new cards are being issued in conjunction with the introduction of new card readers that improve upon the radio-frequency-identification-device technology – which can read nearby cards without having to swipe them. The chip in the old NEXUS cards sent information 15 feet. The new card will send it only 10 feet, which lessens the chance someone can intercept the information.
That said, cards only contain an ID number. Border officials then retrieve personal information from a protected data bank. As well, the new cards are harder to counterfeit or alter.
Furthermore, the new U.S. card readers can handle more information, making them faster. With the previous system, the card readers could only identify one or two people at the same time. With the updated system, the readers will be able to identify four NEXUS commuters in one car all at once.
“It’s an all-around better system,” Smith said. “It should also help us increase our NEXUS usage.”
About 355,000 people currently hold NEXUS cards. Both Canadian and American officials hope that number will climb significantly, since NEXUS cardholders typically cross land borders with less delay than those using other government-issued ID.
Smith also noted that the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative will require all Canadians and Americans to use passports to enter the United States, including through land borders, starting June 1, 2009. NEXUS cards can be used as a passport at the border,” Smith said. “It’s simple.”
Current NEXUS cardholders will receive new, more secure cards by mail sometime in the fall. NEXUS cards cost $50 and are good for five years. You can apply for NEXUS cards online at http://www.nexus.gc.ca. The entire process, including interviews with border officials, takes about six weeks.