Can I get a NEXUS card with a criminal record?

Find out if individuals with a criminal record can qualify for a Nexus card. Learn about eligibility, application process, and the impact of criminal records on Nexus card approval. Get the information you need to make an informed decision. Read on!

While a criminal record can make it difficult to get a NEXUS card, it does not have to mean that you’re automatically ineligible. It does mean you have to plan carefully in order to present your case, and clearly some offenses will make you immediately ineligible. But there are ways to address certain offenses or infractions.

Let’s dive in and find out about NEXUS card eligibility with a criminal record in Canada. Just remember that the following is for informational purposes and is not meant to be construed in any manner as being legal advice. You must always consult a lawyer about any of the issues we describe below.

What is PreClearance and why does it matter?

NEXUS uses preclearance which involves screening applicants thoroughly to ensure they are low-risk travelers. When you first apply, security agencies do a NEXUS card background check and criminal record assessment. They also look your personal information and travel patterns and other information as well, all in order to determine if you’re eligible for the program.

If eligible for NEXUS, you can use special lanes at airports or land border crossings with a quicker process unlike regular passengers who haven’t been pre-screened. In other words, with NEXUS you avoid the standard interaction with a customs officer. That’s why Customs & Border Protection and Canada Border Services Agency officers need to assess you as sufficiently low-risk and reliable to gain the privileges of the program.

It should be no surprise then that a criminal record is a red flag.

  • Do you need reasons why? Here is a list of what can make you ineligible for NEXUS:
  • • Be inadmissible to both Canada and the U.S. under each of their immigration laws • Have provided false and misleading information on your application
  • • Have violated immigration, customs, or agricultural laws of either (or any) country
  • • Be under investigation by federal, state, provincial, or local law enforcement in both Canada and the U.S. • Be unable to prove you are a low-risk traveler
  • • Have been convicted of a criminal offense, or have outstanding charges, or have outstanding warrants. • Have received a criminal pardon from any country
  • • Are inadmissible to the United States, including applicants with approved waivers of inadmissibility or parole documentation Source

As you can see, a criminal record in general makes you ineligible. However, you might qualify, even if you have a criminal record, if and only if you meet the following conditions:

  • • You have only 1 Summary Conviction (Canada) or Misdemeanor Conviction (U.S.) that occurred more than 5 years ago, OR
  • • You have only 1 Indictable Conviction (Canada) or Felony Conviction (U.S.) that occurred more than 10 years ago and was punishable by less than 10 years detention.

So, to the question: Can you qualify for NEXUS with a minor criminal offense? The answer is yes, under certain additional conditions including those listed directly above. In fact, you may even qualify if you have a more serious offense, although it will be a very slim possibility.

Keep reading to see how.

Please understand that meeting either of these conditions does not guarantee that you will be deemed eligible. But at least you have the possibility of being eligible.

Now it’s time to go through several scenarios to see whether they disqualify you from applying for a NEXUS card.

Can I get a NEXUS card with a pardon?

In Canada, a pardon is usually called a Record Suspension, which means your criminal record no longer shows up in a criminal record search. You can apply for a pardon/record suspension to the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) after 5 years for summary conviction offences and after 10 years for indictable offences. Source

However, the U.S. government does NOT consider a record suspension or pardon sufficient for eligibility to NEXUS. And both U.S. and Canadian immigration authorities and security agencies have to clear you for you to be eligible for the program.

An Expungement, on the other hand, means the person is deemed never to have committed that offense. However, even an expungement is not a guarantee that you will be deemed eligible by CBP officers in the U.S. Source

If you have an expungement, CBSA officers in Canada may consider you eligible for NEXUS. Please note that Criminal Rehabilitation is not enough; you need an expungement as well. So, Nexus card eligibility reconsideration for rehabilitated individuals is a non-starter unless you also have had your record expunged.

Again, NEXUS card approval with an expunged criminal record is never guaranteed, but it may be possible given the specifics of your case. Source

Can I get a NEXUS card with a waiver?

As you can see in the above list of reasons why you may be ineligible for NEXUS, an applicant with an approved waiver of inadmissibility may still be considered ineligible by CBP officers. So, the answer is generally, no.

Can I get a NEXUS card with a DUI?

It has become more difficult to overturn or expunge a Driving Under the Influence conviction as it has been upgraded to a more serious offense. In Canada DUI is considered a serious, hybrid offense. This means it is both a Summary and an Indictable conviction. Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) considers any serious criminal offense committed by a foreign national as being reason for inadmissibility.

Thus, while the seriousness of DUI in the U.S. depends on state laws, a Canadian or American with a DUI conviction will have a tough time getting a NEXUS card as one must be admissible under both the U.S. and Canada’s immigration laws. Source

I just got charged but not convicted. Can I still apply for NEXUS?

Being under investigation by federal, state, provincial, and local authorities is enough to make you ineligible to apply for NEXUS. Those with a criminal record generally require an expungement of their record and it must also have been more than 5 years ago for misdemeanors (summary conviction) or felonies (indictable conviction).

So, if you haven’t even been convicted yet but you have been charged, it tends to be a better strategy to apply after your conviction has been successfully overturned. Of course, you should always consult a lawyer on the particulars of your situation.

I got charged, but I beat the charges. Can I still apply for NEXUS?

If you have had all charges against you dropped as the result of a successful defense in court, and there are no other charges or convictions in your criminal record, then assuming you comply with the remaining eligibility requirements, you should be eligible for NEXUS.

However, when you apply online, make sure you detail the charges and the result with dates and times and details of the charges and of the overturning or dismissal of the charges.

I have a NEXUS card but just got charged. Will I lose my NEXUS?

Yes, you may. Your membership in NEXUS will be cancelled if you fail to comply with all the conditions of NEXUS, including the criminal code in Canada and the U.S. as well as immigration law – in Canada that means IRPA – and agricultural laws.

You can try using your card, but if you are inspected and the charges show up in a data base, your card could be immediately revoked right there and then. As always, if you are charged, talk to your lawyer about NEXUS. Source

Can you lose your NEXUS because of a civil lawsuit?

A civil lawsuit is not generally considered a criminal offense, and in that sense may not necessarily lead to losing your membership in NEXUS. However, you should consult a lawyer if involved in a civil lawsuit to see if it could affect your status with NEXUS.

If the lawsuit involves custody arrangements with a child, however, you will have to notify NEXUS as any travel plans for the child may be affected.

So, we’ve gone through a number of situations involving a criminal record and NEXUS cards. It should be obvious to you that any kind of criminal record will make being eligible and therefore applying for NEXUS rather difficult, but possible in certain circumstances.

As we mentioned near the beginning, the information we provide is not intended in any manner to be construed as legal advice and should be seen as information for general interest purposes and nothing more. Anyone with a criminal record wanting to join NEXUS needs to consult with a lawyer.


Can I obtain a NEXUS card if I have a criminal record?

Yes, but only under certain strict conditions. You’ll need more than just a pardon – a record expungement is needed – and a certain amount of time will have had to have passed. Moreover, you need to comply with the laws in both Canada and the U.S.

What are the eligibility requirements for a NEXUS card with a criminal record?

You need to have only 1 offense on your record – either a minor one that was committed 5 or more years ago, or a felony/indictable offense committed 10 or more years ago. You need a complete rehabilitation including a record expungement in general.

Will a criminal record automatically disqualify me from obtaining a NEXUS card?

Not necessarily, but you’ll need to provide additional documentation to show you comply with the very strict requirements for people who have or had an offense on their criminal record. You’ll basically need a good lawyer.

Are there any exceptions or considerations for individuals with a criminal record applying for a NEXUS card?

There are no exceptions or considerations for individuals with a criminal record, but rather a small set of strict conditions under which you might be eligible for a NEXUS. You must have been criminally rehabilitated but more than that, you need a record of expungement. A pardon is not enough. Source

How does a criminal record impact the NEXUS card application process?

A criminal record will normally disqualify you from applying for a NEXUS card. To be able to qualify, you’ll need to adhere to some strict conditions like having your criminal record completely removed (expunged is the legal terms) and having only 1 offense at least 5 years in the past or at least 10 years in the past, depending on the offense.

So, the impact is a longer, more rigorous application process with additional documentation required and very slim chances of success in most cases. However, it is sometimes possible to be successful.

Riley Haas
Riley Haas
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