Getting Free Global Entry and Nexus for Kids

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Since my daughter’s travel schedule is rapidly ramping up as she is now a bit older, it was time that she got Global Entry like her mom and dad.  As you may know, Global Entry makes returning to the United States a very quick and painless process.  Instead of waiting in sometimes the long lines to clear back into the US, you simply clear passport control by going to a kiosk, scanning your passport, answering some questions on the screen, and then you hand your printed out document to an officer.  It usually takes no more than two minutes from start to finish, and is so much better than potentially waiting in a long line after a long journey.

Global Entry applications typically cost $100 (though it can also be free via a statement credit via cards like the American Express Platinum card or the Mercedes Platinum…including on authorized user cards).  That is a small(ish) price to pay for five years of easy entries into the US, especially since it will also score you Pre-Check.  However, we decided to get it for free for our daughter by also applying for NEXUS.

NEXUS is basically the Canadian equivalent of Global Entry for your entries into Canada.  The normal fee for applying for NEXUS is $50, but they do not charge for children under 18 years old.  Since we were already going to be applying for NEXUS for our daughter, and we enter Canada with some regularity ourselves, my husband and I both applied for NEXUS as well.  There was a $50 fee for each of us to apply as adults (and it did not trigger the $100 Global Entry reimbursement on the Platinum card).

NEXUSHere was our experience applying for NEXUS/Global Entry for our daughter, as well as getting NEXUS for ourselves.

  • Apply way before you are going to be in the vicinity of an interview location (located in Canada and in some “border” towns in the US).  The wait time to get an appointment at many popular spots like Seattle or Vancouver is close to six months.  It also took about 6 weeks from the date of application to when we were conditionally approved to set-up an interview.  There are some locations that had much shorter wait times to get an interview, but to be on the safe side, apply way before you plan to transit a city where you can complete your interview and iris scan.  You can keep checking back for cancellations, but none ever appeared for us.
  • We did our interview in Vancouver, and while the airport or urban location didn’t have an interview opening (much less three interview openings) until months after our visit, we were able to be seen at Canada Place in downtown Vancouver on the Saturday that we were going through the city.  This appointment was available with just about two months advance booking when we booked.  I don’t see that location listed everywhere, but it was an option when you select your interview location in GOES online.
  • You may not get your iris scan at the same location as your interview.  They do not do iris scans at the US locations, and they don’t do them at all of the Canadian locations.  Where we were interviewed at Canada Place in Vancouver couldn’t do the iris scan, so we just had to do that when we went back through the Vancouver Airport to fly home.  You didn’t have to have an appointment just to get the iris scan, so that process only took 5-10 minutes for both of us.  They did not do an iris scan on our daughter.
  • Children under the age of 18 need the consent of a parent or legal guardian to enroll in NEXUS. At the interview, children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by at least one custodial parent or guardian. The parent or guardian needs to have documentary evidence of custody with no restrictions on removal from the custodial jurisdiction. The documents presented to the officer at the NEXUS enrollment center have to establish that the adult or adults are the parents or legal guardians.  That language is taken from the website – in our experience, we just both went with our daughter to the interview and had no issues.
  • Bring everyone’s passports and driver’s licenses to the interview.  They also wanted to see my daughter’s birth certificate, but were able to approve her without it via her passport.
  • It was very confusing to also get our daughter Global Entry as everyone at the appointment kept giving us different answer on important details like her fingerprint scans.  We were emphatically told she did not need them as she was too young, but then were told she can’t get Global Entry without them.  Ultimately she did get a fingerprint scan at the interview, but it took literally about 30 tries all in to get fingerprints that were good enough.  Thank goodness she was in a patient mood, because that part was not fun for anyone involved.
  • When we applied for NEXUS they processed Global Entry again for my husband and me even though we told them we already had it.  This seems to have reset the five year clock on our Global Entry membership, so not a bad thing, but it did make the process a bit longer than we expected.
  • The entire interview process took about 90 minutes to have the three of us be seen by both Canadian and US officers to process the applications and complete C’s fingerprints.  The interview process was much more detailed from both parties than the in-and-out fingerprint scan when we just were interviewed just for Global Entry in the US.
  • The physical NEXUS cards arrived about two weeks after we completed the interview and iris scan process.  We activated them online and are now all set to use both Global Entry and NEXUS!

C looks thrilled in her photo

Going through this process is probably not worth it if you rarely leave the United States (or rarely enter Canada in the case of NEXUS).  I don’t know what the magic number of uses is to justify the time and monetary cost, but I would say if you travel internationally more than once a year it is worth considering – especially since Global Entry also gives you Pre-Check.  Whether you should get Global Entry or NEXUS (which will also get you Global Entry) will depend on your location and travel patterns.  If you have multiple children then the savings to go via the NEXUS program may be worth it even if you don’t plan to enter Canada very often.

I’ve you have gone through a similar process, I’d love to hear how it went for you!


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  1. We live in Detroit and got Nexus 3 years ago – it is very valuable if you live in a border city because sometimes the lines at the bridge & tunnel to get back in to the U.S. can be long, but with Nexus we go to the special lane & breeze through. For the interview we went to the CBP station at the foot of the Ambassador bridge – there was no trouble getting an appointment. For the iris scan we stopped at YYZ on our drive to visit friends in Toronto – no appointment required & it took 5 minutes.

    • Mark, so true! Very helpful for land crossings as well.
      Andy, def didn’t close in February as we were there in mid March. May be temporary for sure, but lived on beyond Feb so worth checking if it is still there if you need an appointment. I remember online it was taking appts for interviews into the future as well, though I can’t remember how far into the future off hand. It was packed when we were there, so maybe they will keep it open longer.

  2. The 3 of us applied 2-3 years ago when fee was $50 for both GE and Nexus. Preliminary approval came in a few weeks.Figured we would do interviews at YYZ as we go thru there but interviews were backed up for months.We were booked on a New England/Canada cruise 3 weeks ahead so I looked at Halifax (1 of our port days)and they had interview appts available for 3. Rented a car for considerable drive to YYH. Found office where US officer rejected a guy ahead of us (not a great start). But the 3 of us were processed in about a hour with longest time being iris scan of my SO as she had to take out her contacts for the original scan. Cards were waiting for us in mail when we arrived home 8 days later.GE is great when arriving into LAX but there are no kiosks at San Pedro where we disembarked a cruise recently and waited over an hour in line.

  3. Doesn’t Global Entry provide you the same benefits as Nexus, even to/from Canada? I’m not clear why you needed both.

  4. I have related, but slightly off topic question. My 14 year old son’s mother and step father are moving out of state this summer. They’ve agreed to maintain our every other weekend schedule by purchasing him airline tickets. He is old enough to fly as a young adult on AA and SWA (our preferred carriers at both airports), but would like to avoid the long security lines. Any idea on how the TSA pre-check works for minors? He flew alone on UA to BZN last month and was pre-checked on his boarding pass. Thanks for the info – it is sincerely appreciated!

  5. pssteve, thanks for sharing! Hadn’t really thought about it from a cruise perspective.
    DBest, no you don’t get expedited entry into Canada with Global Entry. To use those kiosks you need NEXUS.
    Chad, minors can get Pre-Check the same ways as adults. Occasionally as a “random” selection, or much more reliably via having Global Entry or applying directly for Pre-Check from the TSA.

  6. I could not get them to take fingerprint scans for the kids, and, as a result, when we tried to enter, the kiosks wouldn’t work and nobody knew what to do. It was a hassle. I’m going to go back and try to get them to take the fingerprints.

  7. Larry, that sounds about right. Though to be honest I’m not sure the chances of my kid nailing her fingerprints in time and getting even in the photo screen at the kiosk is very high…will try for the first time soon and report back on how it goes.

    • Pete, what we do for a living, where we travel, why we travel, how often we are in Canada, why we are in Canada, any arrests, any appearances in front of a judge, why we want Nexus, etc.

  8. I’m going to try this for myself & 2 girls since we have family in Canada & visit at least 1-2x/year. Although I am married, If I am going to the interview without my husband, what type of “documentary evidence” would I need to show that I have, “custody with no restrictions on removal from the custodial jurisdiction”?

    Thanks for the informative post!

  9. We didn’t get fingerprints for our 3yr old, and we were told that we go to the Global Entry Kiosks and she’ll get a red X because the fingerprints aren’t on file, then we go to the “head of the line” to see an officer and go right through. We haven’t tried this yet, but that’s what we were told. Also, hubby works in fingerprint related stuff, and your kids fingerprints change until they’re about 10 years old, so it’s not a reliable method of ID for those under 10.

  10. We just came into the the US on Nexus with our 1 year old, who doesn’t have finger prints on file. We told a CBP officer and they escorted us to the front of one of the lines. I had the foresight to file out a custom form on the plane anyway, and they took our GE receipts and the form on our exit. A little more hassle than standard GE, but better than the long line.

    So, just be sure to identify that the little one isn’t processing, show them he card, and have the blue card they pass out on the plane ready just in case. We’re in the habit since Canada still requires the form with your Nexus receipt on entry.

  11. I sent a paper application to Canada Immigration for manual processing (so I was only charged CDN$50). However I did NOT include an application for my son. Is it too late to still apply for nexus free of charge for my son? I have not yet created an appointment.

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