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Options for Canadians to apply for the TN Visa at the Mexican Border Crossing

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As many of our readers know, Chapter 16 of NAFTA (Temporary Entry of Business Persons) provides for the simplified and expeditious temporary entry of businesspersons who are citizens of one country to go into the territory of another. It contains the reciprocal commitments of the United States, Mexico, and Canada to facilitate the temporary entry of businesspersons from one of the three countries. It grants temporary entry to four categories of businesspersons: (1) business visitors (admitted as B-1s); (2) traders and investors (admitted as E-1s and E-2s); (3) intracompany transferees (admitted as L-1s); and (4) professionals (admitted as TNs).

It is important to note that although businesspersons who are citizens of Mexico are entitled to the benefits of NAFTA, they do not have the ease of access to the United States as do citizens of Canada. Canadians can apply for the TN work visa directly at the port of entry from Canada to the USA. Many Canadians are not aware that they can apply for the TN visa on at any Mexican-American port of entry as well.

So how does it work, key requirements?

Canadian Citizenship

Present evidence of Canadian citizenship: birth certificate or passport. Even an expired passport is sufficient to establish citizenship, but an admission stamp will not be placed in an expired passport. Note that Canadian citizens are visa-exempt (with the exception of E-l/E-2) and are likewise passport-exempt for the time being.

The Applicant Must Not Be Otherwise Inadmissible

It is essential to ascertain in advance that you are not subject to any grounds of inadmissibility. It should be emphasized that Canadian pardons do not relieve Canadians of the U.S. immigration consequences of Canadian criminal convictions. Advance prep work regarding any prior criminal history is imperative to avoid embarrassment at the time of application and to allow time to submit a nonimmigrant waiver application (Form I-192) when required.

Past arrest and criminal court records are much more accessible these days. We have encountered many Canadian professionals who have been left stunned at the border after being questioned about a conviction that may have occurred more than 20 years ago and has never come up in the applications process before. In addition to any criminal issues, it is also imperative to determine whether you have previously violated U.S. immigration laws. For example, unlawful presence or past fraudulent behavior may trigger a bar to admissibility.

The Correct Filing Fee

The fee for a Trade NAFTA (TN) visa at the POE is $50, There is no formal filing fee for dependents, but there is a $6 fee for each I-94 issued at a POE/PFI.

Who Will Adjudicate your at the Border?

At one time, POE/PFIs had designated free trade officers (FTOs) to exclusively adjudicate free trade applications. However, since 1999, immigration inspectors have had the authority to adjudicate applications.

It is key, especially in complicated cases, to check in advance with the FTO or the most experienced inspector to find out his or her schedule. FTOs are generally more knowledgeable about category requirements and the acceptable evidence for each category than a non-specialist inspector. Your lawyer can sometimes call the POE/PFI in advance for this information. Many immigration inspectors will speak to your lawyer over the phone to provide helpful information that applies to your case. While the inspectors will never provide advance adjudication, it never hurts to check with them to help identify issues that may raise concerns or problems before presenting the application.

Example from the San Ysidro port of Entry, Tijuana Border Crossing

Take Highway 5 South to San Ysidro. San Ysidro is a community in the city of San Diego, California. It is located in the southernmost part of San Diego County, California, immediately north of the Border Crossing. Make sure you exit the Freeway at the last U.S.A. stop!!! Then make a left turn, and then a right turn to find parking.

It is best to park near the Trolley Stop, at the parking lot just North of the "Jack In the Box". Next, Walk across the Border. Once you arrive on the mexican side in Mexico, near the taxis, you need to go across the bridge to your left. Get in line to cross back through the gates, which is the U.S. side.

You must show your Canadian passport and other I.D. (like H1b) to cross back to the U.S.side. Once inside go to the building on the right which is for Permits. You need to wait in line there before being allowed to enter the building. Once inside the building you need to check in at the counter with the immigration officer. Then you will be asked to wait, until they have time to review the TN documents. Next they will go over the paper work with you.

Once your TN is approved, you will go to the cashier window, pay $50 for the TN and $6 for the I-94. Keep your receipt!

After departing the permit building, get into the line on your right heading back into the U.S. Once, you get to the front of the line, you will be asked by an immigration officer to show your entry documents (passport and TN), and your receipt that you paid.

Lastly, proceed to the outside (any bags, or backpacks, purses, need to go through the x-ray machine). After, you are outside, proceed to your car, and take highway 5 north."

Do you need an attorney with you?

Attorney presence at the port of entry with you is very important. No attorney at application process can lead to dire consequences, especially when a less experienced officer is involved. The attorney can find out when the FTO or most experienced officers are on duty and, if there is a denial assist in the withdrawal or refiling process promptly. We have established a very successful interview escort process for our clients and feel that this service has become a important factor in case approval for Canadians applying at the Mexican Border. Email me for further info.

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