On October 1, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) began accepting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, relative to Canadian citizens who reside outside the U.S. and seek initial classification as TN nonimmigrants. Traditionally, USCIS had accepted such petitions only for extensions of TN status, requiring those seeking initial TN status to apply in person at a port of entry, such as a border crossing or airport.
A product of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), TN status, which stands for “Trade NAFTA” status, allows qualified citizens of Canada and Mexico to engage in professional activities for specified employers in the U.S. Qualifying occupations include, but are not limited to, accountants, engineers, scientists, certain allied medical professionals, and teachers. TN designations are not subject to an annual quota and are renewable indefinitely (for maximum periods of three years each), as long as the petitioner demonstrates an intention to return home when the TN period expires.
Despite this change, Canadian citizens still may petition for TN status at a port of entry. But, of course, obtaining prior approval from USCIS would spare petitioners the inconvenience of traveling to the border only to have their petitions denied. While ports of entry typically grant deference to USCIS’s approval notices, petitioners should nonetheless be prepared to demonstrate at the time of crossing that they are admissible to the U.S. and meet the requirements for TN status.
Recommendations For Employers
In light of this development, employers interested in hiring Canadian citizens in TN status should:
Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this change in filing procedures for Canadian citizens seeking TN nonimmigrant status. We regularly prepare and file such petitions and would welcome the opportunity to assist you.