TN Status – By mail or at the border?

Stack of Applications

TN visa status is available to citizens of Canada and Mexico. In our practice we deal extensively with Canadian TN applications but also have experience helping Mexicans with the TN application process. With a properly prepared and presented application, TN status can be obtained rather quickly. TN status is also low cost when compared to other available visa options. For these and other reasons many employers and employees prefer TN status. The evidentiary requirements for a TN application by mail are the same as if done at the border. That said, when you apply by mail the USCIS adjudicator is limited to the documents presented and agency resources to make their decision. They do not have the applicant in front of them to question. At the border, the officer has the applicant at their mercy and can question them at nauseum before making a decision. This is just one of the factors to consider when deciding between filing by mail or at the border. Here are some additional factors to consider when determining whether to file a TN application by mail or in person:

  1. COST – Everyone wants to know how much it will cost to obtain a TN visa. The standard application fee by mail is $325 USD, while the fee at the border is $56 USD. If your case is urgent the cost by mail can increase by an additional $1,225 USD through the use of premium processing. When choosing your application method, cost should be just one factor considered in your decision making process and not the overriding factor.
  2. START DATE – More often than not, we are told that an employee needs to start ASAP. In some cases this is absolutely the case, in others it is just an excuse to move the application along quickly. If the employee needs to start ASAP (within the next 1-4 weeks) then the application option becomes the border. This is one of the main advantages of a TN application at the border, a decision is rendered within minutes of presenting your application. This is also one of the main disadvantages to a TN application by mail, it takes on average 2 months for a decision from USCIS. For urgent cases with a start date within 30 days, the border becomes the default application method. If you have 30 days or more, applying by mail should be considered. As with cost, start date needs to be considered when choosing the application process but should not be the overriding factor.
  3. TN PROFESSION – TN profession is another important factor to consider when deciding between a border or mail application. For applications where there is a clear match between the offered position, the employees credentials, and a TN profession, you should feel comfortable applying at the border or by mail. Where there is not a clear match between the offered position, the applicants credentials, and a TN profession, filing by mail is generally the best alternative. In addition, certain professions that are highly scrutinized at the border can often be done with enough planning by mail to avoid border scrutiny. We strongly consider mail applications for Management Consultants, Scientific Technicians, Scientific Technologists, and any case where non-traditional arguments are being made.
  4. IMMIGRATION HISTORY – The immigration history of the employee is also a very important factor to consider. Whether an employee has worked in the U.S. in the past, has had negative experiences at the border, or has weak ties to their home country, can all have an impact on the case and should be taken into consideration before deciding the application method. Immigration history can be the overriding factor in determining how to proceed with a TN application.

No immigration matter should be treated as straight forward or easy. When the application process is taken lightly, mistakes are made that can have permanent immigration consequences. The above factors are just some of the details that should be considered before submitting a TN application. It is best to seek the advice of an experienced U.S. Immigration Attorney before pursuing any type of immigration benefit in the United States.