Legal Updates

USCIS Now Accepts I-129 Petitions For Initial TN Classification

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:

  • Weigh the pros and cons of having the petitioner file with USCIS instead of at the port of entry.  Filing with USCIS may reduce unnecessary travel to a border crossing but will require a filing fee, $325 per petition, and result in a longer processing time, approximately two months (although petitioners may obtain expedited processing for an additional fee of $1,225); and
  • Ensure that any Form I-129 filed with USCIS is properly completed and filed at the Vermont Service Center to avoid any delays in processing.

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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.