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TN Visa Interview At the Port of Entry: How to Prepare

4 minute read
"The United States offers the TN Visa as a nonimmigrant work visa for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadian citizens are eligible to apply for a TN Visa directly at the Port of Entry to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when seeking entry to the US."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Aug 3, 2021
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The United States offers the TN Visa as a nonimmigrant work visa for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadian citizens are eligible to apply for a TN Visa directly at the Port of Entry to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) when seeking entry to the US. 

The application process is quite straightforward. Applicants will be required to attend an interview with one or more CBP officials. If the interview is successful, you will be granted entry to the US on a TN Visa. However, if it is not successful, then you will be denied entry to the US.

Therefore, it is best to prepare in advance if you plan to apply for a TN Visa at the port of entry. 

How Can You Prepare for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Interview At a Port of Entry?

Decide Where to Apply 

While all US ports of entry are capable of processing your request for a TN Visa, they come in different forms:

Land Border: 

Land border covers entering the US by land from the Canadian or Mexican border. This is the most common and straightforward way to apply as officials at the US-Canada port of entry are more familiar with this “walk-up” application process compared to those at the southern border. Currently, the land borders are open to TN Visa applicants as it is considered an essential work visa.

Airport Pre-Clearance: 

It is when you apply for the TN Visa before you physically reach the US. There are several pre-clearance facilities available in Canada and around the world to clear US immigration and customs at the airport before boarding a flight to the US. 

First Port of Entry: 

It is when you apply for the TN Visa at the first port of entry after physically reaching the US. This is usually the case when you do not travel via a land border or get pre-clearance at the airport. 

These ports receive fewer TN applications, so the experience might be inconsistent. If your flight includes layovers, then you must apply for your TN Visa at your first arrival airport in the US. 

For example, if your flight goes from London to Chicago and to Denver, you will apply for your TN Visa at the Chicago airport when you first arrive in the US.

Have Complete Documentation

You must have all the required documents to apply for a TN Visa when you arrive in the US. The following documents are required:

  • A TN support letter, signed by your employer
  • A valid Canadian passport that expires after your period of employment in the US
  • Original diploma and transcripts
  • Original professional licenses or certificates, if required
  • Education Credential Evaluations, if required
  • English translations of documents, if required
  • Sufficient funds to pay the application fee

Know Your Job Role

There is a designated list of job roles that are eligible for the TN Visa. Therefore, you must be able to talk about your offered job position on your TN support letter and how it is within the designated NAFTA category. 

For example, if you have been offered the position of a Senior Software Engineer, then you might have to argue that your role and responsibilities fit under the Engineer category.

Must Not Have Dual Intent

The TN Visa is a nonimmigrant visa, meaning that it does not allow you to come to the US to adjust your temporary status to permanent residence. If the CBP officer determines that you intend to live in the US permanently, then your application will be refused.

You must be able to demonstrate that your employment in the US is temporary and that you will return to Canada when your visa expires. However, it does not mean that you can not adjust your status if you get married to a US citizen or change your visa status.

What Happens If the CBP Interview is Successful?

If your interview is successful, you will receive an I-94 stamp indicating your TN status, your NAFTA job category, your employer, and the expiration date of your TN Visa. This is generally hand-written by the CBP official.

Therefore, it is always best to check the accuracy of your stamp. You can go online to the I-94 website to verify your stamp. Your electronic I-94 record also needs to be submitted to your employer to allow them to verify your status in the US.

What Happens If the CBP Interview is Unsuccessful?

If the CBP official determines that your application is incomplete, they may ask you to withdraw your application. A withdrawn application helps in reapplication more than a denial. Therefore, it is best to withdraw at this point. You can also voluntarily withdraw your application at any time during your interview with the CBP official.

If your application is denied, then it will end up as a record on your file and likely cause difficulties to enter the US in the future. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you withdraw your application if you feel it will be denied.

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