|October 9, 2012|
Previously published on October 3, 2012
Effective Oct. 1, 2012, USCIS began accepting the Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, filed on behalf of Canadian citizens who are outside the United States and seeking classification as a TN nonimmigrant. See Announcement. TN status is available to eligible Canadian citizens whose occupations appears on a set schedule of professions under NAFTA. Previously, U.S. employers were able to use the I-129 petition only to extend the stay of workers who already held TN status or change their status to TN while in the U.S.
While having multiple options is typically a good thing, the new filing option may not make a lot of practical sense for most U.S. employers seeking Canadian TN workers, as border processing is generally faster, simpler, and less expensive in most circumstances. Also, the I-129 petition requires more employer involvement and that the U.S. employer attest to fairly detailed information on the form filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). By contrast, TN processing at the border typically requires only a letter of support from the employer.
If a U.S. employer does choose to file an I-129 petition on behalf of a prospective TN worker, USCIS processes the petition and either issues an approval, denial, or request for further evidence. If approved, USCIS will issue an Approval Notice which the prospective TN worker may present at the border for admission in TN status. This may take some of the uncertainty out of border processing, as the approval is issued in advance and the decision is not made on the spot at the border itself.
With regard to processing time, assuming normal processing times without premium processing, the petition will likely take USCIS two months or more to process. Assuming premium processing remains an option for such petitions, it generally takes 15 calendar days in exchange for an additional fee of $1,225.
Canadian citizens may still apply for TN status directly at a U.S. Port-of-Entry, and, as noted, that option probably remains preferable in most circumstances as the fee is less and the processing time essentially immediate. Most of our Canadian clients simply present at the border to apply for or renew their TN status, where the filing fee is currently $56 U.S. and the paperwork requirements relatively minimal.
Our office handles a fair number of TN applications and L-1 (intra-company transferee) petitions at the border, which is the preferred processing method for most Canadian citizens. Most larger ports-of-entry, including Houlton and Calais, Maine, are accustomed to processing these applications.