A Canadian citizen has the following options in regard to applying for a TN visa: pre-flight clearance at an airport in Canada; airport in the US after entry from abroad; land border port-of-entry; or through the US Citizenship and Immigration Service.
Below is an overview of these options.
Applying for a TN Visa at Pre-Flight Clearance at an airport in Canada
Most major airports in Canada require travelers heading to the US to go through pre-flight US Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) clearance at the airport in Canada prior to boarding the flight, hence the name “pre-flight clearance”.
Examples of such airports are Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal, Lester B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto, and Vancouver International Airport. Due to the fact that you are inspected by a CBP officer at these pre-flight clearance locations and are considered admitted to the US after an approved inspection, you can apply for a TN visa.
When making a request for a TN visa at a pre-flight clearance location, one goes through the inspection process just like any other traveler, but you would notify the CBP officer at the time of inspection that you would like to apply for a TN visa. The officer will either review the application themselves or with another officer or they will direct you to a separate room where you will wait to speak to an officer about the application.
It’s highly important to note that you can only apply for a TN at a pre-flight clearance location on the day of your flight. In other words, you cannot show up to the airport without an actual flight booked or days in advance of your flight and apply for a TN.
Applying for a TN Visa at an Airport in the US
A Canadian can apply for a TN visa at an airport in the US when going through US Customs and Border Protection inspection after a flight from outside of the US. Like pre-flight clearance, the CBP officer will either review the TN visa application themselves or direct you to another location where you can present the application and discuss with an officer.
It’s important to note that applying at an airport in the US is only possible if you have just arrived at the airport via a flight originating from anywhere outside of the US, not just Canada.
It’s also important to note that if you go through pre-flight clearance in Canada, you will not go through inspection again in the US.
There are smaller airports in Canada that do not have pre-flight CBP clearance, such as Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.
Applying for a TN visa at a land border
Canadians can apply for TN visas at US land borders. The process is very similar to applying at an airport in the US or through pre-flight clearance, as you must be requesting entry to the US.
When applying at a land border port-of-entry, the CBP officer will likely ask you to drive through the initial security/screening barrier and turn off to a location just a very short distance away that houses the offices of the CBP at that particular port-of-entry.
You will then park your car, enter the building and present your TN application to a CBP officer or wait to be seen by an officer.
Applying for a TN visa through the USCIS
TN visa applications can now be submitted to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (“USCIS”) regardless of whether or not the Canadian beneficiary is in the US or outside of the US.
Unlike the previous three options, this option does not entail a personal encounter with an officer, rather you mail your application and wait for it to be reviewed and hopefully approved.
The current wait time for a TN application filed through the USCIS is approximately 2-3 months. The filing fee for an application filed in this manner is $460. If you want the application reviewed within 15 calendar days, you must pay an additional filing fee of $1225 for premium processing.
As you can see, there are a variety of options available to Canadians when applying for a TN visa.
These options are not necessarily equal and largely depend on the details of the TN application and the location or flexibility of the applicant in terms of where to apply and timing.
Unfortunately, there is inconsistency across all of these options and therefore it’s important to thoroughly discuss your case with an experienced immigration lawyer well-versed in TN visa application matters.
Lightman Law Firm was recently honored as New York’s 2014 Immigration Law Firm of the Yearby Acquisition International. Additionally, founding attorney, Douglas Lightman, was named a “Rising Star” by SuperLawyers.com. Lightman Law Firm also carries a 4.9 rating on Google Reviews.