Question: I am a Canadian (intern architect) currently living in North Carolina. My TN visa will expire at the beginning of October. Who should apply for the extension: myself or my employer? How early is it recommended to do this? What are the statistics for granted TN extensions?
Reply: The TN classification does not permit self-sponsorship. Whether you apply at the border or through the USCIS, for an initial TN or an extension of TN status, you will always need an employer sponsor.
If you plan to file for the TN extension through the USCIS, the earliest you can do this is six months prior to the proposed start date of the extension. The latest you can file for an extension of TN status through the USCIS is the date your current TN status expires. The best practice is to file as soon as possible once you hit the sixth month mark to ensure continued travel and employment authorization.
There is no specific time frame for applying for a TN “extension” at the border (it’s actually considered a new application). But inspectors generally will not entertain a TN “extension” at the border unless you apply within 1-3 weeks of the expiration date of your current TN status.
I do not have any statistics on the approval rate of TN extensions either through USCIS or at the border. The Department of Homeland Security keeps general statistics on the number of individuals admitted at the border under the TN and TD classifications, but it does not distinguish between new TNs and “extensions” or “renewals.”
USCIS is supposed to grant deference to previously approved I-129 TN petitions, unless there was (1) a material error with regard to the previous petition approval; (2) a substantial change in circumstances has taken place; or (3) there is new material information that adversely impacts the petitioner’s or beneficiary’s eligibility. Yates Memo 2004. CBP (i.e. the adjudicators at the border), which treats border TN applications as a new application not an extension, is less likely to give deference to prior approvals.