Despite past assurances as recently as Oct. 2016, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has now stated that it will no longer annotate TN visa stamps to reflect the dates of employment requested by a TN visa petitioner. (TN visa stamps are generally only issued to citizens of Mexico, and allow them to seek entry to the U.S. under TN status. Canadian citizens are exempt from this visa stamp requirement.)
These TN visa stamp annotations were extremely beneficial in enabling TN visa workers to secure a 3-year I-94 record from USCBP when seeking admission at the U.S. border. As written previously, annotating the 3-year work period requested on the TN visa stamp helped ensure that USCBP did not erroneously limit the TN visa worker’s period of stay to the standard 1-year expiration date of the TN visa stamp. Although the practice of annotating TN visa stamps in this manner was not uniform, the chances of USCBP issuing an incorrect period of admission were minimized when this was done.
The DOS disclosed this new policy during the recent AILA/DOS liaison meeting in April 2017. AILA/DOS Liaison Meeting (Spring 2017), AILA Doc. No. 17041234, pgs. 17-18 (posted 4/12/17). Without further elaboration, the DOS informed AILA that it no longer believed this practice was beneficial, and that final determinations on admissions to the U.S. were to made by USCBP. Id. The DOS also indicated that it had updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to reflect this change in policy. Id.
What has been the result of this change in policy? As expected, recent TN visa applicants who were approved for TN visa stamps based on applications from employers requesting a 3-year period of stay have been erroneously issued I-94 records only valid for 1-year (the length of the TN visa stamp).
In light of this policy change, it is important that TN visa holders seeking their initial admission to the U.S. take affirmative steps to ensure they are admitted for the full 3-year period authorized under the TN visa regulations. With the exception of the now unavailable TN visa annotation, instructions on how to facilitate the issuance of a 3-year I-94 record at the border is outlined here.