Question: I currently have a TN visa for 3 years. I'm a Mexican citizen and I have a good job offer. I know that I need to get an additional TN visa for the new employer. What do I need to do? Can I obtain this TN visa without leaving the country? Or do I need to go to a US consulate in Mexico to get it? I live in NYC. Can I go to the Canadian border to change employers?
Answer: You have two options. You may file for a new TN through the USCIS Service Center using an I-129 petition and the basic TN application materials. Under this scenario, you will not have to depart the U.S. to obtain a TN for the new employer. One drawback with this scenario is time and expense. The I-129 petition now has a $320 filing fee. Additionally, you will need to wait until the petition is approved before you may start working for the new employer. Normal processing for the I-129 can take 2-3 months. You may speed up this process by requesting expedite processing of the I-129 petition where you would obtain a decision within 15 calendar days if you pay USCIS an additional $1,000 filing fee.
Once you obtain the I-129 approval of your TN, you may still use your previously issued TN visa to travel (along with your I-797 approval notice). A legacy INS Memorandum provides that H-1B, L, O and P visas are valid for re-entry despite a change in employer as long as the beneficiary remains in the same nonimmigrant classification and the visa itself has not yet expired. Although not expressly provided in the Memo, this visa validity rule should equally apply to TN visas.
Your other option would be to apply for a new TN visa at a U.S. consulate abroad. I do not think that the border port-of-entry can adjudicate a Mexican citizen’s TN application requesting a change of employer. CBP has confirmed that it may renew a Mexican citizen’s TN I-94 for another year at the border (provided the individual possesses a valid visa). See Minutes of AILA-CBP Liaison Meeting March 22, 2006, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 06100666 (excerpt below). CBP did not indicate whether it would approve a change of employer request at the port-of-entry. As result, I would not suggest attempting to change employers at the POE. CBP may not only refuse to adjudicate your application, but it may also refuse to admit you to the U.S. in the event you are no longer working for the original employer.