The following is the legacy INS headquarters’ response to the American Immigration Lawyer Association's liaison question on the advanced processing of applications for TN visa status.
AILA Question: An October 20, 1999 memorandum under Mr. Pearson’s name seems to have instructed ports of entry that they may no longer accept NAFTA filings in advance of the individual’s application for admission to the U.S. While AILA agrees that it is contrary to NAFTA to require prior approval procedures, we do not believe that it is a violation of the treaty for ports of entry to offer or suggest prior processing. In fact, we have found such procedures helpful and efficient. In response to the 10/20/99 memo, many if not all of the ports that once had preliminary processing have discontinued the practice. The result has been delays and a marked decline in the quality of adjudications at these ports. AILA urges that a clarification be issued to ports that, while NAFTA prohibits a pre-application processing requirement, ports can offer such a procedure and even suggest to applicants that the procedure be used.
INS Response: INS agrees that NAFTA does not prohibit acceptance of advance processing, it only prohibits requiring such processing. INS would like to put out permission for ports to offer the option, but points out that each port has resource problems and wants to avoid setting up an environment for forum shopping. It also cautions that, because of resource allocation issues, the cases submitted in advance may not be the first reviewed. The possible of issuing such permission will be looked at further.
From INS Enforcement Liaison Minutes, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 00062702 (posted Jun. 27, 2000).