Recently, we have received reports from some Mexican citizens who, despite having a letter from their employer requesting TN visa authorization for a 3-year period, were admitted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for only a 1-year period. In these cases, CBP erroneously limited the TN visa holders’ I-94 to the expiration date of their TN visa stamps.
Previously, citizens of Canada and Mexico could enter the U.S. under TN status for only up to one-year periods. However, due to a rule change effective October 16, 2008, citizens of Canada and Mexico may now be admitted to the U.S. under TN status for up to a 3-year period. See 73 FR 61332, 61334 (Oct. 16, 2008).
In early 2010, the U.S. Department of State adjusted the Mexico Reciprocity Schedule reducing the validity period of most non-immigrant visas issued to citizens of Mexico. The U.S. government determines the validity period for non-immigrant visas issued to non-U.S. citizens based on the validity period of visas issued to U.S. citizens by the non-U.S. citizen’s country. See INA § 221 (c).
Because of a change in the validity periods of visas issued to U.S. citizens from the government of Mexico, the U.S. changed the validity periods of visas issued to citizens of Mexico. In doing so, the U.S. reduced the validity period of TN visas issued to Mexican citizens from thirty-six months to twelve months. Consequently, when citizens of Mexico apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate or Embassy, they are now receiving TN visa stamps valid for a 1-year period.
The problem is that when these TN visa holders apply for admission to the U.S., CBP is limiting their stay (i.e. length of I-94) in the U.S. to a 1-year period to coincide with the validity period of the TN visa stamp. This is an erroneous limitation on the TN visa holder’s period of authorized stay.
The Department of State’s change in TN visa validity does not affect the length of time permitted for admission to the U.S. under TN status. The validity of a visa stamp only refers to the period in which an applicant may apply for admission into the U.S. See 22 C.F.R. § 41.112 (a); 9 FAM 41.112 (b). The TN visa stamp validity period has no bearing on the length of time for which an individual may be admitted to the U.S. Id. Instead, the length of time an individual may be admitted under TN status is governed by the regulations at 8 C.F.R. 214.6, which as amended now allow for 3-year periods of stay.
Provided citizens of Mexican possess adequate documentation requesting TN status for a 3-year period (e.g. employer support letter) and otherwise qualify for TN status, they should still be admitted to the U.S. under TN status for a 3-year period despite possessing a TN visa stamp valid for only a 1-year period.