Question: I am a Mexican national currently in possession of a three year TN visa stamp. I have learned that the U.S. consulates in Mexico are no longer issuing three year visas. Does this have any impact on my visa and the validity time of the same?
Reply: Last year, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) changed the validity periods of TN visa stamps issued to Mexican citizens. The DOS’ change in the validity periods of TN visa stamps should not affect TN visa stamps that were issued prior to the DOS' change.
If an individual currently has a valid TN visa stamp issued for a three-year period, he/she should be able to continue to use that visa despite this change in "visa reciprocity." Although the DOS has recently broadened the grounds for it to revoke a visa stamp, the DOS' change in the visa validity periods should not be a basis for revocation.
A visa stamp issued by DOS only governs an individual's ability to travel to the U.S. An I-94 card issued by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the U.S. border governs an individual's length of stay in the U.S. In determining an individual's lenght of stay in the U.S., CBP should consider the applicable visa regulations and the individual's documentation in support of his/her requested period of stay.
However, as discussed in an earlier post, CBP has been incorrectly issuing TN I-94s with validity periods corresponding to a TN worker's visa stamp rather than the three-years permitted under DHS regulations. This incorrect processing of TN I-94s may not have an impact on Mexican citizens with TN visa stamps valid for three-years because CBP would likely issue a three-year I-94 to match the validity of the TN visa stamp. This is one case where CBP's misapplication of the law may work in a TN visa worker's favor.
Once an individual with a three-year TN visa stamp makes an application for a new visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate, he/she will be issued a TN visa stamp valid only for a one-year period. When re-entering the U.S., this individual should be prepared to explain to CBP that he/she is authorized to receive a three-year I-94, and that his/her I-94 should not be limited to the validity period of the TN visa stamp.
Having a copy of the DHS regulations for the TN visa classification, and a copy of the Foreign Affairs Manual, which describes the difference between visa stamps and admission periods, may be helpful in explaining this to the CBP officer.