During AILA's recent annual conference, an open forum session was held with high-level USCBP officers. Here is a brief overview of some of the TN visa related topics discussed:
- Elimination of I-94 card: The I-94 card is the principal document TN visa workers possess to evidence their U.S. immigration status. CBP is in the process of eliminating the use of its paper-based I-94 card. See also USCIS / AILA Q & A (Oct. 9, 2012). CBP indicated that air and sea ports-of-entry have already begun to eliminate the use of the paper-based I-94. The agency plans to do the same at land ports-of-entry, but no time table was given. The officials stated that the website www.cbp.gov/I94 would be launched to enable individuals to confirm their immigration status and print-out their own I-94 form.
- New FOIA Website: USCBP has launched a new website for individuals to make online Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. FOIA requests can be particularly helpful in instances where an individual has been denied entry at the border or refused the issuance of a TN visa. Although the process can take several months, a FOIA response can often provide information on why CBP denied someone admission to the U.S. This information is not always provided at the time of denial, and a FOIA response may also include additional notes or information not provided in the admission denial paperwork.
- New Detailed NAFTA Guide: The CBP Inspector's Manual, and its predecessor the NAFTA Handbook, are the principal immigration guides for the TN visa classification. CBP has indicated that it is working on updating its "NAFTA guide" and plans to release this shortly. This release could be critical to subsequent adjudications of TN visa applications as it is expected that this new guide will have additional information on how CBP should process some of the more problematic TN visa categories like the Computer Systems Analyst.
- Job Titles / Duties: Job titles that do not exactly align with one of the TN visa occupational categories are frequently a source of TN application denials. CBP confirmed that it will not rely on a position's job title alone to determine TN visa eligibility. The agency will assess the individual's actual job duties based on an examination of the employer's letter and an interview of the applicant.
UPDATE on NAFTA Guide, Nov. 27, 2012: In a recent AILA liaison meeting with CBP top officials, the agency stated that it has completely revised the NAFTA handbook and that the handbook highlights the complexities of certain TN visa situations. CBP is currently reviewing the handbook “for release within CBP.” AILA/CBP Liaison Meeting, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12112648 (posted 11/26/12). Notice that CBP did not indicate whether the handbook would be released to the public. As in the past, access to the handbook will likely have to be achieved through FOIA requests.