Due to CBP’s increasing enforcement of the regulations pertaining to passport validity, immigration officers have been issuing non-immigrants including TN visa workers I-94 cards limited to the expiration date of their passport.
As result, individuals seeking initial admission to the U.S. under TN visa status may obtain a 3-year approval of their TN status (documented in CBP’s internal database system), but CBP will issued an I-94 card limited to the expiration date of their passport. The expiration date of the I-94 card will govern the length of time the individual is allowed to reside and work in the U.S. regardless if CBP noted a 3-year approval of the application in its internal database system. Remaining in the U.S. past the I-94 card’s expiration date can result in immigration penalties like those for unlawful presence. TN visa workers must, therefore, obtain a new I-94 card prior to the initial I-94 card’s expiration date.
According to the NY CBP Field Office, where an individual’s I-94 card is limited to his/her passport expiration date, the individual can go to a CBP Deferred Inspection office within 30-days of entering the U.S. and present an updated passport to receive a new I-94 card. AILA NY/CBP Liaison Meeting, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 11121651 (Posted 12/16/11). CBP has also instructed that a TN visa worker may return to a U.S. port-of-entry with a renewed passport to receive an I-94 card for the balance of the TN approval period. For example, the Detroit CBP Field Office has stated that a new I-94 card would only be issued in this scenario upon making a new admission to the U.S. AILA Detroit/CBP Liaison Meeting, AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 12112141 (Posted 11/21/12). The individual would not have to refile for a new TN, but should bring a copy of his/her employment letter to the border. Presumably, the Detroit CBP office here was indicating that this type of I-94 could not be issued at a Deferred Inspection Office from within the U.S.
In practice, as suggested above, obtaining a new I-94 card in this scenario can frequently be problematic. In some cases, CBP officers at a port-of-entry require the filing of a whole new TN application, or they suggest filing an I-129 petition. (I believe that both of these suggestions are erroneous in this scenario). Sometimes border officers instruct the individual to request a new I-94 card at a Deferred Inspection office, which frequently sends the individual back to the port-of-entry for a new I-94 card.
Given the lack of clear guidance on this issue and the potential for problems, if their passports are not valid for at least 3-years, TN visa applicants should consider renewing their passports before applying for TN visa status. If a TN visa worker is unable to renew his/her passport, and must later request a new I-94 card due to the passport's early expiration, we recommend that he/she first contact the U.S. port-of-entry or Deferred Inspection office to determine whether the officers will issue a new I-94 card in this situation.
We also recommend that TN visa workers present the following items when requesting a new I-94 card at the port-of-entry or Deferred Inspection office:
- Updated passport.
- Originally issued I-94 card.
- Copy of the employer letter initially submitted for the TN. (For complex cases, individuals should also consider having any support documentation on hand).
- An original signed letter from the employer confirming that all statements made in the initial support letter remain accurate.
- Copies of recent paystubs confirming employment at the TN petitioner.
TN visa workers should explain to the inspecting officer how their I-94 card was limited to the expiration date of their passport, that they have since renewed their passport, and that they would now like to request a new I-94 card for the balance of their TN approval period.