Question: Do I need to bring my original bachelor's degree when applying for my TN visa status at the border?
Reply: I recommend that applicants bring their original educational credentials when applying for TN visa status at the U.S. port-of-entry as officers frequently request to review the original documents. In a recent meeting with the Upstate NY AILA chapter, the Buffalo, NY CBP office discussed its policy on this subject. Upstate NY AILA / Buffalo USCBP Field Office Liaison Meeting (April 29, 2015).
The Buffalo office stated that there was no formal requirement for applicants to present their original educational credentials. However, they added that because they encounter fraudulent documents on a regular basis, they prefer to see the original documents so that they can verify their authenticity. If an officer is convinced that the applicant holds the degree, they may approve the TN visa application based solely on the presentation of a photocopy of the degree (particularly if the application was previously approved at the Buffalo port-of-entry).
The TN visa process can often involve many uncertainties (e.g. how will an officer will interpret a position's eligibility for a TN, or will the officer find a degree suitable for the TN category). An applicant should strive to remove as many potential bases for denial as possible. Although perhaps cumbersome to haul to the border, having the original degree on hand helps eliminate some of this uncertainty, and removes at least one potential basis for an officer to deny the application. As such, I always recommend that applicants bring their original educational credentials when applying for TN visa status at the border.