Problem: Applicant, a Canadian citizen, filed for an extension of TN visa status through the USCIS Service Center. While the petition was pending, the applicant departed the U.S. to tend to an ailing relative in Canada. Meanwhile, the applicant’s I-94 expired. Business demands now required the applicant to return to the U.S. But without a valid I-94 for her TN status, she could not enter the U.S. to work. In order to expedite her pending petition the applicant filed a supplemental petition requesting premium processing.
Although USCIS had not yet approved the extension petition, the applicant decided to fly back to the U.S. and enter as a visitor (B1/B2 classification). Immigration officials denied the applicant entry as a visitor. The officers knew that the applicant had a pending TN extension application. They contended that the applicant intended to enter the U.S. as a visitor and work in the U.S. while USCIS decided the extension petition (employment is prohibited under the B1/B2 visa classification). Even though the petition would have been approved in less than two weeks the officers refused to admit the applicant to the U.S. Instead, she remained in Canada until USCIS approved her extension of TN status.
Resolution: If you intend to file for an extension of TN status through the USCIS Service Centers, and your I-94 expires shortly, make sure your extension petition is approved before you depart the U.S. Otherwise, if the I-94 expires while abroad, you may have to remain outside the U.S. until the TN extension petition is approved. Alternatively, you may reapply for a new TN at the border or airport. But generally border/airport immigration officials will want the pending petition withdrawn before they will entertain the new TN application.