Question: I am planning to travel to Hong Kong at the beginning of November, and my current TN expires on Nov. 30th - I just wanted to make sure that there will be no problems for me to re-enter the US upon return even though my I-129 is still pending? Are there any cautionary steps I should take?
Answer: If you want to avoid a delay in re-entering the U.S. or having to apply for a new TN to get back into the U.S., you should consider securing your TN status before you depart the U.S. Once you depart the U.S. and your I-94 expires, you will need the I-797 approval notice from your extension petition to re-enter the U.S. It may take 2-3 months for you to get this approval notice, which may delay your re-entry into the U.S. If you continue with the extension, and your I-94 expires before you re-enter the U.S. you will have to wait for the approval notice or you may withdraw the extension petition and file for a new TN at the border/airport.
If you want to secure your TN status before you depart the U.S. you can request expedite processing of the TN extension for an additional filing fee of $1,000. This will ensure a decision within 15 calendar days. You’ll still need the original I-797 before you depart the country though. You should therefore plan for an additional 1-2 weeks for mailing of the approval notice. If you have not already filed, you should consider filing the extension petition now via premium processing in order to receive the I-797 in time. You could also try renewing your TN at the border before you leave for your trip, although some port-of-entries do not permit a “renewal” application too far in advance of the expiration of an applicant’s current TN status.