Passport Issues for New Canadian Citizen and Application for TN Visa Status.

Question: I am an Indian Citizen on H-1B in US. My wife is an Indian born Canadian citizen here with me on an H-4 visa issued in her Indian Passport. She got her Canadian citizenship after coming into the US with me on her H-4. We haven’t applied for her Canadian passport yet, but she has her Canadian Citizenship card. My dilemma is: how do we go about getting her a TN Visa? Do we absolutely need a Canadian passport? If not, can she travel to a land POE and apply for a TN visa?

Answer: Whether your wife needs a Canadian passport in order to file for a TN depends on the method she chooses to file for the TN. If she decides to apply for a TN at a land border prior to January 2008, she would not need a passport at this time. If she applies for a TN at an international airport she would need a passport. If she files for a change of status through the Vermont Service Center she would not need to submit a passport with the petition, but may be requested to do so.

Canadian citizens currently do not need to present a valid passport when applying for a TN at a land border. They may submit alternative evidence of Canadian citizenship such as a birth certificate and/or Canadian Citizenship Card. Your wife may therefore file for a TN at a land border port-of-entry and prove her Canadian citizenship by presenting her Canadian Citizenship Card. However, under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, Canadian citizens may be required to present a valid passport when arriving at land border ports-of-entry starting January 1, 2008. After this date, Canadian citizens applying for a TN at a land border may have to present a valid passport. As of January 2007, Canadian citizens must present a valid passport when entering the United States at air ports-of-entry. Any Canadian citizen applying for a TN at an airport has to present a valid passport.

The passport rules that govern admission or entry to the U.S. differ slightly from those that govern foreign citizens already in the U.S. who apply for a change or extension of status. In this scenario, a foreign citizen applying for a change of status (“COS”) or extension of status (“EOS”) through USCIS does not need to submit a passport. Foreign citizens generally must still have a valid passport at the time of the application for COS or EOS and must maintain the validity of their passport during the entire period of stay. See 8 CFR § 214.1 (a) (3). If you apply for a TN through the USCIS, it may request to see a copy of your wife’s passport to ensure that this requirement is met. It’s not clear whether the Indian passport would satisfy this requirement. USCIS may want to see a Canadian passport or it may be content with seeing a copy of your wife’s Canadian Citizenship Card as evidence of her Canadian citizenship.

The clearest route to avoid the passport requirement is to apply for the TN at a land border port-of-entry with the Canadian Citizenship Card. Remember that this option may only be available until January 2008. All other scenarios may require the presentation or submission of a Canadian passport.