TN Processing Problems at U.S. International Airports

Question: In January 2009, I obtained my TN status valid until 2012 at the Buffalo border. I recently went on vacation for a month and came back through JFK. I was told to fill in a new I-94. Then they asked me to show form 7-- (I cannot recall all numbers). I explained that I have nothing else to show as proof of my TN. In fact, last year I made the same trip and had no problems.

This time I was held for approximately 2 hours when they searched their computer system for info about me. Eventually my I-94 was removed from the passport and a new I-94 given. I asked what I did wrong and what I should present at the border next time and received no clear answer. Could you give some comments?

Reply: I see these types of problems frequently with TN workers who re-enter at U.S. international airports. Immigration inspectors at U.S. international airports do not handle NAFTA TN applications very often, and as result, are not familiar with processing TNs. I suspect the officer was asking for Form I-797, which is the approval notice an individual receives if she has filed for a TN by mail with USCIS. As you obtained your TN at the border, you are only issued an I-94 card and not an I-797.

For TN workers who must re-enter at a U.S. international airport, I generally recommend that they have the following items on hand to overcome an inspecting officer’s concerns about their immigration status: (1) the original I-94; (2) I-94 fee payment receipt (from border); (3) original I-797 approval notice (if available); (4) copy of TN application materials; and (5) an updated employer support letter confirming continued employment with the employer.