CBP Releases POE Checklist for TNs

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a checklist now being utilized by officers to evaluate trade NAFTA (TN) applications. This is an apparent response to concerns over inconsistencies in decision making on cases requesting admission in the TN category.

TN for Canadian and Mexican Professionals

The TN category was established by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Eligibility for this category is limited to Canadian and Mexican citizens who will be working in the U.S. in a specified list of professional positions. A more thorough overview is available in the MurthyDotCom NewsBrief, TN Status: Employment Option for Canadian and Mexican Citizens (14.Feb.2014).

While Mexican citizens who wish to work in the United States in TN status must obtain visas at a U.S. consulate, Canadians do not need to do so. A Canadian citizen requesting admission as a TN can apply directly at a Class A port of entry (POE), a U.S. international airport, or a designated preclearance station. All of these options fall under the jurisdiction of the CBP. Thus, for Canadians, the CBP plays an important role with respect to the TN category. In most instances, there is no petition filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at all; the entire case is presented to and decided by a CBP officer.

Checklist Procedures Intended to Improve Consistency and Clarity

The checklist is designed for CBP officers to confirm that applicants are presenting the evidence required for the TN category. If an officer determines that documentation has been omitted from an application, the CBP explains that the checklist is to be used, in essence, as a request for evidence (RFE). In that event, the applicant receives a copy of the checklist with notations regarding the deficiencies in his/her application. When the applicant returns to a POE to reapply, the next officer has access to a copy of the annotated checklist issued to the individual for reference.

Checklist Contents

The checklist is fairly basic. It applies generically to all TN applications, without specifications for the individual occupations. The checklist covers details such as proof of Canadian citizenship, job title and job description (with reference to the acceptable professions), source of remuneration, and duration. The checklist also sets out the requirements for demonstrating qualifications for the position, and notes that such proof must be in the original. The checklist addresses documentation required by dependents to be admitted in TD status.

CBP Recommendations on Place & Time of Application

The CBP recommends that TN applicants (as well as Canadians applying for admission in L-1 status at a POE, which is another unique benefit available to Canadians under NAFTA) select the larger POE locations. The CPB also suggests applying during regular business hours. While this is not required, it was noted that following these recommendations would improve an applicant’s chances of having the case examined by a more experienced officer.

More Improvements Coming

The uniform checklist is a good step in the CBP’s efforts to improve consistency and make the process more transparent. The CBP should also be applauded for expressing a willingness to consider suggestions for refinements of the TN checklist, while looking to develop a similar checklist for L-1 cases that fall under CBP’s purview.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.