Making Sure Your TN Visa Won't Be Denied at Canada/U.S. Border

How to prevent common sources of trouble when applying at the U.S.-Canada border for a TN visa.

By , J.D. · Tulane University Law School

Just as with any important presentation, the key to a successful TN visa application at the Canada/U.S. border is preparation. Due to the high-stakes nature of the application process, many Canadian applicants are understandably uncomfortable with applying for TN status at a U.S. port of entry. With proper preparation and supporting documentation, though, you can effectively minimize the chances of your application being denied.

Read on as we take the mystery out of the TN application process and provide you with the necessary tools to minimize your worry when applying in person for TN status.

Making Sure You Merit a TN Visa in the First Place

The first step as a Canadian preparing to apply for the TN visa is to ensure that you and the U.S. position you seek to fill are eligible for TN status. For an overview of eligibility, see Who Qualifies for TN Visa to the U.S. From Mexico or Canada?.

The most common reasons for denial are lack of evidence of eligibility, so it's important to prepare clear, concise documentation. Most commonly, applicants encounter difficulties when they've forgotten educational records, or documentation from the employer that explains the position's duties.

You'll also want to be sure you are free of any inadmissibility issues separate from the TN requirements that will prevent you from obtaining entrance into the United States. Review the grounds of inadmissibility to assess your individual circumstances and whether a waiver exists to cure this issue.

Gathering Documents to Prove Your TN Eligibility

Once you and your employer have determined that you are TN-eligible and that you don't appear to have any inadmissibility issues, the next step is to gather the necessary documentation. These are meant to support your application, and will be reviewed by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the U.S./Canada border.

A big mistake some applicants make is to rely on their employer or lawyer to prepare the documents, and then pay no attention to what the packet of materials contains. You'll want to be sure to review the documents so that you're ready to explain them to a CBP officer who perhaps chooses to ask you questions rather than read the packet. If you don't understand something, contact your employer or lawyer for an explanation.

DON'T FORGET PROOF OF COVID-19 VACCINATION: Since 2022, DHS has required people seeking U.S. entry at a land port or ferry on the U.S.-Mexico or U.S.-Canada border to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide proof thereof if asked to do so. (This does not apply to U.S. citizens, nationals, or green card holders.)

Choosing Your U.S. Entry Location

The next step is to determine the appropriate application location for your TN based upon your work and travel needs, whether it is at pre-flight clearance or at a designated U.S. land port-of-entry.

Many applicants are concerned they will receive a different standard of review depending upon the port they visit to make the application. However, there is no apparent basis for this belief.

Many applicants are also concerned about renewing TN status in a different location than where the initial TN was approved. Applicants fear that this might lead to additional scrutiny in how the application is analyzed. However, CBP has made great efforts to ensure that all officers are properly trained to review TN applications and has instituted the use of a checklist for each TN application, to ensure consistency in application review.

Conforming Your Application to the TN Eligibility Checklist

By using a TN eligibility checklist in its interviews (instituted in 2014), CBP has brought greater structure and uniformity to the border application process. This checklist also serves as a quality guideline to what the application documents need to address, taking away much of the mystery of how the interview should proceed.

According to the CBP checklist, at the U.S./Canada border, a TN applicant should be prepared to provide the officer with:

  • proof of Canadian citizenship, such as the applicant's passport
  • an employment offer letter on company letterhead, signed by an appropriate authority, which includes the job title, job description, and discussion of salary, benefits, and remuneration, as well as the duration of the anticipated employment, and
  • proof of the applicant's qualifications, in the form of degrees, licenses, or letters confirming the requisite experience needed for the position, and
  • information regarding the applicant's spouse and children (described below).

Whenever possible, applicants should bring an original of the education and experience documentation, as CBP is entitled to request these. If you have obtained a waiver of inadmissibility from U.S. immigration authorities, also bring documentation of this approval.

Bringing the Right Documents for Your Spouse and Children

If dependents, such as your spouse and children will be accompanying you and making their own TD applications, you'll also need to bring documents showing their relationship to you as well as their Canadian passports. This ordinarily includes such items as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or adoption record, along with an English translation, if applicable.

If possible, bring originals or certified copies of these supporting documents.

If your spouse or children will be applying for their TD visas separately from you after your TN has been approved, they should carry original documents evidencing their relationship to you in addition to proof of their Canadian citizenship (such as their passports), a copy of your TN visa stamp and I-94 showing your TN admission, and proof that you are maintaining your TN status (most recent pay stubs or employment verification letter signed by your employer).

What Happens Upon TN Approval

If all goes well and the CBP officer approves your TN application, here's what happens next.

If you arrive at a land border, the officer will provide you with a paper Form I-94. Before proceeding into the U.S., double check that the date of expiration was properly filled out and ask that any corrections be made at that time, to avoid issues later.

If you apply and are approved at an airport pre-clearance location, you will be provided an electronic Form I-94, which can be accessed only online. Log into the CBP website as soon as you can, to make sure that the proper dates are listed on the Form I-94. If you spot any errors, make an appointment at your closest CBP deferred-inspection site, in order to have your Form I-94 corrected as soon as possible.

For More Information

You'll find more about application procedures in TN Visa Application Procedures for Canadians.

Or, you might want to consult or hire an experienced immigration attorney, using the Online Chat features on this page or some other method.

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