Your Options if Your TN Work Visa Is Denied

If you're a Mexican or Canadian citizen, and your TN visa was denied, you may be able to simply reapply, depending on the reason for denial.

This article provides guidelines for TN visa applicants who have already applied for admission at the U.S. Port of Entry (POE), but who unfortunately were refused by the POE officer. We will outline reasons why your TN application may have been denied, offer a brief explanation of the reapplication process, and highlight important reminders to consider when going through this process.

The TN visa is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens who are entering the U.S. to be employed temporarily in a specific occupation that was enumerated in the NAFTA treaty. A list of the qualifying occupations can be found on our eligibility page. For example, it includes accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.

To qualify for TN status, the applicant must provide the POE officer with an employment letter confirming that the position is being offered to the applicant and outlining the prospective job duties, together with proof that the applicant possesses the necessary qualifications (degrees, training, and so forth) for the offered position.

Reasons Why Your Visa May Have Been Denied

The following are a few of the most likely reasons why your TN application may have been denied:

  • You cited the incorrect NAFTA Occupation and it did not meet your qualifications or prospective job duties. For example, maybe you stated that your prospective job is Economist when really your qualifications fit the Mathematician position. Because the list of occupations uses very general position titles, it is not uncommon for applicants to make such mistakes.
  • You did not sufficiently demonstrate that the job duties meet the NAFTA requirements. For example, you listed your position as Economist but listed your job duties as “teaching classes.” Teaching classes, by itself, does not coincide with an Economist position.
  • You failed to establish your nonimmigrant intent. Under U.S. law, most arriving aliens are presumed to have the intent to remain in the U.S. indefinitely. Therefore, when applying for a temporary visa, the applicant must demonstrate that he or she does not intend to remain in the U.S., but rather intends to depart once his or her work is finished, and return to his home country. Nonimmigrant intent is typically demonstrated through evidence of bank accounts in the home country, property ownership, and prearranged future employment in the home country. This requirement also makes it harder for TN visa holders to later become permanent residents. (See our articles on going from TN status to permanent resident status for Mexican and Canadian citizens.)
  • You were ill-prepared for your questioning and misspoke or gave conflicting answers about your proffered employment position or job duties.

The POE officer should inform you of the exact reason for the denial.

Reapplying

You have the opportunity to reapply for a TN visa, as soon as you wish to – even the very next day. However, reapplying multiple times may not help you succeed, as the POE officer may question the legitimacy of multiple applications. Additionally, you shouldn’t plan to reapply so quickly that you don’t have time to consider what the POE officer was asking for, and to prepare any documentation that was lacking in your previous application. Pay careful attention to curing the previous defect in your application, and make sure that you do not reapply before you have everything together.

Let’s say, for instance, that the POE officer states that your employment letter does not adequately explain your prospective job duties. In such a case, before reapplying you would want to contact your employer and ask that it draft a new letter providing an extensively detailed list of your job duties.

It is usually the best strategy to return to the same POE officer who issued the original denial. That’s because that officer is already familiar with your case, and will likely review only the new information to see whether it is now sufficient. This strategy is not always appropriate, however, depending on whether you feel the POE officer treated you poorly, failed to review your documents, or arbitrarily denied your visa and did not give you an explanation. You may want to consult an immigration attorney about your own specific situation.

Additionally, you should double check the other parts of your application to make sure the entire application is complete.

Be Careful If Changing Any Information in Your New Application

It is highly likely that the POE officer who denied your previous petition maintained the documentation you presented in the POE system. Therefore, even if you reapply at a different POE, that POE officer will be able to cross-reference your current application with the old one. This can present issues if you appear to be changing your story. The Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) Section 212(a)(6) bars aliens from entering the U.S. if the alien has made a material misrepresentation regarding his or her immigration status.

Thus, if your reapplication is markedly different from or greatly contradicts your previous application, the POE officer may question whether you were lying in your previous application, or whether you are lying about your intentions right now. The officer may even put you into expedited removal proceedings if he or she thinks you are lying about your past or current application. To avoid this and other possible negative immigration implications, contact an immigration attorney specializing in this matter.

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