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NPZ Immigration Law Blog

Monday, June 9, 2014

NAFTA Applications at the Border - By: Arifa Serter, Legal Intern at CLG

The North American Free Trade Agreement, otherwise known as "NAFTA," is a treaty which allows Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans to work temporarily in one of these three countries for certain jobs or occupations listed under NAFTA. Going into the U.S.A., a person applies to secure what is called a "TN visa." The equivalent visa on the Canadian side is more commonly referred to as a "Work Permit under NAFTA."

A foreign national can easily apply for the TN Visa, under NAFTA, at any Point of Entry (ie. Airport or Land Border). Nonetheless, sufficient time and energy is required for a successful NAFTA application. As a Canadian citizen who came to work for a law firm in the U.S.A., I have personal experience with the preparation and obtaining of a TN visa. Furthermore, as part of my internship at CLG, I have also assisted in the preparation of these work permit applications. I know first-hand the importance of completing the NAFTA application package with great care and detail.

I believe that preparing a NAFTA application without the help of a qualified immigration lawyer could easily be overwhelming to the layperson. There are many documents that must be included in a NAFTA application package, and simply gathering these documents can be stressful. In addition, many individuals such as, the applicant's present employer, applicant's potential employer in the country where the applicant is applying to, and potentially an attorney, are all involved in creating a NAFTA application.
Furthermore, employers who do not have experience writing NAFTA support letters may experience many difficulties. Not everyone knows what to state in the letter, what is required by law, and what is relevant to say or not say. As a result, an employer support letter may not provide adequate or relevant information to a NAFTA application. A lawyer can greatly assist a NAFTA applicant by directing the employers and the applicant to provide specific information that is necessary for a successful application.

The NPZ Law Group's assistance in drafting my NAFTA work permit application package allowed me to receive my TN Visa under NAFTA within 20 minutes, with few questions asked, at the US- Canada border. I believe the reason why my NAFTA application did not encounter any problems at the Border is because my application was complete, organized, and provided the required documents.

TIPS FOR THE DAY YOU APPLY AT THE CANADA-US BORDER:

1) Be Proactive! Some may choose to apply the day of their flight or the day before their potential work begins. I would advise otherwise. It is best to apply two or three days prior to your departure (if possible). This allows you time to fix any issues (ie. missing documents) before the start date of the job. You will also not have to worry about carrying all your belongings, boarding your plane on time, and missing work. As a result, applying in advance will help alleviate stress. However, do not get too excited and apply a month earlier than the start date of the desired work period. Besides, some ports of entry will not allow that practice and prefer to see you apply contemporaneously to your actual start date.

2) Practice makes perfect. Practice answering common questions that may be asked by the officers at the Border. (ie. What will be your duties at this job, where will you be staying, how are you qualified for this position, how did you hear about this position, and etc). Your NAFTA lawyer should help you with this by "border-coaching you" before you apply in person.

3) Dress to Impress! It is important to dress respectively and present yourself in the best manner possible. This will also show the officer that you are a professional and are serious about this application.

4) Place all documents in a folder or binder with dividers or tabs. This will make it easier for the officer to flip through the pages and spot key information. It will not be off to a good start if the officer cannot locate certain documents, and consequently is frustrated.

5) Listen carefully to the instructions of the Officers. When you arrive at the border, the officer will likely ask you to turn off your cell phone or leave your cell phone in your car, and sit in the waiting area while the officer reviews your documents. Do not interrupt, disturb, or ask questions to the officer while he or she reviews your application. The officer will ask you if he or she has any questions or concerns with your application. Be respectful, polite, and honest in your responses. Most importantly, stay calm and be patient while waiting for the decision at the Border.

6) Once approved, the officer will take a headshot, take your fingerprints, and ask for the fee to purchase the work permit (assuming you qualify, of course). The officer will give back your passport and all your documents. However, the officer may keep the invitation letter from the employer. Many details about your entry are recorded in the system.

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