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Currently, I hold a TN visa that was issued on December 4th, 2017 and is valid until December 4th, 2018. I want to go back to my country on December 22, 2018 to spend Christmas with my family. A TN visa is issued only to Canadian and Mexican citizens, and this type of visa allows you to stay and work legally in the USA for a maximum period of 3 years. Furthermore, I understand that you can work in the USA for 3 years without leaving the country, and then you need to apply for renewal.

However, my case is different because this visa will expire on December and I won't be able to come back to the USA if I do not fill a renewal application. So, how do you start the renewal process of your TN visa?

  • What is the period of admission on your I-94? It should be written in your passport; it can also be checked at i94.cbp.dhs.gov. – phoog Apr 27 '18 at 17:41
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To extend your TN status before you leave the US you can file form I-129 with USCIS. I believe this can be filed up to 6 months before your current status expires and takes a few months to process. If this is successful you will receive an I-797 approval notice with a new I-94, valid to the extension date, attached to it and you can legally remain in the US until that date. The only drawback to doing this is the relatively high $460 filing fee.

While this extends your TN status in the US it does not, however, extend the visa foil in your passport. For a Canadian this doesn't matter much since Canadians are visa-exempt and can reenter the US in TN status after any travel with the I-797/I-94 alone (though I understand that some Canadians who travel frequently prefer to apply for a visa anyway so that they have evidence of their status in their passport). For a Mexican, on the other hand, some travel will require them to apply for a new visa foil at a US consulate prior to their return to the US, including a copy of the I-797 and whatever documentation they included with the I-129 extension with the DS-160 visa application as evidence of their status. The exception to this rule is travel that falls under the Automatic Visa Revalidation rules, that is trips to Canada or Mexico of less than 30 days duration. In the latter case the I-797 approval notice should be sufficient for US reentry.

So filing for an I-129 TN extension will allow you to continue working in the US past your current December 4 expiry. If your December 22 travel falls outside the AVR rules, or you would like to have a visa foil in your passport for future travel, you will want to apply for a new visa at a US consulate during that trip; otherwise AVR plus the I-797 approval should be sufficient to allow you to return from your trip.

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    This is a very good point. For someone in TN status, however, or any status other than F or J, automatic revalidation is not available after travel to the Caribbean. Also, the question seems to indicate that the visa expires on 4 December 2018, not the status (as I understand it, TN admission is usually for three years); if so, an I-129 extension is not necessary. – phoog Apr 27 '18 at 17:34
  • @phoog, I fixed the AVR thing (it is confusing because the AVR rules don't correspond exactly to the rules for when the will or won't issue a new I-94 after travel). For the other TN status is for the duration specified in the employment letter (up to 3 years) and I assumed his was for a year only since the only reason the visa wouldn't match the status duration is that the passport expired earlier. – Dennis Apr 27 '18 at 20:16
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    @Dennis: The one year matches the length of validity of TN visas for Mexican nationals (press the down arrow before the letters to expand all visa classifications), so the OP is almost certainly a Mexican national talking about the length of his visa, not his I-94. – user102008 Apr 28 '18 at 15:47
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If you are Canadian, you should know that most Canadians don't need an actual visa sticker in their passports to enter the US in TN status. Such people can present the necessary documents at a US port of entry.

To get an actual visa sticker in your passport, you must apply at a US consulate. This means that you must leave the US, of course. It also means that you need to plan your trip so you have enough time near a US consulate to apply for the visa.

You do not need to wait for your visa to expire. For example, if you are planning to make a long visit to a place with a US consulate before your visa expires and another trip just after it expires, during which you will not be able to apply for a visa, you can apply for the visa during your longer trip.

In your case, it looks like you'll want to apply while you're with your family at Christmas. That could obviously be problematic, since there are likely to be a lot of people in your position, so perhaps more applications at the consulate, and, no doubt, fewer staff. Unless you're planning a long visit, you might want to try to arrange an earlier trip to renew your visa. If you're in the northern US, you might be able to

So, to start the renewal process, you can visit the State Departments page, which in turn directs you to the online DS-160 application form. Don't forget to bring the documents you'll need for the application when you go home. There is more specific information available for those applying in Mexico, which includes detailed information about the necessary documents. I did not find an analogous page on the website of the US diplomatic missions to Canada.

You can find visa appointment wait times on the State Department's website. This may help you in planning your trip. The time for "other nonimmigrant visas" in Mexico currently ranges from one or two days at most consulates to 9 days in Mexico City, while in Canada it ranges from three days in Vancouver to 64 days in Toronto and Montreal.

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