Immigration Newswire

What to Expect When Applying for a TN or L-1 at the Border

Posted by Emilie (Ronald) Gough | Aug 30, 2023 | 0 Comments

Canadian citizens are eligible in most instances* to apply for TN or L-1 status directly at a Port of Entry. The process allows for a quicker decision – on the spot as opposed to waiting to hear back from USCIS – and the ability to enter the US immediately following approval if needed. 
Previously, immigration attorneys were able to join clients at the Port of Entry and assist with the application process. This is no longer allowed so applicants must apply on their own.  

Here are some important things to keep in mind if you are a first time applicant at the border: 

  • Confirm if you need to make an appointment in advance 

Some Ports of Entry, including those in the Buffalo, NY area, require appointments to be made in advance. You can check if an appointment is necessary beforehand by contacting the local Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office that has jurisdiction over the Port of Entry. 

If an appointment is not necessary, you should try to go to the Port of Entry during regular business hours, Monday-Friday. This is when the officers that are most familiar with TN and L-1 adjudications will be working. Additionally, weekends – especially near holidays - may be busier with locals crossing the border at the same time as year. 

  • Dress appropriately 

While you don't need to dress ultra-formal, you will still want to leave a good impression as a professional. After all, you are applying for the ability to work in the United States! We recommend dressing business casual. 

  • Bring all necessary supporting evidence

The type of evidence you will need to bring will vary depending on the status for which you are applying. For example, TN applicants applying based on their education will want to bring their original diploma and transcripts. Check with your immigration attorney, corporate counsel, or Human Resources department about what items you will need for your specific case. 

  • Be familiar with the materials in your application or petition

The CBP officer reviewing your paperwork will not expect you to know all about corporate structure or finances. However, they will expect you to be able to communicate what you will be doing, what you currently do (for L-1 applicants), and how you meet the qualifications. If your job description includes a lot of technical lingo, you should be prepared to explain in layman's terms. 

  • Be prepared to wait if needed 

Although TNs and L-1s can be adjudicated same-day, you may still need to do some waiting while an officer reviews your paperwork. There is no average wait time and each case is unique based on the material and the CBP officer reviewing it. We have seen some clients in and out in 20 minutes while others may wait several hours. 

If you plan on applying at an airport pre-clearance, you will want to ensure you have more than enough time before your flight. Cutting it too close may lead to you missing your flight. 


Contact the Law Offices of James D. Eiss today if you'd like a second opinion on your TN or L-1 application. 

* Exceptions include, but not limited to: L-1 renewals where more than 50% of your time was spent in the US, those who do not already have an approved I-192 or I-212 waiver 

About the Author

Emilie (Ronald) Gough

Emilie E. Ronald is an Associate Attorney. She first joined the Law Offices of James D. Eiss in 2018 as a Law Clerk during her second year of law school. She was admitted as an attorney in the state of New York in January 2020. Emilie primarily focuses on TNs, L-1s, E-1s, E-2s, O-1s, and R-1s. Sh...


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