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I will be heading to NYC to begin a full-time job. I am Canadian and will be flying from Toronto. I booked my travel arrangements a while back but recently heard that my TN visa documentation may not arrive in time before I fly to NYC. Unfortunately my travel arrangements at this point are quite inflexible and I will probably need to commit to flying over on a tourist visa in the worst case scenario.

Once I receive my documentation, what would be the fastest/easiest way to re-enter on the TN visa? Two options I'm considering:

1) Driving to and from Montreal (~6 hours each way) and re-entering via land with a rental car.

2) Booking a round-trip ticket day-of to/from Toronto or Montreal.

Are there any better options and is this allowed from a legal standpoint?

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    If you're driving consider Alexandria Bay (Kingston) instead of Champlain (Montreal). Pretty much same distance but maybe shorter lines. – Carl Jul 22 at 18:00
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    @Carl indeed. I have crossed there more than anywhere else, as I sometimes fly to Syracuse and rent a car to visit friends in Kingston. I've rarely had to wait, and when I have, it's only been a few minutes. I suppose it's different at different points during the week. – phoog Jul 22 at 18:05
  • @Carl CBP recommends you go to Champlain instead when applying for TN status. – Michael Hampton Jul 22 at 23:05
  • @MichaelHampton Alexandria Bay is also recommended. (Plus Alexandria Bay doesn't have limited hours of operation like Champlain.) – Carl Jul 22 at 23:12
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    @Carl Oh, you're right. I missed that. I'm not sure how. – Michael Hampton Jul 22 at 23:13
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It's certainly allowed to leave the US and re-enter in another status; using the land border or an airport won't change that. Another itinerary to consider is flying to an airport near the Canadian border and then crossing by land to Canada and back. You might find less expensive tickets.

It's not legal to work in the US if you enter as a tourist, however, so you cannot start your job until you've left and re-entered.

(There's another option aside from leaving and re-entering the US, which is applying for an in-country change of nonimmigrant status, but that costs $370 and takes a long time, so going to Canada and back is definitely better.)

One small consideration is preclearance; if you want to actually enter in NYC (that is, have your TN documents evaluated by an officer in New York), you'll have to fly somewhere other than Toronto or Montreal (or any other major Canadian airport).

If you rent a car and drive over the border and back, consider the (probably very small) risk of being refused entry. If that happened, you might be unable to return the car on time.

  • Hmm thanks for the heads up for the possibility of not being able to return. I don't know if they would be able to check how long ago since I left the States before returning. Perhaps making a short break on the Canadian side then returning would seem less suspicious? – Richard Jul 23 at 5:04

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