Third Country Visas

A Third Country Visa (TCV) is a process whereby an alien, who is already in the U.S., can apply for a non-immigrant visa with a U.S. Consulate located in Mexico or Canada. It should be noted, however, that through the TCV process, an alien may only apply for a visa that is the same as their status in the United States and may not apply for a visa that is different than his/her current status in the U.S. OnApril 1, 2002, in light of the September 11th events, the U.S. Department of State adapted a new Interim Rule that does not allow a TCV applicant to re-enter the U.S. within 30 days with a valid I-94 if he/she applied for a visa but was denied for the visa application. However, if an alien's brief travel in Mexico or Canada is for purposes other than applying for a visa with a U.S. consulate, he/she can re-enter the U.S. within 30 days holding a valid I-94 form.

While an alien may still apply for a non-immigrant visa through the TCV process, at a U.S. consulate in Mexico or Canada, if the application is denied, the alien is not allowed to come back to the United States, even if they have a valid I-94 form at the time of entry and their stay in Mexico or Canada is less than 30 days. Of course, if the visa application is approved, he/she may use the visa to re-enter the US. (Normally, at least two entries are granted under a Third Country Visa.) In this circumstance, the Third Country Visa applicant may face the same risk if he/she applies for the visa in his/her home country.

Third Country Visa processing is important and beneficial to all non-immigrants, including F, M, H, and J holders. Although Third Country Visa applicants may face the same risks when they apply for visas in their home countries, obtaining visas from the US consulates in Mexico and Canada is more convenient and easier than doing so with the US consulates in the applicants' home countries. For those who cannot change their status in the U.S., such as those subject to the J-1 two-year foreign residency requirement, a successful Third Country Visa processing provides immediate convenience and benefits as they re-enter the U.S. holding new visas. When they enter the United States with their newly obtained visas, new I-94s will be issued to them, which will give them new statuses. Moreover, to apply for a visa with US consulates in Mexico is comparatively more convenient than doing so in Canada. Those who are not Canadian permanent residents seeking a U.S visa at a U.S. consulate in Canada have to obtain a Canadian visa before entering Canada. The Mexican government only requests an entry travel document, which is relatively easy to obtain, instead of requiring a visa to enter Mexico.

Due to the Interim Rule, we hereby strongly recommend that you evaluate your situation carefully before you initiate Third Country Visa processing. Moreover, the importance of an experienced attorney's role in Third Country Visa processing can never be overemphasized at this stage.

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