Many individuals in the United States choose to apply for or renew a nonimmigrant visa in a country other than their home country to save on time and expense. Because of their proximity, Canada or Mexico are popular choices for this type of consular processing.
This is what’s called Third Country National (TCN) visa processing because the applicant is neither a citizen nor a national of the third country. Applicants will have to pay their visa application processing fee before scheduling their appointment.
TCN processing usually means less time away from work or family than if the individual were to obtain a visa in his/her home country. It could also be considerably cheaper. As an example, for most Filipinos the drive or flight to Canada or Mexico costs less than a plane ticket to the Philippines.
However, TCN processing also carries with it potential risks which visa applicants must be aware of.
For one, the issuance of a visa may be delayed for some reason, in the security checks for instance, which means that until the applicant obtains a valid visa stamp, he/she cannot return to the U.S. The applicant may have to make arrangements for an extended stay in the third country which could be a problem, for example, in some posts in Mexico when local violence erupts and causes a suspension of consular operations.
If the application is denied and the consular official cancels the individual’s prior visa, the applicant would have to wait for visa issuance at the third country or go directly to his/her home country.
Moreover, not all types of nonimmigrant visa applicants may apply in Mexico or Canada. Applications for E visas from third country national applicants who are not residents in their consular district are not accepted.
Applications from nonresident TCNs who are nationals of countries designated as sponsors of terrorism are also not accepted.
Applicants who have been out of status in the U.S. for violating the terms of their visa or those who overstayed their I-94 validity may not consular process as a TCN. Aliens who overstay their visa, even by one day, who are subject to Section 222(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are generally not allowed to apply for a nonimmigrant visa via TCN processing.
TCN applicants must therefore be reminded to be ready for potential delays at the third country. They have to be mindful of timing issues and the logistics of the trip (such as biometrics schedules and pick-up of passport after visa issuance). Additionally, in some cases they may have to first get a visa in order to enter Canada or Mexico
Second, they must research the policies of a specific consular post where they intend to apply and check if it has jurisdiction over the application.
Finally, they need to carefully review their immigration history and status. Processing in Canada or Mexico is reserved for “clearly approvable” TCN cases. Individuals who have fallen out of status under Sec. 222(g) must apply for a visa from their home country, and those with potential admissibility issues are better off consular processing back home.