An individual who applies for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in a country where the individual is not a citizen or national is known as a Third Country National (also known as a “TCN”). TCN visa processing can be a convenient, practical and inexpensive method of obtaining a U.S. visa for applicants residing, working or simply traveling through the Third Country. When available, TCN visa issuance can save applicants the cost and time of a trip home to their home country to receive the visa.
In order to qualify for TCN visa processing, the TCN must prove that he or she did not violate or overstay the period of their authorized stay in the U.S. Individuals who have overstayed their authorized period of admission, as indicated on their Form I-94, are not eligible for TCN processing and must apply in their country of nationality or legal permanent residence. TCN processing is also off-limits to citizens of the seven countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Countries in this list include Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, Cuba and Libya.
As with all visa processing at Embassy and Consulate posts around the world, rules are subject to change at any time based on changes in policy, country conditions and post-specific resources. Some posts will accept all visa types, while others only process selective classifications. For example, U.S. Embassy and Consulate posts routinely do not accept applications for “E” visas from TCNs who are not resident in their consular districts.
The ten U.S. posts comprising Mission Mexico allow TCNs who have residency status in Mexico (FM2 or FM3) process a renewal of almost every nonimmigrant visa type. However, non-resident TCNs in Mexico are not permitted to renew B-1/B-2 visitor visas, or H-2 temporary worker visas. Mission Mexico posts also typically do not permit “visa swap” TCNs, whereby a TCN entered the U.S. with one classification but seeks to TCN process a new classification. Only TCNs renewing the same visa type for which they received the first visa either in the home country or at a border post in Canada or Mexico are typically permitted.
For Example, a Korean citizen who received his first L-1A visa in London while residing there for business, could not renew his visa in Mexico. However, a Brazilian national who got his first J-1 visa stamp in Rio de Janeiro would be permitted to renew his visa in Mexico.
Those who are considering TCN processing should seek experienced immigration counsel. The constantly varying nature of TCN processing requires high degrees of flexibility and professionalism. Careful coordination of correspondence with government agencies, a personal review of the applicant’s personal circumstances and local processing knowledge is key to successful TCN processing. The scope of attorney representation at the post varies from proper preparation of all documentation and legal briefing for submission to accompanying an applicant during the visa interview.