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How Do I Enter the United States as a Commercial Truck Driver?

Temporary Visitors for Business

Immigration regulations and policies have long held that alien truck drivers may qualify for admission as B-1 visitors for business to pick up or deliver cargo traveling in the stream of international commerce.

Truck drivers must meet the general entry requirements as a visitor for business (B-1 classification) set forth in section 101(a)(15)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (INA) and the Department of State regulations. To qualify as a bona fide visitor for business, the driver must:

  • Have a residence in a foreign country which he or she has no intention of abandoning
  • Intend to depart the United States at the end of the authorized period of temporary admission
  • Have adequate financial means to carry out the purpose of the visit to and departure from the United States
  • Establish that he or she is not inadmissible to the United States under the provisions of section 212(a) of the INA, which includes such grounds of inadmissibility as health related, criminal, subversive, public charge, improper manner of arrival or improper documents, other immigration violations and several other categories of ineligibility.

Documentary Requirements

Canadian citizens entering the United States as visitors for business do not require either a passport or a visa. However, each applicant for admission is required to satisfy the inspecting officer of his or her citizenship. An oral declaration may be accepted or the inspecting officer may require supporting documentation, for example, a birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or a passport (valid or expired). In addition, all travelers should carry some form of photo-identification.

Mexican citizens entering the United States as visitors for business are required to present a valid passport and non-immigrant visa. These requirements may be satisfied in one of two ways:

  • A valid Mexican passport containing a valid B-1/B-2 non-immigrant visa obtained at a United States Consulate. Consulates in Mexico also issue a combination B-1/B-2 visa and Mexican Border Crossing Card that serves the same purpose.
  • Form DSP-150, "Laser Visa", a credit-card style document that is both a Border Crossing Card and a B1/B2 visitor's visa obtained by applying at a United States Consular post in Mexico. The Laser Visa may be obtained by applying at one of the following U.S. Consular posts in Mexico: Mexico City, Ciudad Juarez, Guadalajara, Hermosillo, Merida, Matamoros, Monterrey, Nogales, Nuevo Laredo, Tijuana, and at the Tijuana and Mexicali Temporary Processing Facilities. In Mexico, visa information is available by calling 01-900-849-3737 or on the U.S. Embassy Internet home page.

What Does the Law Say? Immigration Regulations

Immigration regulations at 8 CFR 214.2(b)(4) codify the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with respect to the admission of Canadian and Mexican citizens as B-1 business visitors. The intent of the Transportation Operator provision of the NAFTA Business Visitor category is to allow the free movement of goods across the border, an activity that is international in scope; it is not to facilitate access to the domestic labor market. 8 CFR 214.2(b)(4)(i)(E) defines the distribution activity as:

     Transportation operators transporting goods or passengers
     to the United States from the territory of another Party
     or loading and transporting goods or passengers from the 
     United States to the territory of another Party, with no
     unloading in the United States. (These operators may make
     deliveries in the United States if all goods or passengers
     to be delivered were loaded in the territory of another 
     Party. Furthermore, they may load from locations in the 
     United States if all goods or passengers to be loaded will
     be delivered in the territory of another Party. Purely 
     domestic service or solicitation, in competition with 
     United States operators, is not permitted.)

General Principles

  • The goods must be entering or leaving the United States, and remain in the stream of international commerce.
  • Cargo that has its origin and final destination within the United States generally moves in the stream of domestic, rather that international commerce. The mere fact that goods originate from a foreign source does not make such goods "foreign" for purposes of immigration laws. The goods must remain in the international stream of commerce - once they have come to rest they assume a domestic character.
  • A driver bringing goods from Canada or Mexico may transport those goods to one or several locations in the United States, and may pick up goods from one or several U.S. locations for delivery to Canada or Mexico, but the driver may not load, haul, or deliver a cargo that is both picked up and dropped off at a destination within the United States.
  • The entry of the driver must be for the purpose of an international movement of goods.
  • Drivers may not engage in any activity that qualifies as local labor for hire.
  • The burden of proof remains with the driver to establish eligibility for entry.

Frequently asked Questions

Q. A Canadian driver is taking a shipment from Canada for delivery to a point in the United States. The dispatcher has been notified of a shipment destined to Canada that is located in another state. May the driver take an empty trailer (deadhead) from the delivery point to the other state to pick up the shipment and deliver it to Canada?
A. A driver may deadhead a trailer from one location to another within the United States PROVIDED the deadhead trailer is either the one the driver came in with or the one he or she is departing with. The driver may not haul an empty trailer from one location to drop it off at another location.

Q. Under what circumstances may a driver enter with an empty tractor?
A. 1) A driver may enter with an empty tractor to pick up a trailer for delivery to Canada or Mexico.
A. 2) The driver may enter with an empty tractor to pick up a loaded trailer or goods previously brought from Canada or Mexico and left at the port-of-entry or a Customs warehouse or lot for government inspection or entry processing by a government agency, even if the driver did not bring the goods. (Note - this only applies when the goods have been held for Federal inspection by a government agency. It does not apply to goods that have already cleared inspection.)

Q. Does the driver have to depart with the same trailer with which he or she entered the United States?
A. The driver may drop a trailer at one location and drive empty to another location to pick up a loaded trailer destined to Canada or Mexico.

Q. May a foreign driver taking a shipment from the United States to Canada also take merchandise destined to another point in the United States since it is on the way?
A. No. For Immigration purposes, that is considered point-to-point hauling within the United States and is not permitted. The driver may only take goods loaded in the United States to Canada or Mexico.

Q. May a driver perform associated functions such as loading and unloading cargo?
A. The driver may perform a function that is a necessary incident to international trade. Loading and unloading that is merely incidental to the primary purpose of transporting goods into or out of the United States is permitted.

Q. May a U. S. carrier employ foreign drivers?
A. A United States carrier may employ a foreign driver if the driver is engaged only in the international delivery of goods and cargo to or from the United States. The foreign driver must have an established foreign residence that he or she does not intend to abandon. The foreign driver may not engage in any domestic carriage of goods without employment authorization to work in the U.S.

Last Modified 02/28/2003