As I explained in the previous article, the VISA you most likely are targetting is the NAFTA TN-1 or job transfer visa. It's a very easy process, and all you have to do is take a trip to the Canadian - American border, and talk to an immigration person.
I don't want to cover too much VISA specifics as this area focuses more on just the relocation to the U.S aspect. There is however some really good visa and immigration sites.
Finding the right person to talk to is your key goal for this stage. The INS/Customs official can arbitrarily accept or refuse you, just because he/shee feels like it, remember that just because you may have all the qualifications you have no right to work in the U.S, it's a priviledge.
So you want to find someone who is going to be a nice person, and so bored they're happy to see you. This means do NOT go to a heavy active border like Windsor, Ontario OR ANY airport. They purposely hire the toughest people at those locations, myself and some friends have had to deal with some really difficult border officials at airports where they really grill you. The other reason for not choosing an airport is because you can only see the customs guy if you are about to board on a plane, so what happens if you get rejected? Bad situation.
In Ontario you want to go to a place like the 1000 Island's location, or at the end of Highway 16 (Ogdensburg). Calgary's airport has unusually nice Customs people too. I personally have the philosophy that you don't want too small of a place that the guard has never even heard of a TN-1. But the two Ontario locations I mentioned are really good because almost all the high tech people following the brain drain to the U.S go to those locations, so those officials are well aware of the different TN classifications and requirements.
So once you're at customs, you just walk up to the counter and they'll ask what you want, and you say you'd like to apply for whatever type of VISA you're after. I recommend dressing nice, but not overdoing it. If you ever took marketing, you would have learned about the 10 second fishbowl theory, that humans spend only up to 10 seconds determining what they initially think of you. There's been some interesting documentaries on The Learning Channel, that show how better dressed / better looking people automatically are seen as more intelligent / more respected. Be really polite, and very friendly.
The absolute minimum requirement is just walking in with your job offer, and a valid Canadian passport. But to be safe, your lawyers will have sent paperwork to INS, so you're already in the system. They'll have a special letter of offer that goes to the INS, which is similar to your letter of offer, but also explains that you're applying for a TN-1 VISA, who you work for, some information about the company (mainly it's financial strength), and your "official title" and how that equates to the TN-1 classification you are applying for. Other stuff in your lawyers package will be standard documentation about the lawyers, copies of all your educational certificates, transcripts, passports, resume, letters from your ex-managers verifying your previous jobs, etc... Be sure to carry the originals as well. There's also a $50 processing fee; if your lawyers are swift they will have a certified check already attached for the INS.
The Customs person will probably give 90% of the papers back to you, and only take your educational certificates and INS related job offer. They'll ask you to sit down, where you vegetate for about 10 minutes, they'll punch some stuff into the computer, then call you back up to the desk. If all went well, they'll attach form I-94 (which is your TN-1) to your passport (it's just a simple white card).
If they're having a bad day, they might decide to grill you. If so, they'll ask who you are going to be working for, what you're going to be doing, ask you to define some of the technical buzz words on your resume, etc... They're looking for consistancy in what you say, seeing if you contradict yourself. Be sure to read up on the classification of what you're applying for. If you're going in as a Computer Systems Analyst, and you start to describe the job of a Software Engineer they can burn you. The worst case scenario is you just come back the next day, probably to another border, and try again. Educate yourself, know what the requirements are for a computer systems analyst, software engineer, computer engineer, because they differ. The real worst case scenario is if you purger yourself, and they catch you on the lie, you can be banned from working in the U.S for 10 years.
If you pick a good border, even if they grill you, they're usually not jerks about it. Two friends of mine, the lawyers were inconsistant in the INS letter, and the INS people tore it apart (not literally) and indicated all the mistakes. They then asked my friends what their job capacity was, they described it, and the INS person set them up with the right TN-1. Though one friend had to pull a sob story that he paid a ton of money to the lawyers, and the INS guy felt sorry for him. They also might ask how long you intend on living there, or your ties to Canada. A TN-1 is considered a temporary VISA, to help an American firm fill a resource gap until it can find an American. You don't want to make it sound like, "ya I'm gonna live there forever, sold my house and everything, I love the U.S." You say that you are just going down for one year, and still have your bank, house, and other ties to Canada.
Feedback from Readers.
I encourage readers of the site to contribute their stories as this is a community service so that an archive of data can be built up over time. Here are some of the stories from others regarding their visa: