Winnipeg woman stopped from returning to American job

A Winnipeg woman was stopped Monday from entering the U.S. to return to her job in Philadelphia.

A Winnipeg woman was stopped Monday from entering the United States to return to her job in Philadelphia.

Michelle Kuly went to U.S. Customs at Winnipeg's James Armstrong Richardson International Airport to catch a flight home and renew her work visa — something she has done in each of the past two years to work at a magazine in Pennsylvania.

But border personnel refused to renew her papers and told her she shouldn't have qualified in the first place.

"They said that my job didn't qualify under the visa status I was applying for," she said of the TN Visa, which is also known as a NAFTA Visa, that Kuly says allows Canadian professionals to work in the U.S. on a short-term basis.

"I was in a bit of a state of shock. I hadn't really anticipated what would happen if I was denied because it had gone smoothly two years in a row."

Emotional time

Kuly flew to Winnipeg a week ago to visit her family. Being in this cross-border limbo has been difficult, she admitted as she recalled her ordeal in an interview with CBC News.

"They spelled out that essentially I could not work in the States, that I could not enter the States until this was sorted out, that I should contact my employer and a lawyer."

Kuly, who is in her late 20s, said her employer at Next American City has hired a lawyer to help her. Meanwhile, her rent is due but it's her landlord who is sorry for the trouble.

"My landlord actually apologized on behalf of America for this ordeal," she said.

Kuly says many of her friends have been entering the U.S. on the same visa and reactivating it annually for the past 10-15 years, so she didn't think her renewal would be any problem. She entered the U.S. through Toronto last time.

New life

Next American City, a non-profit magazine about the future of urban life, received hundreds of job applications but hired Kuly because of her background in urban studies and desire to work at a magazine for cities matched, she said.

For now, with her boyfriend in Winnipeg, Kuly is considering starting over with a new job and apartment in Manitoba, although she said she would  like to retrieve her belongings and say goodbye to her friends.

There was a similar situation last week in British Columbia. A man and his family, who had been living and working in the U.S. for more than a decade, were suddenly denied entry.

A call from CBC News to the U.S. Customs and Border Services was not immediately returned.