The TN visa category is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Mexico, Canada, and the US. To facilitate trade and address business concerns among the member nations, NAFTA provides certain nonimmigrant benefits to Mexican and Canadian professionals who would like to enter the US to engage in professional employment. TN visa professionals must be coming to the US to work in occupations designated under NAFTA.
Occupations Eligible for TN Visas
The NAFTA treaty designates a complete list of professions with minimum education requirements. To be eligible for a TN visa, you must be qualified in a listed profession and be coming to the United States to work in that profession. The NAFTA profession list includes some of the following professions:
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster
- Graphic Designer
- Hotel Manager
- Industrial Designer
- Interior Designer
- Land Surveyor
- Landscape Architect
- Management Consultant
- Range Manager/Range Conservationist
- Research Assistant
- Scientific Technician/Technologist
- Social Worker
- Technical Publications Writer
- Urban Planner
- Vocational Counselor
- Medical Laboratory Technologist
- Occupational Therapist
- Recreational Therapist
- Registered Nurse
- Animal Breeder
- Animal Scientist
- Dairy Scientist
- Plant breeder
- Soil Scientist
- College, Seminary or University Teacher
Keep in mind that each listed NAFTA profession may have specific restrictions in addition to the minimum educational requirement. Typically each profession requires a bachelor's degree and experience may not be substituted. Some professions require experience in addition to a degree. To find out if you qualify for the listed profession, please consult an experienced immigration attorney.
How to Apply for TN Visas
Although Mexico, Canada, and the US are all equal members under NAFTA, the immigration benefits for TN professionals are slanted more positively towards Canadian nationals. Canadians who qualify for TN visa status may apply for admission at any US border crossing and are not required to apply for a visa at a US Embassy. Though the eligibility criteria are the same, Mexican nationals must apply for a TN visa at the US Embassy in Mexico prior to their admission into the US.
How Long You Can Stay in the US on a TN Visa
An initial TN visa may be issued for up to three years. You may seek an extension of a TN visa without departing the US or from abroad. Extensions may be granted for up to three years. There is no overall limit to the number of years you may have a TN visa.
Qualifications for TN Visas
There are several qualifications that must be met in order to be able to apply for and obtain a TN visa. These qualifications include:
- Canadian or Mexican citizenship
- TN visa applicants’ occupation must be in one of the qualifying occupations listed above (see “Occupations Eligible for TN Visas”)
- TN visa applicants must be coming to the United States to fill a job that requires a NAFTA professional
- TN visa applicants’ must have a job offer for a full-time or part-time job with a United States employer
- TN visa applicants must meet the prerequisites to practice in their respective professional field (ex: member of appropriate bar as a lawyer or teaching certificate or bachelor’s degree for appropriate professions)
How to Get a TN Visa as a Canadian Citizen
As mentioned above, Canadian citizens can apply for TN visa status at any U.S. border crossing. To apply for a TN visa at the U.S. border as a Canadian citizen, TN visa applicants must be able to present specific documentation to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers. These documents include:
- Evidence of Canadian citizenship
- A letter from the US employer explaining in detail how the applicant qualifies for the TN visa as well as how the employer and the job offer meet the legal requirements for the TN visa
- If applicable, an evaluation of the TN visa applicant’s credentials and associated fees
As an alternative means to apply for a TN visa, an employer of a potential TN visa holder can file the necessary paperwork on the behalf of a Canadian citizen who is not in the United States. A potential employer of a TN visa applicant may file on the behalf of a potential employee by using Form I-129.
However, this alternative application method still requires the TN visa applicant to present some documentation at a U.S. border crossing. TN visa applicants must present the following documents at a U.S. border crossing when their prospective employer has applied for the Canadian citizen’s TN visa on their behalf:
- Evidence of Canadian citizenship
- Notice of approval from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a TN visa applicant’s Form I-129.
Canadian TN visa applicants should also bring a copy of their Form I-129 and all paperwork used as proof of their TN visa eligibility. Canadian TN visa applicants should also be ready to pay application inspection fees at the border crossing.
How to Get a TN Visa as a Mexican Citizen
Unlike Canadian citizens, Mexican citizens cannot apply for a TN visa at the U.S. border. Mexican citizens are able to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. Embassy in Mexico. Upon approval of a TN visa, Mexican citizens can apply to be allowed to enter the United States at specified U.S. border crossings or at pre-flight inspection locations.
Can TN Visa Applicants Bring Their Spouse or Children with Them to the U.S.?
TN visa applicants are allowed to bring their spouse and/or children with them to the United States, but there are limitations. The children of TN visa applicants must be under 21 years old to accompany a TN visa applicant to the United States. Additionally, TN visa applicants’ spouse and/or children are not eligible to work in the United States; however, they can attend schools and universities.
While Canadian citizens’ children and/or spouse may apply for entry to the United States at specified border crossings or pre-flight inspection areas, Mexican citizens’ children and/or spouses must apply for a TD visa at a U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
Get Help Acquiring A TN Visa or TD Visa From an Immigration Attorney
Due to the limited qualifying occupations and other eligibility requirements, getting a TN visa or TD visa can be a confusing and lengthy process. Let Janet Moon, Esq. guide you through the process of acquiring a TN visa and TD visa.
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