The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional visa (referred to as the ‘TN’ visa) enables nationals of both Canada and Mexico who have a temporary job offer to work in the US. This article explains who qualifies for the TN temporary work visa scheme in the United States..
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a trilateral agreement entered into by the US, Canada, and Mexico. It doesn’t just deal with matters of trade, it also provides benefits when it comes to immigration for professionals from Mexico and Canada who wish to work in the US through the TN temporary work visa scheme.
On this page, we will explain who qualifies for the TN temporary work visa scheme in the United States, the requirements which must be met, the documents needed to apply, and other details such as TN visa cost, processing times, and gaining an extension.
The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional visa (referred to as the ‘TN’ visa) enables nationals of both Canada and Mexico to work in the US. A TN visa holder is only permitted to work in certain ‘prearranged’ business activities for US businesses. Unfortunately, under the scheme, those permanent residents in Canada and Mexico are unable to take advantage of the TN visa status scheme; it is only open to citizens.
Canadian and Mexican citizens will qualify as a TN visa holder as long as they:
The NAFTA occupation list includes professions such as (this list is not exhaustive):
· Computer systems analyst
· Research Assistant
· Social worker
The NAFTA list shows the education level which must be met for each profession in order to apply for a TN visa. In most cases, NAFTA professions require a baccalaureate degree as an entry-level requirement. Where a baccalaureate is mandated, experience cannot be used to substitute this requirement. For some roles, a provincial or state license can be used instead of an academic qualification.
It is important to note that, to perform one of the NATFA occupations in the US, a visa is not required for Canadian citizens entering as a NAFTA Professional. The US State Department does advise, however, that a visa can be issued to a “qualified Canadian TN visa applicant upon request”. In this situation, a Canadian national can apply for a TN visa at a US Port of Entry.
Canadians who reside in a third country with a non-Canadian spouse and/or children will need to apply for a TN visa, however. The guidance states, “When is a NAFTA Professional (TN) visa required for a Canadian citizen? A Canadian who resides in a third country with a non-Canadian spouse and/or child(ren), and who plans to enter the United States as a NAFTA professional with family member(s), will need a TN visa in order for the family member(s) to be eligible to apply for derivative TD nonimmigrant visa(s)”.
Mexican nationals do need to apply for a TN visa if they wish to be recognised under the visa category NAFTA professional.
Canadian nationals can apply for a TN visa at a US Port of Entry. To apply, they need to:
· Prove their Canadian citizenship
· Provide a letter from the US employer explaining the NAFTA professional role you are being hired for, the duration of employment, and qualifications and education needed
· Provide evidence of their credentials to fulfil the role
· Pay the visa fee
Mexican nationals can apply for a TN visa by:
· Completing the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160)
· Printing the application form confirmation page to bring to their interview
· Paying the required application fee
· Uploading their photo while completing the online Form DS-160
· Schedule an interview in the country where they live (whether this is needed depends on the age of the applicant)
· Providing evidence to prove they have the necessary qualifications and education for the NAFTA role.
· Attending an interview
The TN visa application fee is currently $160.
Several documents may be needed to apply for a TN visa, including:
· A valid passport or travel document
· The Form DS-160 confirmation page
· Application fee payment receipt
· A contract or letter of employment in the United States showing:
o you have a job offer,
o your a contract or employment letter from your employer in the United States
o evidence that you will be working in one of the NAFTA professional occupations
o a description of your anticipated business activities or job responsibilities;
o your anticipated length of stay in the United States;
o your educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status
o Evidence of your compliance with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations and/or state laws; and
o Arrangements for your pay.
· Documentation proving that you meet the minimum education and/or work experience required for the role.
· Your professional license (if applicable).
Applications made at a US port of entry may be processed within hours. Applications for a TN visa made by mail can take up to six months, depending on the complexity of your case and the completeness of your application. Another determining factor is the current caseload at your USCIS service centre. It may be possible to expedite your application by paying for a premium processing service.
TN visas are typically granted for a period of three years. To extend your stay, you can either apply for a new TN visa at a US port of entry or by asking your employer to file an I-129 extension petition with USCIS on your behalf. As long as you are still working in accordance with your original TN visa, there should be no issues with having your stay extended further. It is possible to file an extension application up to six months before your TN visa expires. We recommend ensuring this is done as soon as possible, given the often protracted processing times.
Because the employer is not required to petition for or sponsor the TN visa worker, there are no employer fees.
Yes, if you wish to change employer in the US while on a TN visa, one option is to depart the US and, on your return, request a new TN visa. Another option is to ask your new employer to file a Form I-129 petition with USCIS on your behalf. It is important that you do not start employment with your new employer until you have the go-ahead from USCIS.
Yes, you will be able to bring your spouse and your unmarried or minor children with you to live in the US. To do so, they will need to apply for a TD visa. The main requirement is that you must have sufficient money to financially support your family while in the US. It should be noted that spouses and children who are Canadian nationals do not need a visa. Spouses and children who are Mexican citizens will require a TD visa.
There is no automatic right to gain a green card if you hold a nonimmigrant TN visa. Depending on your circumstances, you may need to return to your home country and apply from outside the US, switch to a work-based H1B visa (then later to a green card), switch to an intra-company visa (e.g. L1 visa), switch to another visa such as an E1 or E2 visa, or apply for a family visa. Due to the complexities of switching directly to a green card from a TN visa and the range of other options available, it is advisable to speak to an immigration lawyer for immigration services you may need before you proceed
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