TN NAFTA Professionals
The TN Visa category was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which opened special economic and trade relationships between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN visa is a nonimmigrant classification that permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.
TN Visa Professionals
Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN visa nonimmigrant are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. You may be eligible for TN visa nonimmigrant status, if:
You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
- Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
- The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
- You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment – see documentation required below); and
- You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.
TN Visa Eligibility Criteria
Unlike Mexican citizens, Canadian citizens are generally eligible for admission as nonimmigrants without a visa. (A principal exception are the E-1/E-2 classifications.) The TN visa category, a nonimmigrant classification, simply reflects this general exemption from the visa requirement. NAFTA governs which evidence is required to prove whether a Canadian or Mexican citizen is a professional in a qualifying profession.
TN Visa – Canadian Citizens
If you are a Canadian citizen, then you are not required to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate.
You may establish eligibility for TN classification at the time you seek admission to the United States by presenting required documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. You must provide the following documentation to the CBP officer:
- Proof of Canadian citizenship;
- Letter from your prospective employer detailing items such as the professional capacity in which you will work in the United States, the purpose of your employment, your length of stay, and your educational qualifications; and
- Credentials evaluation (if applicable), together with any applicable fees.
Please refer to CBP’s website for additional information and requirements for applying for admission to the United States. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.
Alternatively, a prospective TN visa employer may choose to file a petition on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is outside the United States by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
If USCIS approves Form I-129, you, the prospective worker, may then apply to CBP for admission to the United States as a TN visa nonimmigrant by providing the following documentation to a CBP Officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station:
- Proof of Canadian citizenship; and
- Approval Notice from USCIS for Form I-129.
In addition, when applying for admission, you should have in your possession a copy of the Form I-129, and all supporting documentation that was submitted to USCIS in your behalf by your prospective employer, to respond to questions about your eligibility. You should also be prepared to pay any applicable inspection fees at the time you seek admission. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.
TN Visa – Mexican Citizens
Citizens of Mexico are required to obtain a visa to enter the United States as a TN nonimmigrant. You should apply for a TN visa directly at a U.S. Consulate in Mexico. See the U.S. Department of State webpage, “Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Worker.”
Once you are approved for a TN visa, you may apply for admission at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. Please refer to CBP’s website for additional information and requirements for applying for admission to the United States. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, then you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.
Period of Stay/Extension of Stay
Initial Period of Stay – Up to 3 years.
If you wish to remain in the United States beyond your initial period of stay without first departing from the United States, you must seek an extension of stay. If you are in the United States, your employer may file Form I-129 on your behalf.
Alternatively, you may depart from the United States before the date your status expires, and then, once abroad, you may apply at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station using the same application and documentation procedures required at the time of your initial application for admission as a TN nonimmigrant.
Dependents of TN Nonimmigrants
Any accompanying or “following to join” spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. Spouses and children are:
- Not permitted to work while in the United States, but they are permitted to study.
- Granted TD status for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN nonimmigrant.
Extending Your TD Nonimmigrant Stay
If a Canadian or Mexican TN nonimmigrant applies for an extension of stay in the United States at the end of his or her period of admission or authorization as a TN, any eligible TD family member may also apply to extend their status without the need to travel abroad.
If a Mexican TD dependent wishes to travel abroad following approval of any such extension of stay and expiration of the TD visa, the family member will be required to apply for a new TD visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before being permitted to return to the United States in TD status.
Specific information on how to apply for TN or TD nonimmigrant status can be found on the USCIS website.
If you are an employer seeking to hire a worker under NAFTA the immigration attorneys at Allen & Pinnix, P.A. can evaluate whether the position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional. If you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen seeking employment in the U.S. under NAFTA, we can evaluate whether your profession qualifies under the regulations. If you are already in the U.S. in TN status, we can assist you and your employer in extending your stay. Schedule a confidential consultation here or call our office at 919.755.0505.