The TN Visa was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in order to facilitate temporary employment in the United States for approved Canadian and Mexican citizens. The purpose was to strengthen business and trade relations between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
There are two different types of TN status in which these citizens can apply for. A TN-1 is for Canadian professionals and a TN-2 is for Mexican professionals. The applicants need to be qualified under one of the listed professions: Accepted NAFTA Professions and must adhere to non-immigrant classifications. Permanent residents of Canada or Mexico are not eligible for the TN visa. There is no yearly quota for the TN Visa which provides all qualified applicants the opportunity to be granted a visa.
TN Visa Requirements:
- Citizen of Canada or Mexico.
- Qualified under one of the accepted NAFTA professions.
- Evidence that the position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional.
- Participant has prearranged a part-time or full-time job with the U.S. employer. Self-employment is not accepted for this visa.
- Evidence that the participant matches the credentials and educational requirements of the position.
What Are the NAFTA Professions?
Here is a list of the 60 professions that qualify you for a TN visa:
- Computer Systems Analyst
- Graphic Designer
- Hotel Manager
- Industrial Designer
- Interior Designer
- Land Surveyor
- Landscape Architect
- Management Consultant
- Range Manager
- Research Assistant
- Scientific Technician
- Social Worker
- Technical Publications Writer
- Urban Planner
- Vocational Counselor
- Medical Laboratory Technologist
- Occupational Therapist
- Recreational Therapist
- Registered Nurse
- Animal Breeder/Scientist
- Dairy Scientist
- Plant Breeder
- Poultry Scientist
- Soil Scientist
- College Professor
- Seminary Professor
- University Professor
TN-1 Requirements for Canadian Citizens:
Canadian citizens typically do not need a NAFTA professional (TN) visa to gain entry into the U.S. However, if the participant wishes to bring dependents (spouses and unmarried children under 21) to the United States, the participant must have a TN visa. The dependents are then eligible to receive a TD nonimmigrant visa. TN nonimmigrant status can be applied for at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry.
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.
- Credentials evaluation (if applicable), together with any applicable fees.
TN-2 Requirements for Mexican Citizens:
- Mexican citizens require a TN visa for entry into the United States. Once receiving approval Mexican citizens can apply for entrance at select CBP designated U.S. ports or at certain pre-clearance stations.
TN Visa Cost
Compared to other nonimmigrant work visas, the TN is relatively inexpensive. If you choose to petition by mail, you will be responsible for the $555 I-129H1 petition filing fee. If you gain your status at the border or port of entry, you will need to pay a $50 application fee and a second fee of $6 for your I-94 arrival/departure card.
TN Visa Processing Time
If you apply at a port of entry, your processing time may only take a few hours. However, if you are petitioning by mail, the amount of time it will take to process your petition will depend on the caseload of your USCIS service center. Generally, you can expect it to take about six months to process your I-129H1. However, you can opt to pay an additional fee for premium processing, which will expedite your TN petition’s processing time to 15 business days.
While premium processing does shorten your processing time, it does not increase your chances of being approved. If the USCIS fails to process your petition in that time after you have filed the I-907 premium processing form, your premium processing fee will be refunded and your petition will be processed normally.
TN Visa vs H-1B Visa
The H-1B visa is a similar nonimmigrant visa, but it does have some distinct differences to consider if you are considering both options.
The TN visa holds several advantages over the H-1B. One such advantage is the fact that it is not held to any annual cap. Each year, only 85,000 H-1B visas are allotted. Because more people apply than there are slots, the USCIS holds a lottery to randomly select the petitions that will be processed each year. Because so many people petition, the chances of being selected can be rather slim, which can be a major impediment to your visa.
Also, the H-1B is only valid for an initial period of three years with the ability to extend it to a maximum of six years. In contrast, the TN can be extended an indefinite number of times. The H-1B is also much more expensive, though most of the costs are covered by the employer.
However, the H-1B is not very limited when it comes to which occupations qualify, where the TN only has 60 qualifying professions. Additionally, the H-1B visa is considered a “dual intent” visa, which means that you can seek legal permanent residence (green card status) while under it. The TN visa does not allow you to do this and you must maintain an intent to return to your home country. Pursuing a green card under TN status could violate your status and incur legal consequences.
Ultimately, you need to decide what your intentions are in the U.S. before choosing between the H-1B and the TN visa. Your immigration attorney can help you more depending on your unique case.
The process of renewing or extending your TN status can be carried out by filing Form I-129H1 along with proof of the TN status holder’s education/citizenship and a letter addressing the need for the extension. At the point in which the job or TN status officially expires, individuals are required to leave the country. Unlike the H-1B grace period, TN visas do not have this leeway period.
The length of the visa is in increments of three years. If the participant wishes to extend their employment in the United States after three years, there is the option to renew. There is no limitation on the number of times a participant can renew.
Dependents of TN Visa Holder
The TN visa holder’s spouse and/or children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. This status allows dependents to enter the U.S. with the TN visa holder and be granted the same period of stay. There are some restrictions to the TD nonimmigrant status for dependents. Spouses and children are not permitted to work while in the United States, but they are permitted to study.
Dependents can apply for admission into the United States at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.
TN NAFTA Recap
Mexican citizens are required to receive a visa in order to enter the U.S. as TN nonimmigrants. To apply for a TN visa as a Mexican citizen, contact the U.S. embassy or Mexican consulate. Conversely, Canadian citizens are eligible for entry (as nonimmigrants) without a visa. The TN classification reflects this exemption. TN nonimmigrants may be professionals like engineers, teachers, scientists, accountants, etc.
How Our Immigration Lawyers Can Help
All visas, both immigrant and nonimmigrant, represent a significant investment of both time and money. The best way to protect that investment and make sure that you are on the optimal track for your TN visa is to hire an expert to guide you and take care of any unforeseen obstacles.
Here at SGM Law Group, we have extensive experience helping people like yourself fulfill their dreams in the U.S. through the TN visa. The immigration road is filled with regulations and forms. By letting our immigration attorneys handle your case, you can rest easy knowing that your case is in the best hands. Form filing the initial petition to dealing with RFEs, fees, and extensions, you can focus on your plans in the U.S. instead of the immigration process.
To get in touch with one of our immigration attorneys, you can fill out this contact form and schedule your consultation today.