The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a diplomatic treaty between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The treaty created special economic and trade relationships for the countries involved. There are a number of immigration benefits available as a result of this agreement. The TN non-immigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States for the purpose of business activities at a professional level.
Who qualifies for a TN NAFTA Visa?
In order to qualify for the TN visa as a Canadian or Mexican professional, you must:
You must be a citizen of either Canada or Mexico;
Your profession and the employment you engage in while in the U.S. are on the NAFTA approved professions list;
Your desired employment position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;
Your employment is not considered "self-employment" by USCIS;
You will work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job;
You have all of the qualifications necessary to fill the position;
Generally, Canadians do not need a TN visa as a NAFTA professional. A Canadian would need a TN visa if he or she is currently residing outside of Canada with a non-Canadian spouse and/or child in order to enable the spouse/child to accompany the applicant to the US.
Can I apply for a TN NAFTA Visa?
If you are a citizen of Canada, the easiest way to apply for a TN visa is at a U.S. Port of Entry to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the time of entry into the U.S. It is highly advised to have the help of an immigration attorney to prepare the application to be presented at Customs along with the request for TN visa status.
Read More: Is the TN NAFTA Visa right for me?
There are slightly different application procedures for citizens of Canada compared to applicants from Mexico. Please read our sections on how to obtain a TN-1 visa for Canadians professionals and how to obtain a TN-2 visa for Mexican professionals.
What documents are required to apply for TN visa?
Form DS-160, available on the Department of State website (unless Canadian and applying at Port of Entry);
Valid passport for travel to the US with a validity date at least 6 months beyond the applicant’s intended stay in the US;
One Passport Photo (2x2 inch) unless you are applying as a citizen of Mexico;
Letter of employment in the US that includes the following:
Indication of the position offered, showing consistency with NAFTA Chapter 16, Annex 1603, Appendix 1603.d.1.;
Evidence of employment, at least part-time in nature and not self-employment. An employment letter from the potential employer should contain the following:
Activity in which the applicant will be engaged and the purpose of needing to enter the US;
Anticipated length of stay in the US;
Educational qualifications or required credentials demonstrating professional status;
Demonstration of compliance with DHS regulations and state laws;
Arrangements for payment of hourly or salary wages;
Proof of license to practice in the US is helpful, but not required.
Evidence that the intended stay in the US is temporary;
Proof that the applicant meets the minimum educational requirements or credentials to meet the standards set forth in the NAFTA agreement;
Documentation of prior work experience in the form of letters from former employers.
Generally, applicants must have a baccalaureate degree and experience cannot be substituted for the degree if having a baccalaureate degree is listed as a requirement for the position. Some positions must have additional degrees or required experience.
What is the fee for a TN NAFTA visa?
Current fees associated with the TN Visa application as well as any applicable biometrics fees will be found on the USCIS website at www.uscis.gov.
Can spouses and children of TN visa holders also come to the U.S.?
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany a TN visa holder to the US by receiving a TD visa. Applicants must demonstrate a bona fide relationship to the TN visa holder, but do not have to be citizens of Mexico or Canada to qualify. While spouses and children cannot work while in the US on a TD visa, they may study. Special circumstances may apply which affect the need for a TD visa:
Canadian citizen spouses and children do not need a TD visa to enter the US, but there are other requirements which must be met that are listed on the CBP website.
If the spouse and/or children of a Canadian TN visa holder are not Canadian citizens themselves, they must get a TD visa.
Mexican spouses and children must receive a TD visa.
Spouses or children entering the US must present a valid I-94 to show that the principle TN visa holder is in status.
Am I guaranteed TN Status at the U.S. Border?
It cannot be assured that you will receive a TN visa. As a result, final travel plans should not be arranged until the visa has been issued. In addition, a visa is not a guarantee of entrance to the US. At a US port of entry, an immigration inspector will admit or deny admission and it is solely in the discretion of the inspector to make this decision. Upon entry, Form I-94 will denote the visa with which you entered and the length of stay permitted. It is important to keep your Form I-94 in your passport as proof of valid entry.
A TN visa is valid until the date of expiration unless it has been canceled previously. As such, if a valid TN visa is inside an expired passport, keep the expired passport with the valid visa to show along with the valid passport for travel and admission to the US. The non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, provides a list of classes of applicants who are ineligible to receive visas under US law. It is possible for some people to apply for a waiver of ineligibility and will be issued a visa if the waiver is approved. If your visa application is denied, you may apply again if new evidence exists to overcome the basis for denial.
What happens if I overstay my TN visa?
If you fail to leave the U.S. on or before the last day you are authorized to be present, you will be out of status. Falling out of status may cause you to be ineligible for a visa in the future. Staying beyond the date you are authorized to be in the US will cause your visa to be automatically voided. Therefore, you will be required to reapply for a new visa, generally in your country of nationality.
In order to stay beyond the date indicated on the Form I-94, you must receive approval by USCIS. You may be able to adjust your status from a TN visa holder to another non-immigrant category while present in the US. It is important to consult an immigration attorney several months prior to the expiration of your TN visa so that you do not fall out of status.
If you have additional questions about obtaining TN visa status, contact one of our experienced immigration lawyers in Los Angeles now for your free consultation.
Can I obtain a Green Card through my TN visa?
While there are certain restrictions on the TN NAFTA visa, one may be eligible to apply for U.S. permanent residency while on TN visa status. Read our section on how to obtain a Green Card through TN employment here.