TN Visas

The NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) visa, known as TN — short for “Treaty NAFTA,” is available to Canadians and Mexicans as part of the NAFTA agreement. The TN visa is not a general work permit that allows foreign nationals to engage in unrestricted employment. It requires sponsorship from a U.S. employer or petitioner.

 

Eligibility

The TN applicant must be entering the United States to perform in a job that is on the list of TN occupations. These are all professional occupations, which typically require a bachelor’s degree to perform the job.

 

Validity

A TN may be issued for up to a 3-year period for Canadian citizens. Mexican citizens are issued TN visas in 1-year increments, but they are admitted into the United States for up to 3 years as reflected on their I-94 Record.

 

Obtaining a TN

The main advantage of the TN is that employers can bypass the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) mail-in application process. As such, TN visas can be obtained very quickly.

 
Canadian citizens are visa-exempt so they can apply for TN classification directly at any land border crossing or airport by presenting the relevant paperwork, which usually includes:

  • Job offer letter;
  • Academic and/or professional credentials;
  • Proof of Canadian citizenship; and
  • Applicable fees.

If approved, the adjudicating officer will issue the TN “on-the-spot.”

 
Mexican citizens, on the other hand, must apply for a TN visa (stamp in passport) at a U.S. embassy or consulate, usually in Mexico. The TN applicant must make an appointment at a U.S. embassy or consulate to submit the application, which should generally include:

  • Job offer letter;
  • Academic and/or professional credentials;
  • Proof of Mexican citizenship;
  • U.S. embassy visa application forms; and
  • Proof that the applicable fees have been paid.

Appointment wait times vary with each embassy or consulate from a few days to a few weeks. The passport is typically returned within 5-10 days.

Like any other employment-sponsored nonimmigrant visas, the TN visa is employer-specific, which means that the beneficiary can only work for his/her petitioner. Foreign nationals admitted on a TN visa may work for multiple employers provided that each employer files its own concurrent TN visa application. A TN worker may also change jobs or “transfer” his/her TN to a new employer or petitioner at any time. However, the TN worker cannot start working for the new employer until the new TN has been approved.

There is no quota for TNs, and it can be renewed indefinitely.  However, TN beneficiaries are not permitted to have immigrant intent. As a practical matter, this means that remaining on a TN for more than four to six years can be problematic.

 

Filing a TN Petition with USCIS

On October 1, 2012, USCIS started accepting TN petitions filed by U.S. employers on behalf of Canadian citizens who are outside the United States and seeking classification as a TN nonimmigrant. But filing a TN Petition with USCIS is still significantly slower than applying at a border (Canadians) or a U.S. embassy or consulate (Mexicans).

 

TN Extension of Status

The timely filing of a TN extension petition automatically authorizes a TN worker to continue working for the same employer for up to 240 days (but not more) starting from the current TN expiration date, or until the petition for extension is adjudicated, whichever comes first — this is also known as the “240-day” rule.

 

Accompanying Family Members

Immediate family members of TN workers, such as spouses and minor children under 21 years of age are eligible for TD visa classification.  The TD derivative visa allows the visa holder to attend school in the United States. However, TD family members are not eligible for employment authorization.