The TN Visa (Trade NAFTA) is a nonimmigrant classification that allows qualifying nationals from Canada and Mexico to enter the U.S. to engage in business activities at a professional level temporarily. The TN Trade visa offers many benefits, but it’s not always easy to obtain.
At Garvish Immigration Law Group, our TN visa lawyers have helped countless Mexican and Canadian citizens through the TN visa process.
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What is A TN Visa For NAFTA Professionals?
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico was created in 1994 and provides special economic and trade agreement between the three countries. In 2018 NAFTA was replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, U.S.MCA, was signed land later ratified. The TN (Trade National) visas covered under NAFTA Chapter 16, which let American businesses hire skilled Canadian and Mexican workers in more than 60 professional categories on temporary work permits, were not significantly changed.
Commonly called NAFTA 2.0. this multi-trillion-dollar trade agreement allows certain professionals to seek temporary entry with the purpose of working in the U.S.
Professions eligible for a NAFTA Professional Visa include, but are not limited to:
- Management Consultants
The TN category establishes an exemption for typical work visa requirements for qualifying professionals from Mexico or Canada.
Benefits of a TN Visa
The TN nonimmigrant classification allows qualifying Mexican and Canadian citizens to enter and work in the U.S. without the requirements or limitations of an H1-B visa or L-1 visa. A few benefits of the TN visa include:
- Typically quicker process (especially for Canadian applicants)
- Unlimited renewals
- Available for certain individuals who don’t otherwise qualify for an H-1B visa
- Valid for up to three years at a time
Qualifications For A TN Visa
NAFTA Professional Visa applicants must meet the following qualifications to be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, but not limited to:
- Proof of Mexican or Canadian citizenship
- Qualifying profession according to NAFTA regulations
- The position applied for requires a NAFTA professional
- Offered a full-time or part-time job by a U.S. employer
- Must meet requirements and qualifications to practice the selected profession
Most TN visa holders must be hired as employees but in some cases, like Management Consultants, they should be hired as contractors or freelancers.
TN Visa Application Process
It’s important to note that Canadian and Mexican citizens’ application processes and approval timelines differ. Qualifying Canadians can apply for TN visa status with USCIS at the same time they seek admission into the U.S.
Further, potential TN employers can apply for TN visa status for prospective Canadian employees by filing Form I-129 – Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Once USCIS approves the form, the employee can apply for TN status at specific ports of entry by providing proof of Canadian citizenship and an approved form I-129.
However, Mexican citizens must apply for the TN category at a U.S. consulate before entering the U.S. as a TN visa nonimmigrant. Once approved for the visa, Mexican citizens can apply for admission at qualifying ports of entry.
In both cases, if the Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) determines eligibility for admission, they will grant you entry into the U.S. as a TN nonimmigrant.
FAQs About the TN Visa
It depends on your nationality and how you apply. Canadian citizens who apply for TN status at the border can expect the process to take a few hours. However, submitting the petition by mail can take up to six months or more.
Since Mexican TN visa applicants must apply for a visa first, getting interviewed and receiving approval can take longer. Working with a TN visa lawyer can exponentially speed up the process as you will have a better chance of getting approved without delays for missing documents or application errors. Premium processing is available when the application is made by filing form I-129 which can be used for extending an existing TN Visa for either Mexican of Canadian citizens or for initial application by Canadian Citizens.
Absolutely. A TN visa applicant can be denied under the following conditions:
- Their credentials don’t match the qualifications for TN visa status
- Prior U.S. immigration violations while visiting the U.S.
- Lack of required documents at the border
- USCIS believes that you have “immigrant intent” and desire to live in the U.S. permanently
The TN visa category is employer-specific. That means that TN visa holders cannot legally work for another employer unless they receive authorization from USCIS in advance. Generally, TN visa employees can apply for an employer adjustment by submitting form I-129.
Not directly. The TN visa is a nonimmigrant visa classification. That means that it cannot directly lead to permanent residency. However, with adequate planning your lawyer may help coordinate an employment based permanent residency application for a TN visa holder as a parallel process.
Check out this video by Elizabeth Garvish where she talks about a successful EB-3 Green Card after a TN Visa.
Yes, Canadian and Mexican nationals must undergo a TN visa interview. CBP officers interview Canadian citizens at the port of entry. Mexican nationals must undergo two interviews. The first interview is during the TN visa application process, and the second is conducted at the port of entry.
Unlike the H-1B work visa, TN NAFTA visas are not subject to a cap. H-1B visas are capped to allow only 65,000 general and 20,000 Master’s visas in the annual lottery. Employers can sponsor professional workers from Canada and Mexico to enter the U.S. under a TN visa for designated professional-level jobs that require a bachelor’s degree, professional license or appropriate credentials without worrying about whether or not H category cap has been reached.
Obtaining a TN visa can be complicated and time-consuming. Working with an experienced NAFTA visa immigration attorney can drastically improve your chances of approval in the fastest time possible. To discuss sponsoring a NAFTA visa sponsorship for a position or individual, or for general consulting on the TN Trade visa and other employment-based immigration, contact Garvish Immigration Law today at 1.800.951.4980 to discuss the details of your case with an experienced Atlanta business immigration lawyer for TN visas.