Established by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the TN visa is a special visa category for professional workers from Mexico and Canada. The visa exists to foster business and trade relationships between the three countries. Applicants must work for one of the listed NAFTA professions to qualify for the visa.

There is no annual quota for the TN visa. The visa is valid for a period of three years and can be renewed an unlimited number of times in three-year increments. 

Who Qualifies for a TN Visa? 

To qualify for a TN Visa, the applicant must: 

  1. Be a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  2. Work in one of the qualifying professional roles, including but not limited to: 
  • Accountant 
  • Engineer
  • Hotel Management
  • Mathematician
  • Librarian
  • Lawyer
  • Interior Designers
  • Pharmacist
  • Teacher
  • Scientist
  • And more
  1. Be offered a job with a US employer prior to filing which requires a NAFTA professional. Self-employed individuals do not qualify. Individuals may be considered self-employed if they provide services to an entity to which they are the sole or controlling shareholder.
  2. Be qualified to practice in the profession.

TN-1 Visas for Canadian Citizens

If the applicant is a Canadian citizen, they do not need to apply for a  TN visa at the US consulate to enter the United States. Canadian citizens can submit an application for admission at ports of entry, at  United States airports handling international traffic, or at United States pre-clearance/pre-flight stations. The applicant must provide their completed TN visa packet at the point of entry.  

To apply, a Canadian TN visa applicant will need to show the following documentation to their CBP officer:

  • Proof the applicant is a Canadian citizen.
  • Letter from the applicant’s potential employer 
  • Credential evaluation (if applicable).
  • Applicable fees.
  • And more.

After the applicant is approved, they will be issued an I-94 card and are permitted to travel. 

Alternatively, a prospective TN employer may choose to file with USCIS by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).  Once USCIS approves Form I-129, the applicant can then apply to US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) for admission to the United States as a TN nonimmigrant. 

TN-2 Visas for Mexican Citizens

Mexican citizens require a TN-2 visa to enter the United States. After they have been approved, a Mexican citizen can apply for entrance at certain CBP entrance ports or pre-clearance stations.

Mexican citizens must first schedule an appointment with an official at their local US consulate. They must provide the same documents listed above, in addition to the completed TN application and any necessary credentials, letters, and qualifications. If the applicant is approved, the consulate will issue a visa stamp on their passport. Then the applicant can travel to a border checkpoint, receive their I-94, and enter the United States. 

TN Visas Versus H1-B Visas

If an applicant is eligible for a TN visa, it is often better to apply for a TN visa instead of an H-1B visa.  

Advantages of the TN visa include:

  • No annual cap or lottery process. Individuals are accepted or rejected based on their application alone. The H-1B visa is limited to 85,000 applicants per year, and individuals are selected in a randomized lottery process.
  • Unlimited extensions. TN visas can be extended multiple times, while H-1B visas are limited to a maximum of six years.

Disadvantages of the TN visa include:

  • Limited professions qualify. H-1B visas have few occupational limitations, while TN visas are restricted to just sixty approved occupations. 
  • Not eligible for green cards. TN visas are not dual intent, which means TN visa holders must have an intention to return to their home country after their TN visa runs out. They are not eligible to apply for a green card while on TN visa status. H-1B visas are dual intent.

TN Visa Processing Times

Port of entry processing times may take only a few hours. Processing times for mail-in petitions depend on United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) caseloads at your service center. It can take about six months to process your Form I-129. There is also the option to pay for premium processing to accelerate the timeline to 15 business days.  

TN visa filing fees vary based on application type, point of entry and embassy regulations, and other filing requirements, such as photos or credential verification.

Visa Extensions

The TN visa can be extended by filing Form I-129 with proof of education, citizenship, and a letter which explains the need for the job extension. TN visas can be renewed an unlimited number of times. When the job or visa expires, there is no grace period. Foreign nationals must leave the country.

Spouses and Family

Most TN visa holders can sponsor their spouse and children under 21 on a TD visa. TD visas are valid for the same period of stay as the primary TN visa. Individuals on TD visas are not eligible to work in the US, but they may pursue study.

Spouses and children of Canadian citizens can apply for TD visas at a US port of entry, directly with the TN visa holder, or after the TN visa has already been granted. They will need a valid passport to apply, and children under sixteen need to provide their birth certificate or a Canadian citizenship card. A spouse must provide a valid marriage certificate. 

Mexican citizens should apply through their closest United States consulate or embassy. Just like TN visas, TD visa applicants must first receive a visa stamp to enter the US. The consulate may require interviews or additional documentation. 

Chugh, LLP Immigration Team

TN visas are complicated and require a significant investment of resources. Please contact the Chugh, LLP immigration team to ensure that your TN visa petition has the best possible chance for success. Our professionals can also help you evaluate which visa option is right for you or your employee. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

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