Written by attorney Sung Hee Yu

TN Visa for Citizens of Canada and Mexico

The TN (Trade NAFTA) status is a special non-immigrant status in the United States only for citizens of Canada and Mexico. To be eligible for the TN Visa, your occupation must belong to one of the approved professions listed in NAFTA Appendix 1603.D. If you have a job offer in the United States and your job belongs to one of the professions lists, you can apply for a TN visa without going through the H-1B process.

Within the TN set of occupations, a Canadian or Mexican can work for up to three years at a time. However, the TN status may be renewed indefinitely in three-year increments. Nevertheless, the U.S. government and immigration officers may elect to deny further renewals if they find “immigrant intent" from the applicant. It is important to note that the DHS officer has a broad range of discretion for approving or denying your TN visa. Thus, you need to consult with experienced immigration attorneys for your TN visa application. Moreover, spouse and dependent children of a TN professional can be admitted into the United States as TD status.

Before you read below, please check your qualification for TN visa first.

Qualification and Eligibility

  1. Are you a citizen of Canada or Mexico?
  2. Did you get a job offer from the U.S. employer and will work in the United States?
  3. Does your occupation/job falls under one of the approved professions listed in NAFTA Appendix 1603.D?

If you answer YES to all questions above, then you are eligible to apply for a TN visa.

Requirements and Procedures

1.For Professionals from Canada

Canadian professionals are admitted into the U.S. in the TN-1 status. Applying for this status is a fairly streamlined procedure. The Canadian applicant must first obtain proof of a job offer, in the form of an employment letter detailing employment for not more than three years, and supporting documents such as degrees and licenses. It is very crucial that your employment letter must demonstrate that your employment is not more than three years, hence, it is temporary. Your employment letter should describe your salary, nature of your work, and duration of employment.

This paperwork is then brought to the Canada-U.S. border along with proof of Canadian citizenship (i.e. Canadian Passport or Canadian Citizenship Card) and the $50 fee (plus an additional $6 at a land or sea crossing for your I-94 record). The DHS officer will then adjudicate the application on the spot and grant or deny TN status. If the decision is to grant TN status, the Canadian immediately enters the US and begins TN employment. If the decision is to deny, the immigration officer will often detail the shortcomings in the application; if these are relatively straightforward to correct, the Canadian will often correct the problem in a day or so and then return to the border to reapply.

Once TN status is granted, it is good for three years but only for the specific employer for which it was originally requested. Changing employers will require the Canadian to return to the border and must apply his/her new TN visa with a new application. If employment with a single employer is desired for more than three years, it may be renewed indefinitely.

TN Visa renewals are theoretically possible indefinitely, but the TN status is not a substitute for permanent residency (a green card), and the border official has discretion to refuse further renewals if she feels the ability for indefinite renewal is being abused. Like most of non-immigrant visas, the TN visa does not allow applicant’s “immigrant intent." In contrast to H-1B visas which allow “Dual Intent," the holder of TN Visa must change his or her status to H-1B or L-1 visa before he or she applies for the green card process (Adjustment of Status). Thus, TN visa applicants must clearly demonstrate that he or she does not intend to live or work permanently in the United States during the interview process with an immigration officer.

Regardless, the TN visa is a very beneficial work visa for Canadian professionals who intends to work in the United States. TN visa applicants do not need to go through the burdensome H-1B visa process. For TN visas, your employer does not need to petition for your work visa, to pay your visa fees and legal costs. All you need from your employer is a “Detailed Employment Letter" for the proffered position.

2.For Professionals from Mexico

Unlike Canadian professionals, Mexican professionals cannot obtain their TN visa at the U.S.-Mexico border. You need to apply for your TN visa at U.S. consulate office in Mexico prior to your entry to the United States. Other than this procedural difference, the requirement and terms for your TN visa process is identical to Canadians.

3.TN Visa Application / Renewal in the United States

If Canadian and Mexican professionals intend to renew their TN status, you can renew it through filing Form I-129 along with TN certification to the designated USCIS office. Also, if you are in the United States with other non-immigrant visas such as the F-1 and want to change your status to TN after you get your job offer, you can change your status as well.

Important Notes

  • As mentioned above, your employment period must not exceed more than three years for your TN visa application. You can indefinitely renew your TN visa once it expires, but you will not likely get TN renewal more than 15 years.
  • NO Immigrant Intent! You must not demonstrate your immigrant intent when you apply for a TN visa. If you want to get your green card, change your status to other non-immigrant visas such as H-1B or L-1 which allow “Dual Intent."
  • Approval and Denial of your TN visa application is highly depended on an immigration officer’s discretion. That is why you need to consult with an immigration attorney who has handled TN visa process before. An experienced immigration attorney can prepare your supporting documents and other procedural requirements for your TN visa process.

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