All about the TN Visa — North American Free Trade Agreement for Canadian and Mexican Citizens

TN Status for Canadian (TN-1) and Mexican (TN-2) Nationals

united-states-flagThe TN (Trade NAFTA) category resulted from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in the US in certain professions on a temporary basis.

SUMMARY:

Main Procedural Step: Apply at the U.S./Canadian border (Canadian Nationals)
Apply at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy (Mexican Nationals)
Initial duration of status: Three year maximum
Total time-limit cap on category: No time limitation
Major advantage: Quick processing; no DHS applications required
Major disadvantage: Not all professions qualify; position cannot be permanent

   1.)            Eligibility Criteria (Designated Profession List for TN Status)

   2.)            Length of Stay in the U.S.

   3.)            Processing Times

   4.)            Fees

   5.)            How to Apply for a TN Visa

       Canadian Citizens

       Mexican Citizens

   6.)            Changing to TN Visa Status

   7.)            Documentation Needed

   8.)            Dependents

       Dependents of Canadian Citizens with Canadian Citizenship

       Dependents of Canadian Citizens who do not Hold Canadian Citizenship

       Dependents of Mexican Citizens with Mexican Citizenship

   9.)            Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry

1.)            Eligibility Criteria

www.allusavisas.comThe TN visa category is part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and enables Canadian and Mexican citizens to enter the United States to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis. There is no U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) limit on the number of workers granted TN status each year.

The TN visa category requires that the applicant:

Is a citizen of Canada or Mexico. Landed immigrants or permanent residents do not qualify.

Enters the U.S. on a temporary basis.

Possesses the minimum qualifications of one of the professions specified in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty. The Appendix also stipulates the minimum qualifications for entry into the U.S. in each occupation. (See list of designated professional occupations pdf icon) The most common minimum requirement is a Baccalaureate degree and licensure, if required for the profession. A foreign national must have licensure before he or she can obtain TN status.

NOTE: If a Canadian or Mexican citizen obtained his or her credentials in a country other than Canada, Mexico, or the U.S., USCIS may request that the alien obtain an equivalency evaluation from a reliable credential evaluation service. (Our office will perform that referral.)

For additional information about physicians, nurses, medical laboratory technologists/medical technologists, healthcare workers or management consultants, refer to Additional Information for Selected Occupations below.

Additional Information for Selected Occupations

The following occupations have additional criteria that must be met to qualify for a TN visa.

Physicians:

TN physicians are limited to teaching and/or research activities. A TN physician cannot be primarily engaged in clinical patient care. This rule applies even if the TN physician obtained his or her medical education in a U.S. medical school. Patient care incidental to teaching/research is permissible. Canadian physicians seeking entry to participate in residencies, internships or direct patient care must use the J-1 or H-1 classification.

Nurses:

Canadian nurses must be licensed by the state of intended employment.

Medical Laboratory Technologists/Medical Technologists:

The term “medical technologist” does not include allied medical occupations such as radiological technologists, respiratory specialists and nuclear medicine technologists.

Healthcare Workers:

Nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, medical technicians/technologists, speech/language pathologists and audiologists, and physician assistants must obtain a certificate from the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools or an equivalent independent credentialing organization before being eligible for certain immigration benefits. For more information, please see Visascreen Visa Credentials Assessment FAQs below. Note: not all health care workers qualify for TN status; only professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 qualify. The visa screen is an additional requirement for eligible professions.

Management Consultants:

This category is limited to:

*Independent consultants coming to render services to a U.S. employer on a particular project

*Employees of consulting firms contracted by a U.S. business to render services

*Employees of U.S. companies hired for special projects rather than for existing positions or newly-created permanent positions.

2.)            Length of Stay in the U.S.

Both Canadian and Mexican citizens can be admitted to the United States in TN status in increments of up to three years.

There is no cumulative time limit on TN status. Status can be renewed each year indefinitely, provided that the stay remains temporary in nature.

Extensions of stay are granted in up to three year increments.

Canadians can apply for an extension of TN status either at a U.S.-Canadian pre-flight or port-of-entry inspection facility or by filing an application for extension of stay with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Nebraska Service Center. Procedures and required documentation are the same as for new entries (port-of-entry) or change of status (USCIS). Refer to Changing to TN Visa Status.

Mexican citizens can apply for extension of stay through the USCIS Nebraska Service Center or depart the country and apply for a new TN visa at a U.S. consulate. Procedures and required documentation are the same as for initial entry or change of status. Refer to Changing to TN Visa Status.

3.)            Processing Times

Processing requirements differ for Canadians and Mexicans. Mexican citizens are required to obtain TN visas from a U.S. consulate before they can enter the U.S. in TN status. Canadian citizens are exempt from this requirement.

4.)            Fees

The employer is responsible for paying the legal fees, filing fees, and costs associated with the foreign national. The foreign national is responsible for paying dependent and visa-related fees.

5.)            How to Apply for a TN Visa

Canadian Citizens

CANADA FLAGMost Canadians apply for TN status either at a pre-flight or port-of-entry inspection facility while entering the U.S. from Canada. The admission process for Canadian citizens includes:

A review of the required documentation by a Department of Homeland Security officer.

Acceptance of the filing fee.

Issuance of a Form I-94. The Form I-94 should be annotated with the appropriate date and port-of-entry information, the classification in the TN category (TN-1 for Canadians), an expiration date of up to three years from the date of admission, a “multiple-entry” notation and the employer’s name.

Mexican Citizens:

mexico-flagThe TN requirements for Mexican citizens are the same as for Canadian citizens except that Mexicans are also required to obtain a TN visa at a U.S. consulate. The application process includes an interview and an ink-free fingerprint scan. Interviews are generally by appointment only. For information about scheduling an appointment and other instructions, visit the U.S. Department of State Links to United States Embassies and Consulates Worldwide web site. For information about visa wait times, visit the U.S. Department of State Visa Wait Times web site.

Mexican citizens require the following documents:

Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160)

Passport valid at least six months into the future

One 2×2 photograph (Refer to the U.S. Department of State Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements

Other documentation listed in Documentation Needed except the $50 filing fee and Form I-94 filing fee.

Visa application fee

6.)            Changing to TN Visa Status

If a Canadian or Mexican applicant is present in the U.S. in another visa status, he or she may choose to file an application with USCIS if he or she wishes to avoid travel to Canada or Mexico and re-entry. This process is much less time efficient. Most applicants choose to travel to the port-of-entry to obtain TN status.

To change visa status in the U.S., Canadian and Mexican citizens must provide the following documents:

All documentation listed in Documentation Needed except the $50 filing fee and I-94 filing fee

Two original copies of Form I-129 completed and signed by the employer

I-129 filing fee

Proof of current immigration status (copies of form I-94 and other immigration documents, such as Form I-20 or Form DS-2019)

Form I-539 plus filing fee if dependents are currently in the U.S., as well as proof of their current immigration status

7.)            Documentation Needed

The following documentation is needed to apply for a TN visa at a consulate or at a port-of-entry:

* Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship, which may include one of the following:

Birth certificate

Passport

Certificate of naturalization

*Detailed letter from the employer. The letter should:

Certify the Appendix 1603.D.1 profession of the applicant

Describe the job duties

Indicate the anticipated length of stay (not to exceed three years); the requested start date should be the date of entry into the country

Describe the educational qualifications or credentials that demonstrate the applicant’s professional level status

Indicate the salary

Confirm that the applicant meets all licensing requirements, if applicable

* Evidence that the individual has the required credentials for the job as state in Appendix 1603.D.1. The applicant must present his or her original credentials, including diplomas, transcripts, licenses, certificates or other documentation. If the documents are not in English, they must be accompanied by a certified translation. The original documents will be returned.

*Filing fee plus current I-94 filing fee.

*Translation certificate for any documents submitted that are written in a foreign language.

8.)          Dependents

Dependents of TN status holders (spouses and children under 21) are admitted in TD (Trade Dependent) status. TD status holders are not authorized to work the U.S., but they may attend academic institutions either part or full-time.

Dependents of Canadian Citizens with Canadian Citizenship

Canadian citizens do not need visas. They can either apply for TD status at the port-of-entry at the same time as the TN or at a later time with copies of the TN’s I-94 card and employment letter. They must show proof of relationship to the TN, as well as Canadian citizenship. There is no fee required for the TD application, but the I-94 card fee applies.

Dependents of Canadian Citizens Who Do Not Hold Canadian Citizenship

Dependents of Canadian citizens who do not hold Canadian citizenship are required to have TD visas. They must apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate prior to admission to the U.S. Their visa application should include the TN’s letter of employment, copy of the TN’s I-94 card (if already in the U.S.) and a copy of marriage or birth certificate. If they are already in the U.S. on a different nonimmigrant status, they may apply to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center for a change of status using Form I-539, with the above documentation enclosed.

Dependents of Mexican Citizens with Mexican Citizenship

Mexican citizen dependents of TNs require TD visas. They may apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate or they may apply for a change of status through the USCIS Nebraska Service Center following the same procedures as non-Canadian dependents of Canadian citizens. (See Dependents of Canadian Citizens who do not Hold Canadian Citizenship.)

9.)           Travel Outside the U.S. and Reentry

TN status holders may depart and re-enter the U.S. any time during their TN stay. Canadians should carry their original Form I-94. Mexican citizens, dependents, and non-Canadian dependents of Canadian TNs must carry a passport valid for six months into the future and a valid I-94 card in order to re-enter the U.S. following travel.

NOTE: Travel outside the U.S. while a change of status is pending is considered abandonment of the application.

Updated: 1/6/2016 (RHR)

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