TN – NAFTA Visas

Canadian and Mexican citizens are eligible for TN status based on the North American Free
Trade Agreement (NAFTA) treaty agreement between the US, Canada, and Mexico.  Although
all three countries are a party to this free trade agreement, Canadian citizens enjoy greater
benefits associated with TN status than their Mexican counterparts.

  • Canadian TN Visa Holders

Canadian citizens are not required to have a visa to enter the United States. For that reason,
TN applicants may apply directly at the port of entry or pre-flight/pre-clearance inspection
station. Canadian citizens applying for TN status are not issued visas, but will receive a
multiple-entry I-94 denoting the TN status and the length of time the professional is admitted
to the US for TN status (usually three years).   The TN visa holder will use this card as evidence
when returning to the U.S. after any trips abroad.

Only pre-designated professionals are eligible for TN status. A list of Canadian professionals
who are eligible for TN status follows:

  • Accountant
  • Architect
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster
  • Economist
  • Engineer
  • Forester
  • Graphic Designer
  • Hotel Manager
  • Industrial Designer
  • Interior Designer
  • Land Surveyor
  • Landscape Architect
  • Lawyer
  • Librarian
  • Management Consultant
  • Mathematician (including Statistician)
  • Range Manager/Range Conservationist
  • Research Assistant
  • Scientific Technician/Technologist
  • Social Worker
  • Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)
  • Technical Publications Writer
  • Urban Planner
  • Vocational Counselor
  • Dentist
  • Dietician
  • Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada) /Medical Technologist (Mexico)
  • Nutritionist
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Pharmacist
  • Physician (teaching or research only)
  • Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist
  • Psychologist
  • Recreational Therapist
  • Registered Nurse
  • Veterinarian
  • Agriculturist
  • Animal Breeder
  • Animal Scientist
  • Apiculturist
  • Astronomer
  • Biochemist
  • Biologist
  • Chemist
  • Diary Scientist
  • Entomologist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Geneticist
  • Geologist
  • Geochemist
  • Geophysicist
  • Meteorologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physicist
  • Plant Breeder
  • Poultry Scientist
  • Soil Scientist
  • Zoologist
  • College/Seminary/University Teacher

TN status may be more advantageous than H-1B status for some individuals. Unlike H-1B
employees, not all professionals are required to have a four-year Bachelor’s degree to
qualify for TN visa status, however many positions do require a degree. The Appendix to
NAFTA lists educational requirements for each profession which must be demonstrated to
qualify for TN status. TN visa holders, like H-1B visa holders, must be performing business
activities related to the academic area of expertise. Additionally, US employers are not
required to file a Labor Condition Application (LCA) or attest to the related obligations,
including those associated with the prevailing wage.

Because the TN can be obtained quickly by applying at the US-Canada border, at either
a land, sea or airport port of entry, the entire TN process can take a matter of weeks rather
than a matter of months. The ease and speed of processing of TN visas is significant for
US employers who need to hire foreign talent or transfer foreign employees to the US.  However, the employer may also apply for a change or extension of TN status through the USCIS Nebraska Service Center.

Most notably, with the statutorily-imposed 65,000 cap on new H-1B visas each year, the
TN-1 category has become increasingly desirable for employers as there is no numerical
limitation for new TN visas each year. Furthermore, in theory the TN visa holder can renew
the TN visa indefinitely.

However, there are limitations to the TN visa. The TN is a strict non-immigrant intent visa. Therefore, Canadians in
TN status must prove that they have a foreign residence that they have no intent of
abandoning. Obviously, with frequent renewals of TN status, this non-immigrant intent
becomes difficult to prove, and some Canadians who have held TN status for a number
of years may find it difficult to renew their TN status.  Additionally, filing for permanent
residence while in TN status is in contradiction of the non-immigrant intent associated
with TN status.

Dependents of TN visa holders are eligible for TD status. TD visa holders are admitted to
the US for the same duration of stay as the principal TN visa holder. They are not eligible
to work while in the US but may attend school.

Individuals applying for TN status must present proof of Canadian citizenship, a support
letter from a US employer describing the job duties and responsibilities, requirements for
the position, salary, and the individual’s qualifications; originals or notarized copies of degree
and/or experience letters documenting that the individual has the requisite qualifications for
the job as set forth in the Appendix to NAFTA, the appropriate TN application
fee and the I-94 fee.

  • Mexican TN Visa Holders

Mexican professionals are also eligible for TN status. As of January 1, 2004, they may
apply for a TN visa directly at the US Consulate in Mexico. Requirements for Mexican
citizens applying for TN status are similar to their Canadian counterparts. After scheduling
an appointment at the US Consulate, applicants should bring the standard non-immigrant
visa application, their Mexican passport, educational
documents and employment verification letters (if applicable), and a support letter from
the US employer describing the proposed job duties, along with the required filing fee
of $131.

Mexican TN visa holders will be issued a multiple-entry visa valid for three years.  Like the
Canadian TN status, dependents of Mexican TN visa holders are eligible for TD visa
status and are not authorized to work while in the US but may attend school.

Copyright © 2009 Law Offices of Melissa Harms. All rights reserved.

The above discussion is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an
attorney-client relationship. Individuals should visit a licensed attorney to evaluate the legal circumstances surrounding their
situation and to receive appropriate legal advice.