To create better relationships between countries in America, the U.S in cooperation with Canada and Mexico created the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This agreement, besides its economic and trade benefits, also has travelling and working advantages on a NAFTA visa. More specifically, the U.S created the Treaty National Professionals Visa or the TN Visa to allow citizens of Canada and Mexico to live and work in the U.S temporarily.
What is TN Visa?
The TN Visa is a U.S non-immigrant visa, so those who get it have to return to their home countries upon its expiration. It allows only citizens of Canada and Mexico, not permanent residents to work in the U.S if they find a job beforehand. The agreement specifies the types of TN visa jobs and occupations that visa holders are allowed to engage in. There are around 63 occupations for which Canadians and Mexicans qualify to work on. These include lawyers, scientists, engineers, teachers, etc. To check whether you qualify in any of the professions, visit the NAFTA website.
The TN Visa USA is quite similar to the H-1B visa; however, there are a few differences. First, the TN does not require employers to have a Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the Department of Labor. This means that there are no specific conditions on the work environment or requirements for a prevailing wage which the U.S sets. This is up to the agreement of the employer and employee.
Second, there is not need for sponsoring. This makes the fees for the employer and employee very low. The employer does not have to pay the listed fees as in the H-1B visa, except for the Form I-129 petition fee and premium processing fee of $1,225.
And third, there are no caps to the TN visa. Whereas the H-1B visa has a cap of 65,000 people who are allowed to go to the U.S with that visa, the TN visa does not have a limit. This means that any citizen of Canada or Mexico who fulfills the requirements can get the TN visa.
There are two types of TN visa based on nationality:
- TN-1 is the visa for citizens of Canada
- TN-2 is the visa for citizens of Mexico
Requirements for TN visa
There are certain requirements to be eligible to get a TN visa. The requirements are general, educational and work experience, and there are specific requirements for health care workers.
The general requirements for people to qualify for the TN visa are:
- Applicants must be citizens of Canada or Mexico
- Their occupation must be on the NAFTA list
- They must have a full time or part time job offer from an employer in the U.S
- The job offer should be specified to require a NAFTA professional
- The applicant must meet all educational and experience requirements
- The applicant must demonstrate intent to return home after their visa expires
Educational and Experience Requirements
The educational requirements can be found in the NAFTA occupations list. Most of them require at least a Bachelor’s Degree. If your degree is from outside of the U.S, then you will need to notarize and verify it for it to be accepted in the U.S. The degree cannot be substituted with work experience.
In addition, a lot of them require at least three years of experience, which cannot be substituted with more educational degrees. To prove your work experience, you must submit letters from past employers which verify you have worked at that place of employment and details about your job.
For professions requiring licensing, you can choose not submit proof of your license initially; however, you will have to provide the relevant U.S departments with your license in case you choose to work in the U.S in that specific profession. This includes mostly health care professions.
Those who want to work in healthcare in the U.S must meet certification requirements. The certification is necessary to verify that the person has completed all training and degrees, and has enough experience required by the U.S health care system. In addition, it verifies that the person has an acceptable proficiency in English and whether they possess a license or not. The TN visa occupations which require this certification are:
- Registered Nurses
- Physical Therapists
- Occupational Therapists
- Medical Technologists
The certification is not necessary for physicians and for non-clinical health care work. Those who want to get this certification can do so at these organizations:
- The Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing School (CGFNS)
- The National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)
- The Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT)
After you get the certification, it will be valid for 5 years, and afterwards it must be renewed.
The TN-1 Visa is designed for Canadian citizens to work in the U.S as NAFTA professionals. In general, Canadian citizens do not need a visa to enter the U.S so after they find a job, they can choose not to apply for the TN visa. Instead, they will get the TN qualifications at specific Port of Entries of U.S airports or in Pre-Flight Inspection Offices. To be admitted into the country on a TN visa at the Port of Entry or the Pre-Flight Inspection, Canadian citizens must show these documents:
- Proof of your Canadian citizenship
- Proof that you have employment in the U.S, such as the name of the company, your job positions, your length of employment, educational qualifications, and job description
- If going through the Port of Entry, pay $56
- If going through Pre-Flight Inspection, pay $50
If you choose to get a TN visa before you enter the U.S, your employer must submit a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for $460. Keep in mind that the processing from USCIS will take a few months, but Premium Processing is available for an additional $1,225.
Then at the Port of Entry in the U.S you can show proof of your citizenship and your approved Form I-129.
The TN-2 visa is for Mexican citizens that want to work in the U.S as NAFTA professionals. In comparison to Canadian citizens, those from Mexico are required to apply for a TN visa at U.S Embassies and cannot simply get the qualification at U.S port of entries.
Application for TN Visa
To apply for the TN visa, you need to follow these steps:
- File Form DS-160 online and get the confirmation page and code
- Pay the visa application fee of $160 (for Mexican citizens only) and any other applicable fees
- Schedule your visa interview and get the interview confirmation letter
- Submit a file with these documents:
- A valid passport for more than 6 months after your stay in the U.S is completed
- The DS-160 confirmation page
- One US Visa photograph
- Receipts that prove you have paid your fees
- A letter from your employer which states you have a job in the U.S with the following details:
- The occupation in which you will work
- Job description
- Contract length
- Educational and experience qualifications
- Your financial compensation
- Any licenses if applicable
Attend your interview where you will be asked about your background, reasons for travelling to the U.S, and details about your employer.
TN Visa Validity
After you get the TN visa, it is first valid for 3 years Afterwards, there is a possibility to extend it for an additional 3 years indefinitely. This means, that as long as you are employed in the U.S and can prove ties to your home country in either Canada or Mexico, you are allowed to remain in the U.S on a TN visa. You can prove strong ties to your home country by submitting bank statements, property deed, apartment lease, or any other document.
In addition, if you find a new employer, you will have to submit a new letter of employment to USCIS to have your new job position approved.
The advantage of the TN visa is that unlike the H-1B visa you do not have a maximum amount of time that you must stay in the U.S and then leave. The TN visa allows you indefinite extensions. However, if you want to get a Green Card you will run into some problems. The reason is that you already proved strong ties to your home country and stated that you intend to return after your employment is over. If you file for immigration through self-petitioning, marriage, or employment, you might be approved, but you also risk your status of the TN visa.
Restrictions of the TN visa
The TN visa has many advantages, but there are also a few restrictions, such as:
- After your TN visa expires, if you have not extended it, you must depart from the U.S immediately. There is no grace period which allows you to stay for some period of time after your visa expires until you can make arrangements to return.
- You cannot get a TN visa for a self-owned business or self-employment.
- The TN visa is not of dual intent, which means that if you apply for a Green Card, your nonimmigrant status is at risk.
TN Visa Dependents
Canadian or Mexican citizens who have a TN visa also have the right to bring their dependents with them to the U.S. Dependents is defined as the spouse of the visa holder and any unmarried children under 21 years old. The visa for dependents is the TD visa.
The TD visa is not necessary for Canadian spouses or children. They can go to a U.S port of entry and show proof of the TN visa holder’s status and their relationship, such as a marriage or birth certificate. The TD visa is necessary for Mexican spouses and children. They must apply at a U.S Embassy and get the visa before they can leave for the U.S to join their spouse or parent.
For both Canadians and Mexicans, the primary TN visa holder must show proof that they are financially able to support the dependents.
The TD visa is only for accompanying the primary TN visa holder. Those with a TD visa are not allowed to work, but can enroll in studies. Their status is completely dependent on the TN visa. This means that they can stay in the U.S as long as the TN visa is still valid. If the TN visa holder extends their stay, the TD visa dependents are also eligible to file for an extension.
TN Visa Occupations List
There are around 63 professions that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) specifies for which Canadians and Mexicans are qualified to work in the US. There are four categories that we have divided these professions into and they are:
- General Professions
- Medical/Allied Professionals
Check below the complete list of these professions:
|Computer Systems Analyst|
|Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster (claims adjuster employed by an insurance company located in the territory of a Party, or an independent claims adjuster)|
|Economist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Landscape Architect||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Lawyer (including Notary in the province of Quebec)|
|Mathematician (including Statistician and Actuary)|
|Range Manager/Range Conservationist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Research Assistant (working in a postsecondary educational institution)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Social Worker||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Technical Publications Writer|
|Urban Planner (including Geographer)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Vocational Counselor||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the United States)|
|Nutritionist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Physician (teaching or research only)|
|Recreational Therapist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Agriculturist (including Agronomist)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Animal Breeder||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Animal Scientist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Apiculturist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Astronomer||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Biochemist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Biologist (including the profession of Plant Pathologist)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Chemist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Dairy Scientist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Entomologist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Epidemiologist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Geneticist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Geochemist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Geologist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Geophysicist (including Oceanographer in Mexico and the United States)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Horticulturist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Meteorologist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Pharmacologist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Physicist (including Oceanographer in Canada)||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Plant Breeder||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Poultry Scientist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Soil Scientist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Zoologist||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|College Professor||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|Seminary Teacher||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
|University Professor||Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree.|
Definitions of some of the above mentioned terms
- Post Secondary Diploma means a document issued by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States, on completion of two or more years of postsecondary education.
- Post Secondary Certificate means a document issued after the completion of two or more years of postsecondary education at an academic institution. The document has to be issued the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.
- Business person, as defined in the NAFTA, means a citizen of Canada or Mexico who is engaged in the trade of goods, the provision of services, or the conduct of investment activities.
- Engagement in business activities at a professional level means the performance of prearranged business activities for a United States entity, including an individual. It does not authorize the establishment of a business or practice in the United States in which the professional will be, in substance, self-employed. A professional will be deemed to be self-employed if he or she will be rendering services to a corporation or entity of which the professional is the sole or controlling shareholder or owner.
- Temporary entry, as defined in the NAFTA, means entry without the intent to establish permanent residence. The alien must satisfy the inspecting immigration officer that the proposed stay is temporary. A temporary period has a reasonable, finite end that does not equate to permanent residence. In order to establish that the alien’s entry will be temporary, the alien must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the inspecting immigration officer that his or her work assignment in the United States will end at a predictable time and that he or she will depart upon completion of the assignment.