If you’re a professional from Canada or Mexico involved in work related to the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, you may be eligible for a TN visa. This guide explains what TN visas are for, who qualifies for them and how to get one. If you have questions, we’re available – you can call us to talk to a San Antonio immigration attorney about your situation and get the legal advice you need.
What is a TN Visa for NAFTA Professionals?
A TN visa is exclusively for NAFTA professionals from the countries of Canada and Mexico. These visas allow people to enter the United States to engage in business activities. Some types of professionals who are eligible for these visas are engaged in work as engineers, accountants, attorneys, pharmacists and teachers – and there are a wide range of other professions, as well.
Who’s Eligible for TN Visas?
Only the following people are eligible for TN nonimmigrant status in the United States:
- Citizens of Canada or Mexico
- Professionals engaged in certain types of work under current regulations
- Those who are applying for specific positions in the United States that require NAFTA professionals
- Those who have prearranged full-time or part-time jobs with a U.S. employer (though self-employment does not qualify)
- Those who have the qualifications to practice in the profession in the United States
TN Visas for Canadian Citizens
Canadian citizens don’t have to apply for TN visas at U.S. consulates. If you’re a Canadian citizen, you can establish your eligibility for TN classification when you seek admission into the United States. You’ll simply have to present the right documentation to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the U.S. port of entry (or at a designated pre-clearance, pre-flight inspection station). The documentation you need includes:
- Proof of your Canadian citizenship
- A letter from your prospective employer detailing your future employment (including the professional capacity in which you’ll work in the U.S., the purpose of your employment, how long you’ll stay, and your job qualifications
- A credentials evaluation, if applicable
- Fee payment
Your employer can choose to file on your behalf if it wants to. If your employer files a petition with the United States government for your TN visa, it will need to submit Form I-129.
TN Visas for Mexican Citizens
Mexican citizens who are eligible for TN visas cannot get them at the border. Instead, they must obtain the TN visa prior to a visit. If you’re a Mexican citizen, you can apply for a TN visa at the U.S. embassy or consulate nearest your home. After you’re approved, you can apply for admission to the United States at certain CBP-designated ports of entry (or at a designated pre-clearance or pre-flight inspection station.
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How Long Can You Stay in the U.S. on a TN Visa?
You can remain in the United States on a TN visa for up to three years. If you want to stay longer than three years, you’ll have to seek an extension of stay. Your employer can file the appropriate paperwork for you.
An alternative: You can depart from the United States before your visa expires. Then, after you’re abroad again, you can reapply at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry (or a pre-clearance of pre-flight inspection station). You can do so using the same application and documentation procedures you followed on your initial admission.
Can Your Family Come With You if You’re in the U.S. on a TN Visa?
Your family can accompany you. In fact, your spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. Just remember:
- Spouses and children are not allowed to work while they’re in the U.S. on a TD visa.
- Spouses and children can only remain in the United States as long as their TN nonimmigrant does. For example, if your status expires on December 20, so does theirs.
Not all spouses and children qualify, though – at least not under this particular program. For example, if your spouse and children are not citizens of Canada or Mexico, they may need to apply for a different type of visa.
What to Show to Prove Family Relationships
If you intend to bring your family with you to the U.S. while using a TN visa, you’ll have to show that you have a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship, proof that you’re all maintaining your nonimmigrant status, and photocopies of the TN visa recipient’s admission documents.
The NAFTA Professional List
Though there are a number of occupations with members who count as NAFTA professionals, it’s important to remember that the list can – and sometimes does – change. With that said, the following table outlines the most current list of NAFTA professionals. You should speak to an attorney to ensure that your profession is still on the list or to see if it’s been added) at the time you apply for a TN visa.
Computer systems analyst
Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster
Medical lab tech
Physician (teaching on research)
Range manager or conservationist
Technical publications writer
For many of these professions, you must have a special college or university degree, as well as a license to work in the field or some sort of certification. If that’s the case with your professional, be prepared to show your license or certification to the Customs and Border Patrol agent at the port of entry or to include them with your application (depending on how you apply for your TN visa).
Is it Easy to Get a TN Visa?
If you have the right representation and supporting documents, getting a TN visa is easy – provided that you qualify for the visa and that you are admissible to the United States. However, if you don’t have the proper credentials (or proof of credentials), it will be difficult for you to obtain a TN visa.
Hundreds of thousands of these visas are issued every year, so it’s not as if it’s difficult or there’s a waiting period to get one.
How Much Does a TN Visa Cost?
The filing fee for a TN visa depends on when and how you file. If your employer files a Form I-129 for you, it will cost more than paying the fee at the border. Because fees are subject to change, your best resource for the cost of a TN visa is the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Filing Fees webpage. Alternatively, you can contact your attorney to ask about how much a TN visa costs.
Do You Need to Speak to an Attorney About Getting a TN Visa?
If you’re interested in applying for a TN visa for yourself, or if you run a business that needs to hire NAFTA professionals from Canada or Mexico, we may be able to help you. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation with an attorney experienced in business immigration matters.