Law Offices of Cindy Ramjattan Paul - Immigration lawyer, Nutley, NJ

TN Visa for NAFTA Professionals

TN Visa for NAFTA Professionals

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. As part of its terms, the TN visa category was created to enable Canadian and Mexican citizens to enter the United States to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis for a period of up to three years.

There are many types of professionals who may be eligible to seek admission as TN non-immigrants, including, but not limited to: accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. You may be eligible if:

  • You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
  • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment); and
  • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question. 
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Canadian Citizens

If you are a Canadian citizen, then you are not required to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate. 

A Canadian professional worker may be admitted to the U.S. without advance petition approval or labor certification. In order to apply, the Canadian worker (if in Canada) would have to go straight to any U.S. port of entry (land border crossing, U.S. airport, or U.S. preflight inspection station at a major Canadian international airport) and provide the following documentation to the CBP officer:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship;
  • Letter from your prospective employer, your length of stay, and your educational qualifications; and
  • Credentials evaluation (if applicable), together with any applicable fees. 

Alternatively, a prospective TN employer may choose to file on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is outside the United States by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker to the USCIS Vermont Service Center. 

If USCIS approves Form I-129, you, the prospective worker, may then apply to CBP for admission to the U.S. as a TN non-immigrant to a CBP Officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station by providing the following documentation:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship; and
  • Approval Notice from USCIS for Form I-129.

In addition, when applying for admission, you should have in your possession a copy of Form I-129, and all supporting documentation that was submitted to USCIS, to respond to questions about your eligibility. You should also be prepared to pay any applicable inspection fees at the time you seek admission. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, you will be admitted as a TN non-immigrant. 

Upon entering the U.S., the Canadian TN professional will be given an I-94 card (or one accessible online) indicating an authorized stay of up to three years. This period can be extended in three-year increments without leaving the United States. 

A Canadian national can also apply if already in the United States. 

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Mexican Citizens

If you are a Mexican citizen, then you are required to obtain a visa to enter the United States as a TN non-immigrant. You should apply for a TM visa directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico. Once you are approved for a TN visa, you may apply for admission at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. 

Dependents of TN Non-immigrants 

TN visa recipients can also bring their spouses and children (under the age of 21) to the U.S. by providing proof of the family relationship, such as a birth or marriage certificate, with the application process. However, spouse and children are not permitted to work while in the United States, but they are permitted to study. Further, they are granted TD status for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN non-immigrant.