By Michael Phulwani, Esq. and Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established certain economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN visa is a non-immigrant visa that grants skilled Canadian and Mexican citizens temporary entrance into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Some professions that qualify for a TN visa are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.
Eligibility requirements for TN non-immigrant visa:
• The individual must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
• The profession must be listed on the NAFTA professional job list;
• The position in the US needs a NAFTA professional;
• The individual has a pre-planned full-time or part-time job with a US employer; and
• The individual is qualified for the job in question.
NAFTA controls what evidence is required to prove a Canadian or Mexican citizens meets the qualifications for the job in question. Under this visa individual’s may live and work in the United States for up to three years, and then apply for an extension for an additional three years. An individual may apply for an extension an unlimited amount of times. There is no minimum or maximum number of years for TN visa status. Since the TN visa is a temporary visa, the Canadian or Mexican citizen must show that he or she expects to return to his or her home country once the visa expires when applying for the visa.
To obtain TN visa status citizens of Canada have to go through a different process than citizens of Mexico. A citizen of Canada does not need to apply for a TN visa at a US consulate but instead can seek admission by presenting certain documents to a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at certain ports of entry. If all the required documents are correct and the CBP officer finds the individual eligible for admission, then they will be admitted. The required documents are:
• A request for TN status admission to the immigrant officer;
• Proof of Canadian citizenship;
• Letter from the future employer showing proof of professional employment describing the professional capacity in which you will work, the purpose of your employment, length of stay, and educational qualifications;
• Credentials evaluation, if needed; and
• Applicable fees
A prospective TN employer may also file on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is outside of the US by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. Once the I-129 is approved by USCIS, the prospective employee, may apply to CBP for admission to the US.
A citizen of Mexico would need to get a visa to enter the United States as a TN nonimmigrant. A visa can be applied for directly at the US embassy or consulate in Mexico. Once the TN visa is approved, an individual may apply for admission at certain CBP designated US ports of entry. If a CBP officer finds an individual qualified for admission, then they will be allowed to enter the US as a TN nonimmigrant.
Any dependents of TN nonimmigrant’s, spouse and children under the age of 21, may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. However, dependents are not allowed to work, but they are allowed to study, and the TD status is granted for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN nonimmigrant.
All in All, the TN Visa is a wonderful visa option to have for those with work interests without a need to remain permanently in the US.