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TN (NAFTA Professionals)

TN (NAFTA Professionals)

The TN visa is granted under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The TN visa is reserved specifically for nationals of Canada and Mexico.

TN visas provide for the admission of those who will be engaged in “activities at a professional level” in the U.S. “Activities at a professional level” are defined as those that require at least a bachelor’s degree or credentials and experience demonstrating that the person is a professional. Self-employment is not permissible on a TN visa, except in the management consultant category. However, the TN visa holder can work for a company in which they have an ownership interest, even a controlling interest.

While the TN visa is in many ways similar to the H-1B visa, it has both advantages and disadvantages. The TN is more useful than the H-1B for the following reasons:

  • TN visas are not subject to an annual cap;
  • TN visas can be renewed indefinitely with no time limitation (although establishing non-immigrant intent becomes more and more difficult over time);
  • TN visas cover a broader range of job descriptions than typical H-1B visas;
  • The TN visa avoids stringent prevailing wage requirements; and
  • Canadians may obtain a TN visa at preflight inspection or directly at the border without having to wait for USCIS processing times.

The TN is less useful than the H-1B for the following reasons:

  • The TN is a non-immigrant intent visa. This means that an individual entering on a TN must, at all times, demonstrate that he or she has the intent to return back to Canada or Mexico. This creates a problem the longer a person remains in TN status, and a TN can be voided by an application for permanent residence. An H-1B, on the other hand, is a dual intent visa. That is, where a person on an H-1B visa may pursue permanent residency without having their visa revoked because they now have immigrant intent, a person on a TN cannot pursue permanent residency without risking their TN status; and
  • Experience cannot be used as a substitute for the degree requirement if the regulations require a degree for the particular category

Both the NAFTA treaty itself and federal regulations specify which professions qualify for TN status.

Canadian citizens can apply for the TN visa at a port of entry or pre-flight inspection at a Canadian airport. If approved, the Canadian will be given an I-94 valid for multiple entries over a three year period. Proposed TN rule.

Mexican citizens may apply for the TN directly at a U.S. consulate in Mexico and do not need prior approval from USCIS. Mexicans may not apply for a TN at pre-flight inspection.

Spouses and children of TN visa holders are given TD visas. Work is not authorized for TD visa holders, but they may attend school.


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