The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established a special economic and trade zone for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Therefore, if you’re a Canadian or Mexican with a job offer in the US, you can enter the country and engage in business at a professional level under the Trade NAFTA status, also known as a TN visa. 

Despite having the privilege to travel to the US for business under NAFTA, Canadian and Mexican professionals must still meet the immigration regulations to enter the US legally. This article provides valuable information about the eligibility requirements for a TN visa, the application process, and the evidence and supporting documents required to obtain the visa. 

What is a TN Visa?

Trade NAFTA (TN) status is a nonimmigrant work visa that allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to enter the United States to work in specific professional fields. Entering the US under TN status enables Mexican and Canadian citizens to work and live in the US, as long as their profession falls under NAFTA professions. TN visas are valid for three (3) years, and holders can renew them indefinitely. 

Eligibility Requirements for TN Nonimmigrant Status

A Canadian or Mexican citizen might be eligible for TN status if:

  • They show proof of their Canadian or Mexican citizenship, such as a passport
  • The job falls under the list of NAFTA professions
  • The position in the US requires a NAFTA expert
  • You have a prearranged full- or part-time job with an employer in the US (but not self-employment)
  • You’re qualified to practice in the specific profession, e.g. Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

How to Apply for TN Visa

While Canadian citizens are generally qualified to enter the US as nonimmigrants without visas, their Mexican counterparts must first obtain TN status. Still, NAFTA specifies the evidence required to prove that a citizen from either country is qualified in a specific profession. 

Canadian Citizens

If you’re a Canadian citizen wanting to enter the United States for business purposes, you can do so by either:

  • Applying directly at a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the specific port of entry when entering the United States
  • Requesting your employer to submit a TN application together with Form I-129 (“Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS); you – the worker – can then seek entry at a CBP-designated US port of entry by presenting an Approval Notice from USCIS for Form I-129. 

You must provide the following evidence and documentation to the CBP officer:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship   
  • Letter from your US employer outlining details, such as the professional capacity in which you’ll work in the US, the length of stay, the purpose of your employment, academic qualifications, etc.
  • Credentials evaluations (if necessary) 
  • Any applicable fees

Mexican Citizens

As mentioned above, a Mexican citizen must first obtain a TN visa to be allowed entry into the US. That requires them to file Form DS-160 (“Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application”) along with the core TN visa application directly at the US Embassy or Consulate in Mexico. The guidelines are outlined here.

For every TN application, you’ll need to present:

  • A TN support letter from your US employer detailing your job offer, the specific NAFTA profession, your credentials, and other information (such as length of employment, salary, etc.)
  • Evidence proving your suitability for the position, such as diplomas, Bachelor’s degrees, or Master’s degrees; if possible, these documents should be original copies.
  • An application fee, if applicable

Once your TN-status application is approved, you might apply for admission into the US at specific CBP-designated ports of entry or a pre-clearance inspection station. 

Why Partner With an Attorney to Obtain a TN Visa?

There’s more to the TN status application than simply filling out a few forms with the US immigration authorities. There are other fine details and immigration laws and regulations to navigate. It’s critical to partner with a professional and seasoned immigration attorney who can offer valuable legal counsel that you can’t offer yourself, especially in special circumstances. 

Remember, the guidelines and procedures for filing forms, locations, applicable fees, available TN visa options, and benefits change frequently. The chances of filing the wrong benefits or failing to follow the instructions are high. That can result in rejected petitions and applications and even denials (which means you lose the filing fees and even be categorized in the removal proceedings. A TN visa attorney can leverage their knowledge in immigration law to provide the advice and guidance you need to avoid these costly mistakes.

Moreover, a lawyer from The Law Office of Lina Baroudi has the knack for identifying the right evidence and supporting documentation for a TN visa application for your specific profession. For instance, the support documents required for an accountant are different from that of a computer systems analyst (CSA). Thus, each TN application must be handled with care. A lawyer can gather the specific documents for your unique case and even advise on other additional documentation that will strengthen your application. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a permanent resident in Canada or Mexico enter the US on a TN visa?

No. Only Canadian and Mexican citizens in fields outlined in NAFTA professions can enter, work, and stay in the US with TN status. 

I’m a TN visa holder in the US. Will my spouse be able to work?

No. The TN nonimmigrant visa only allows the holder to work; not their family members. However, your spouse or children might be eligible to study in the US. 

Can I extend my TN visa?

You can extend your TN visa in two ways. As a Canadian and Mexican citizen, you can request your US employer to file Form I-129 on your behalf while you remain in the country. If you’re a Canadian citizen, you can leave the US before your TN status expires, and apply again at a CBP-designated port of entry for TN status extension.