The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) contains provisions for the admission of certain Canadian or Mexican professionals to the United States on TN visas for up to three years, with extensions available. There are no numerical limits on TN visas. TN visas can be difficult to understand, so our Houston employment-based immigration attorneys take the time to explain the legalities of this type of visa below.
NAFTA appendix 1603.D.16 lists 63 occupations in which Canadian and Mexican professionals may work temporarily in the United States on a TN visa. CBP takes the position that most of the listed professions require at least a bachelor's degree.
For those occupations requiring a degree, CBP inspectors generally will not accept work experience in lieu of a degree for foreign nationals to be admitted pursuant to NAFTA. Canadian three-year bachelor's degrees are accepted. A non-Canadian or Mexican college credential should be accompanied by an evaluation from a respected service. If not in English, a certified translation should be included.
Canadian professionals may apply for TN admission directly to the CBP inspector at a class A port of entry, a U.S. preflight inspection station, or an international airport. Once admitted, the foreign national is issued an I-94 form which is generally valid for up to three years.
According to the Federal Register: "A citizen of Mexico wishing to come to the United States in TN classification no longer needs an approved petition to meet the qualification requirements, but may apply directly to the embassy or consulate abroad for a visa. The consular officer will adjudicate eligibility for TN classification and, upon approval and issuance of a visa, the applicant may apply to the Department of Homeland Security for admission to the United States under TN status."
Both Canadian and Mexican professionals must submit to the inspector or U.S. consul a passport, letter from the U.S. employer describing the offered employment, their academic credentials, and for some professionals, proof of work experience, and appropriate fees. Generally, a petition that has been approved by a USCIS service center is not required.
Unlike an H-1B or L-1 worker, a TN worker must prove nonimmigrant intent. A Canadian or Mexican professional in legal status in the United States may apply for a change of status by filing form I-129 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Spouses and minor children of TN professionals may be admitted in TD status even if they are not Canadian or Mexican citizens.
If you need assistance with understanding more about immigration law or matters related to TN visas, don't hesitate to call the experienced Houston immigration lawyers at our firm!