Licensed Attorney Since 1981

TN Visas under NAFTA

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, fosters economic and trade relations between the three countries. The TN visa, created under NAFTA, allows Canadians and Mexicans to work in professional jobs in the U.S. if certain requirements are met, including employment in one of a designated list of occupations.


TN Status Requirements

To enter the U.S. under TN status, certain requirements must be met:

  • The employee must be a Canadian or Mexican citizen;
  • The employee must be employed in one of the listed approved professions;
  • The employee must meet the qualifications to practice that profession;
  • The U.S. employer must need an employee in that profession; and
  • The employer must be a U.S. employer.

Eligible Occupations

NAFTA lists approved occupations for which TN status may be granted. The occupations include, among many others, accountants, economists, mathematicians, engineers, architects, graphic designers, hotel managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, medical professionals, scientists, and higher education teachers.

Eligibility for TN status is limited by the list of approved professions, so many Canadian citizens are not eligible to apply. Most of the professions require a bachelor’s or advanced degree.

Duration and Return

TN status is easier to apply for and have approved than other work visas. It is valid for three years, but is only valid for the specific employer for which the application was originally made.

However, an applicant must demonstrate an intention to return to Canada when the visa expires. This may be simple for first-time applicants, but is often more difficult for those who have been in the U.S. for many years on TN visas. Applicants can show an intent to return by preserving and documenting ties to Canada. This may include maintaining bank accounts, owning real property, having family in Canada, or keeping a Canadian driver’s license.

Because applicants must show an intent to return to Canada, it is more difficult to get a green card while in the U.S. on TN status, since green cards are for permanent residency. Those who are considering applying for permanent residency while on a TN visa should seek the advice of a knowledgeable attorney.

Where to Apply

Unlike Mexican citizens, Canadian citizens may generally enter the U.S. under non-immigrant status without a visa. Thus, for Canadians, no visa is required. Instead, Canadians may apply for entry under TN status in two ways: in person, at a port of entry to the U.S., or through application to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), while in the U.S.

Applying at a port of entry has several benefits, including a lower application fee. Additionally, the decision to grant or deny TN status is made immediately, and the applicant immediately learns the reason for the denial and can try to correct it. Applying through USCIS may take a couple of months, and the applicant may have to leave the U.S. while the decision is pending.

If you wish to enter the U.S. for employment purposes, an experienced attorney can help you determine which method is best for you and can guide you through the process.

Please contact the Law Offices of Alex T. Barak  (954) 961-6200 to schedule a free initial consultation.