Non-Immigrant Visa for the North
American Free Trade Agreement


Non-Immigrant Visa for the North
American Free Trade Agreement

The TN non-immigrant visa was created pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which set special economic and trade relationships between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The TN non-immigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporary work in the United States in prearranged job positions at a professional level. NAFTA also expanded the business visitor visa category for Canadian and Mexican citizens – this article will focus only on the TN work visa.


The professions that qualify for the TN visa are specified in the NAFTA treaty and in USCIS regulations and although there are some exceptions, they all require a baccalaureate or licentiate degree as an entry-level requirement for the occupation. Unlike other employment visa categories such as H-1B or L-1, a baccalaureate is required for a TN visa and work experience cannot be substituted for that degree. For some professions, an alternative to a bachelor’s degree is listed on the NAFTA list of qualifying professions and for other professions, experience is required in addition to the degree. Among the eligible TN professionals are accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, teachers, among others. The list of TN professions can be found in the NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1 and here.

To be qualified for a TN visa the applicant must meet all of the following criteria:

  • The applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  • The applicant’s profession must be listed among the professions on the NAFTA list.
  • The position in the United States must be for a profession on the NAFTA list.
  • The applicant will work for an employer in the U.S (self employment is not permitted).
  • The applicant must have the education, and/or experience requirements for the profession as listed in the NAFTA list of professions.
The Requirements for Canadians and Mexicans are slightly different, as explained below.

Requirements for Canadian Citizens

Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate because they are visa exempt. They may establish eligibility for the TN classification at certain designated U.S. ports of entry, such as airports and certain land borders. To do so, the Canadian citizen will need to present the required documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. The applicant must include a complete package that includes an offer letter from the prospective U.S. employer, applicant’s credentials, fees, and other documents.

Requirements for Mexican Citizens

Citizens of Mexico are required to obtain a TN visa from a U.S. consulate or embassy in order to enter the United States as a TN non-immigrant. Applications for a TN visa are filed directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico and the applicants must go through a personal interview, unless they are exempt.

Period of Stay

The initial period of stay in a TN status can be up to three years at a time, depending on the length of offer of employment, and is not subject to any annual cap or limits. Towards the end of the three year period, the U.S. employer may file an I-129 petition to extend the period of stay in the U.S. with USCIS.

Alternatively, the TN employee may depart from the United States before the date that the status expires, and then, once abroad, may apply at a CBP-designated U.S. port or U.S. consulate by using similar application and documentation procedures required at the time of the initial application for admission as a TN non-immigrant.

Dependents of TN Non-immigrants

Spouses and children (under the age of 21) of a TN visa applicant may be eligible for TD non-immigrant status. In TD status the spouses and children are not permitted to work while in the United States, but they are permitted to study.

Unlike the H-1B visa, the TN visa is not a dual-intent, which means applicants must prove to the satisfaction of the immigration officials that they intend to return to their home country prior to the expiration of their visa in the U.S.

Filing Your Application

Overall, it is a great visa option for professional Canadian and Mexican citizens. If you wish to apply for a TN visa, please call our office to discuss your eligibility. You will need the help of an experienced immigration attorney for a successful application and counsel you on your rights under this status. We will help you determine if this is the best visa for you and your family, and advise you on the best and fastest way to obtain it. Contact us today to begin your application process.
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