The TN Visa category was created in 1994 as a way for Canadian and Mexican citizens to immigrate to the U.S. for the purpose of employment.  Also known as the “Trade NAFTA” Visa category, these types of temporary visas allow a foreign national to work in the U.S., usually for up to three (3) years at a time.

The main advantages of TN visas in comparison with other visa categories include:

  • Relatively quick to obtain
  • May be obtained at the U.S. border with no petition necessary (for Canadians)
  • No annual limits on the number of TN visas granted each year for Canadians; generally favorable annual limits for Mexican citizens
  • Beneficial for those employers who need to hire a foreign national quickly
  • Can often be renewed for an indefinite period of time

Who is Eligible for TN Visas?

Canadian or Mexican applicants for TN visas must show that they will engage in employment or business activities on a professional level.  They must apply in relation to job categories that are listed on the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) list, which includes engineers, lawyers, accountants, scientists, pharmacists, and teachers.

The filing requirements for Canadians include:

  • Request for TN status
  • Proof that the person is a Canadian citizen
  • A letter from the employer listing details about the job description, including the applicant’s professional skills, reasons for the job, job qualifications, and the approximate length of stay in the United States
  • The applicant’s credentials for the job position, which may vary according to profession
  • Immigration Form I-129, if the applicant is filing within the U.S.
  • Submission of filing fees

Requirements for Mexican applicants include:

  • Application form DS-160
  • A valid U.S. passport for travel; should be dated at least 6 months past the end of the stay
  • A letter describing the details of the U.S. employment arrangement
  • Visa fees and personal ID photographs as requested
  • Prospective employers should file applications for labor conditions, as well as a Form I-129 if necessary

TN visa applications can often be processed at a U.S. consular office or embassy.  The application process may include an interview to determine the person’s eligibility.  In general, a petition is not required with the USCIS (Customs and Immigration).

How Long does a TN Visa Last?

A TN visa generally lasts for up to one year initially.  After this one-year period, the alien may be extended in one-year increments, for a total period of up to three years.  However, recent changes in immigration policies may allow some TN visa holders to request for longer extensions of their stay in the U.S.  You may wish to check with an immigration lawyer regarding the total amount of extension that you may be entitled to. 

You should note that applications for an extension of stay should be filed at least 60 days before the stay expires.

How are Spouses and Children affected by a TN Visa?

If a person is granted a TN visa, their spouse and unmarried children under 18 years old may also qualify for derivative status visas (TD category).  However, spouses and children will usually not automatically qualify for employment in the U.S.

Do I need a Lawyer for assistance with a TN Visa Application or Extension?

TN visas may be preferable over other categories of visas.  If you have any questions, concerns, or legal inquiries regarding the Trade NAFTA visa category, you should consult with an immigration lawyer immediately.  Remember that any errors or mistakes made in applying may prolong the process, and can sometimes result in a denial of the application. Your attorney can help you file an application or extension in a timely manner within the specified time frame.