The TN Visa for professional workers from Canada & Mexico
On January 1, 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect pursuant to presidential and congressional approval. NAFTA was modeled on the United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which entered into force on January 1, 1989 and included reciprocal provisions for facilitating the temporary travel of business persons of the two countries. NAFTA permits temporary entry into the United States of four categories of Canadian and Mexican business visitors: (1) business visitor (B-1); (2) treaty trader/investor (E-1 and E-2); (3) intracompany transferee (L-1); and (4) professional (TN). The TN visa is similar to H-1 as used for professionals, and is a supplementary classification for both Mexicans and Canadians, and it does not bar them from qualifying for H-1 status as well.Note that one has to be a Canadian/Mexican citizen first to qualify for a TN visa.Canadian landed immigrants do not qualify for a TN.
II. The ``TN'' Classification
NAFTA provides for the temporary entry of Mexican and Canadian business persons to ``engage in activities at a professional level.'' Remember though, that in spite of the similarity to the H-1B classification, admission pursuant to NAFTA to engage in professional-level activities does not imply qualification as an H-1B ``professional.''
For TN eligibility, the applicant must be engaged at a professional level in one of the 63 occupations or professions listed as follows:
Computer Systems Analyst
Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster
Research Assistant (in post-secondary educational institution)
Scientific Technician/Technologist (must possess theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines:
practical problems in the discipline, or apply principles
of the discipline to basic or applied research
Sylviculturist (Forestry Specialist)
Technical Publications Writer
Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/
Physician (teaching or research only)
Geophysicist (Oceanographer in the United States and Mexico)
Physicist (Oceanographer in Canada)
Each occupation requires either a baccalaureate degree from a U.S. or Canadian college or university, or a licenciatura degree from a Mexican counterpart, unless otherwise specified. In certain occupations, a state license is an acceptable substitute for a baccalaureate/licenciatura degree (e.g., teaching or research physician, dentist, registered nurse, lawyer, veterinarian).
Where a specific educational requirement is imposed for a given occupation, it is applied strictly; it may not be met by the substitution of equivalent credentials, such as education and training.
Academic degrees which qualify Canadian citizens of this classification are not restricted to degrees awarded by United States or Canadian colleges or universities. The Canadian citizen must possess the minimum of a baccalaureate degree, unless otherwise specified. There is no requirement that the baccalaureate be gained in a four-year academic program. Three-year baccalaureate programs are common in Canadian colleges and universities.
III. Entry as a TN professional
The TN applicant must be seeking entry, defined in the regulations as ``entering without the intent to establish permanent residence.'' The presumption of immigrant intent under INA § 214(b) applies to TN as it does to most other nonimmigrant classifications. However, the filing of a Form I-140 petition on behalf of the TN applicant is only one relevant factor to consider in determining whether that person is maintaining his or her nonimmigrant intent.
Please note that there is no limit on the number of TN visas available to Canadians but for Mexicans, a numerical restriction was established allowing only 5,500 Mexicans to enter annually. The limit may be increased by mutual agreement of the United States and Mexico, is to be reevaluated annually, and will sunset on December 31, 2003. The annual limit does not apply to Mexican professionals already in the United States who seek extensions of stay. Nor does it apply to spouses or children of the TN nonimmigrant, or to professionals admitted under the H-1B nonimmigrant visa category.
IV. Specific Procedures for CANADIANS entering U.S. under TN status (on how to enter the United States under TN status)
1. A Canadian may apply for admission to the United States to engage in a listed activity at a Class A port of entry, a United States international airport or a United States pre-clearance/pre-flight station.
2. No visa petition, labor certification, or other prior approval is required.
3. The Canadian must simply show proof of Canadian citizenship and qualification in a listed occupation in which he or she will work in the United States temporarily.
4. The documentation may take the form of a letter from the prospective employer or the Canadian employer, supported by licenses, diplomas, degrees, certificates, or membership in professional organizations.
5. Additional requirements:
(i) Proof of Canadian citizenship;
(ii) Documentation sufficient to:
(a) describe the activity to be engaged in;
the purpose of entry;
the anticipated length of stay;
the educational or other credentials demonstrating professional level status;
compliance with applicable state laws and/or licensing requirements, if any;
and the arrangements for remuneration.
NOTE: Canadians entering from outside the Western Hemisphere require passports.
A qualified Canadian will be admitted for up to one year and given a Form I-94 with the classification symbol TN, upon payment of the required $50 fee. Provided the business activities and employers have not changed, the Canadian may reenter the United States on an unexpired Form I-94 without any other employment-related documentation or additional fee. Canadians who no longer have the original I-94, may present alternative evidence such as the original INSTN fee-receipt or a TN admission stamp in a passport and a confirming letter from the employer.
V. Derivative Status for Beneficiaries of TN status holders
1. TD (Trade Dependent) status for spouses and unmarried minor children of the principal TN alien allow such dependents to enter the U.S.
2. As Canadians, or residents of Canada sharing a common nationality with Canadians, dependents of a Canadian TN may accompany or follow to join the principal alien without a fee or a nonimmigrant visa.
3. Dependents of other nationalities must obtain a TD nonimmigrant visa following the principal alien's admission in TN classification.
4. In either instance, admission in TD status shall be for up to one year.
5. Neither a dependent spouse nor a minor child may accept employment.
6. A TD dependent may attend school in the United States on a part-time or full-time basis, as long as such attendance is deemed incidental to the dependent's purpose for being in the United States--to accompany the principal alien.
VI. Extensions of TN status
A Canadian citizen admitted in TN status may apply for extension(s) of stay in increments of up to one year without regard to the time limitations imposed on the L-1 and H-1B classifications. The TD spouse or child of a TN Canadian may also be granted extensions of temporary stay in increments of up to one year if the principal alien is maintaining status. A lawyer should be consulted and retained for this matter which is quite procedural and involves the filing of specific petitions with the INS.
VI. Procedures for TN visas for Mexicans (not discussed in detail here)
In contrast to the streamlined entry provisions for Canadians discussed above, Mexican citizens seeking to enter as TNs must follow procedures corresponding to those now in place for H-1A (registered nurse) and H-1B (specialty occupation) visa applicants. A lawyer should be consulted and retained for this matter which is quite procedural and involves the filing of specific petitions with the INS.
TN Checklists used by INS:See the attached PDF files below for the TN checklists used at the truck crossing in Blaine, WA and pre-flight inspections in Vancouver, Canada. These checklists were obtained from AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association, on August 6, 2003.