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The TN Visa: Entering the United States as a Canadian or Mexican Professional

by | Apr 19, 2013 | 0 comments


The NAFTA Treaty visa (“TN”) is a product of the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”), an agreement signed by the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico, which created a trilateral trade bloc in North America.

TN status permits Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in the United States so long as the applicant fits within a certain occupational category.  Though the TN is a temporary visa, it may be renewed in 2-3 year increments.  Currently, there is no cap on the amount of times it can be renewed.  Furthermore, TN applicants may bring their accompanying spouse and children into the United States with them upon entry or after the applicant has been granted TN status.

TN status can be attained at a port of entry into the United States (i.e. the United States border or airport in Canada) generally within 40 minutes or less.  Unlike most visas, TN status does not require the completion of forms and is not restricted by quotas or waiting periods.  Thus, TN status is generally considered the quickest and most easily attainable work visa for Canadians and Mexicans who qualify.


To obtain a TN visa the applicant must meet the following requirements:

1. Citizenship:  To obtain a TN visa you must be a Canadian or Mexican citizen.  Thus, Canadian/Mexican landed immigrants and non-citizens are ineligible for TN status.

2. Employment Offer:  You must have an offer of employment from a business located in the United States.  The employment offer must not be tentative, however.  In other words, your employment must be guaranteed on the condition you receive TN non-immigrant status.

3.  Temporary Intent: TN status is a non-immigrant visa, which means you may only stay in the United States temporarily while in TN status.  Accordingly, while applying for TN status it is imperative that, if questioned, you express temporary intent – that is, the intent to return to Canada/Mexico upon the expiration of your visa.

4. Temporary Duration: Your employment in the United States must be intended to last for no longer than 3 years.  However, at the end of the 3 year term, you and/or your employer may renew the visa for another 3 year term.  There is no limit on the amount of times your TN status may be renewed.  Nonetheless, upon each renewal you must have temporary intent.

5. Occupational Category:  TN applicants must be offered a position as a professional that falls under the category of occupations listed in Chapter 16 of NAFTA, Appendix 1603.D.1 (the “Schedule of Professions”).  The profession must be exactly the same as one of the professions listed in the aforesaid schedule or you will not qualify for TN status.

6. Position Requires a NAFTA Professional:  The position you have been offered must actually require a NAFTA professional.  For example, if you are seeking to enter the United States under TN status as a lawyer, but you will actually be working as a journalist, and thus the position does not actually require someone who is licensed as a lawyer, then you will not be granted TN status.

7. Educational and/or Experiential Qualification:  You must meet the educational and/or experience requirements for the profession as set out in the Schedule of Professions.  Unless otherwise noted, each profession requires at least a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura degree that is directly related to the given profession.  However, many of the professions listed in the schedule only require experience and/or post-secondary certification other than a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura degree.

8. Licensure Requirement:  If applicable, you must have the relevant license required to engage in the given profession within the particular location in the United States where you will be working.  This requirement only applies if licensure is necessary to practice within the given field.  This requirement is purely profession specific.

9. No strike or lock-out: To obtain a TN visa, your prospective employer must not be experiencing a strike or lockout.  However, even if the company is currently engaged in a strike or lockout, it is possible that this event may not prohibit you from receiving a TN if it is wholly unrelated to your position.

10. Health Care Professionals: Certain health care professionals must complete a visa screening requirement prior to applying at the border.


You must provide the following documentation to the Customs official at the United States port of entry to be admitted as a TN non-immigrant:

1. Proof of Citizenship: A passport will satisfy this requirement.

2. Employment Letter:  You must provide a letter from your prospective employer detailing items such as the professional capacity in which you will work in the United States, the purpose of your employment, your length of stay, and your educational qualifications.

3. Credentials: You must provide the applicable educational, experiential and licensure credentials.

4. Application Fee: You must provide a $50.00 administrative fee for yourself and a $6.00 fee for each additional I-94 card that is obtained.

Note:  The application described above applies to Canadians.  The application procedure for Mexicans is different than that outlined above.

Upon being admitted as a TN non-immigrant, you will receive a Form-I-94 Arrival/Departure card.  This card indicates the date upon which your TN status expires. Your Form I-94 will be stapled to your passport and you will be required to provide it to US customs each time you enter the United States.


To satisfy the credential requirement, and thus demonstrate that you have the required educational, experiential, and/or licensure qualifications, you should provide copies of the following documents:

1. school records,

2. diplomas,

3. licenses,

4. degrees,

5. certificates or membership in professional organizations, and

6. transcripts showing an appropriate degree (bachelor’s degree or higher) from a recognized university or college; a statement of U.S. equivalency is required if you obtained the degree from outside North America.


TN family members consists of spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age.  Thus, a mother, aunt, cousin, brother and so on are not considered a TN family member for admission purposes.

The TN visa-holder’s spouse, and unmarried children under the age of 21, may also enter the United States accompanying or following the TN visa-holder.  However, the family member must demonstrate a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship to you.

The TN’s spouses and children are not permitted to work while in the United States, but they are permitted to study.


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