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Feb 22 Attorney Articles

NAFTA and TN Visas – Why They Matter

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The new U.S. President has already scheduled meetings with his Mexican and Canadian counterparts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. While there’s always room for bettering any such compact, the concern by some is what will it mean for TN Visas.

As background, TN, or Treaty NAFTA, visas allows U.S., Canada and Mexico citizens to work across these three borders for prearranged business activities in designated professional categories. The terms are usually up to three years, but only for the specific employer for which the visa was originally requested. Most of the 61 categories require a baccalaureate degree or higher as an entry-level requirement, but experience can be substituted for a formal degree in some cases.

These visas are not meant for individuals seeking to permanently immigrate to one of the other countries. While these persons are not required to be paid prevailing wage, TN visas are designed for individuals in professional positions.

The benefits to employers here in the U.S. are many. The TN visa category allows employers to attract talent from the other two countries that are part of the treaty for certain professional positions. Additionally, the TN visa can be used for someone that may otherwise qualify for an H-1b visa but is not able to get an H-1b because of the annual cap for that visa category.  An H-1b visa is for individuals being sponsored for specialty occupations. The TN visa can help offset the supply gap that currently exists in certain professions. Some of the categories include positions in the agriculture and livestock industries where it may be difficult to find qualified employees with an educational degree related to that industry.  A 2015 study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that while close to 60,000 highly skilled agriculture job openings in this country existed, there were only 35,000 graduates to fill them.

Any new high-level discussions around NAFTA must understand the value TN visas have in America. Additionally, it should consider any disruption changes would have on current TN visa holders that are working in the U.S. and may have family living here.

Immigration Attorney Donald Sheppard

About the Author:
Donald Sheppard is a partner at Higgs Fletcher & Mack, LLP, and is certified as a legal specialist in immigration and nationality law by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization. His typical clients are companies in the high-tech and start-up industries seeking to hire the brightest and best talent which includes foreign nationals that need employment sponsorship. Mr. Sheppard can be reached at
[email protected].