Temporary Visa for Professionals under NAFTA: the TN Visa
TN non-immigrant visas provide for the admission of professionals from Canada and Mexico who enter the United States to engage in professional activities that are covered by the NAFTA list of professional occupations and minimum requirements.
Primary Requirements and Considerations for the TN Visa
- Foreign national must be a Canadian or Mexican citizen.
- Foreign national must be entering the United States to engage in professional activities in a profession that is listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 to Annex 1603 of NAFTA. The list includes a wide variety of professions, including accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, engineers, graphic designers, lawyers, medical professionals, nutritionists, scientists, and many others. Each listed profession has its own educational and experience requirements.
- Special, more stringent requirements apply to management consultants and scientific technicians/technologists seeking to obtain TN visa status.
- To count as a TN professional, the foreign national must have at least a baccalaureate degree or appropriate credentials demonstrating status as a professional. Equivalencies based on a combination of education and experience to substitute for a degree are not permitted where a degree is specifically required for a listed profession.
- Foreign national must not only meet the criteria for the specific professional category, but the position in the United States must require someone in that professional category.
- Self-employment in the United States is not allowed, but a TN visa holder can own an interest in the foreign company contracted to perform consulting services in the United States.
- Part-time employment is permissible. Also, TN visa holders may work for multiple U.S. employers, as long as TN status was approved for each employment in the United States.
- Foreign national must have non-immigrant intent. The doctrine of dual intent does not apply.
Period of Stay for TN Visa Holders
TN visa holders are admitted for periods of up to three years at a time, and there are no limits on the number of extensions of TN status. Extensions of status for up to three years at a time can be submitted from within the United States.
Procedural Differences for Canadians and Mexicans
The procedure for obtaining a TN visa differs for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadian citizens are visa-exempt and can apply for TN status directly at a Class A port of entry, where their TN visa will be adjudicated. Mexican citizens must apply for a TN visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad before being admitted to the United States in TN status. If a Canadian or Mexican citizen is already in the United States based on another valid non-immigrant status, he or she can apply for change of status to TN from within the United States.
Family Members of TN Visa Holders
Spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of TN visa holders are eligible to apply for TD visa status and can accompany or follow to join the TN visa holder. TD visa holders are not permitted to work in the United States, but may attend school on a full-time basis.
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