The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. As it applies to the hiring of degreed nationals from those countries, it allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. The TN visa is similar to the H-1B with both benefits and drawbacks. TN allows unlimited multiple entries to the U.S. for the period of service as required by the U.S. employer, up to 3 years, and can be extended indefinitely, there is no prevailing wage requirement, and there is no annual cap. Like the H-1B, a professional degree is required. Conversely, a TN visa is not dual intent and TN visa holders can not adjust status in pursuit of a green card. It is important to note that Mexican professionals must meet a stricter standard than their Canadian counterparts.
Business activities at a professional level mean those undertakings which require that the individual has at least a bachelor’s degree or appropriate credentials demonstrating status as a professional in a profession set forth in an Appendix to NAFTA. The Canadian or Mexican must render services for a United States entity, including an individual but prohibit self-employment.
Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants (temporary) are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. As a NAFTA professional, you are not required to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You can request admission as a TN nonimmigrant at a U.S. port of entry as a Canadian citizen, or as a Mexican citizen, simply request a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico, and you must provide the following documentation:
- Canadian or Mexican citizenship
- Your profession is on the NAFTA list
- The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional
- You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (not self-employment)
- You have the qualifications of the profession
Spouses and/or unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to enter the U.S. under the derivative TD visa. Family members may study in the U.S., but they are not allowed to work.