What are TN Visas?
A unique non-immigrant classification originally created as result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the TN (for Trade NAFTA) visa exists solely for the benefit of Canadian and Mexican citizens.
In September 2018, the United States, Mexico, and Canada reached an agreement to replace NAFTA with the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA), and all three countries had ratified it by March 2020. The USMCA took effect on July 1, 2020.
Under the USMCA, a Canadian or Mexican citizen may temporarily enter into the United States and engage in certain designated professional services. Although the TN visa classification originated with the promise of facilitating trade in services under transparent criteria, this is hardly the case in today's U.S. immigration environment.
U.S. immigration's increasingly enforcement-minded attitude — which frequently results in arbitrary denials or allegations of immigration violations that carry severe penalties — underscores the importance of a diligently and well-prepared TN visa application. With law offices on both sides of the border, Millar & Hayes is uniquely situated to assist in TN visa applications. This is true not just because of our convenient border locations, but because of our extensive experience handling a large, ongoing number of TN and other professional visas. TN visas are one of our specialties.
Requirements: Eligibility Factors
Education & Credentials
The majority of the TN visa occupational categories require some form of educational credential. Most require a bachelor's degree, while some also offer as an alternative for qualification possession of a post-secondary diploma and three years of experience. Education and credential or licensing requirements are specified for each profession. An individual may qualify for a TN visa without a degree or diploma in three categories:
- Disaster relief insurance claims adjuster
- Management consultant
- Scientific technician
Immigration officials routinely require a specific degree in the occupational field in order to qualify for TN visa status. This is often contrary to the government's own guidance on the issue. U.S. immigration memoranda state that the degree possessed by the TN applicant “should be in the field or in a closely related field.”
TN applicants who possess a degree from an educational institution outside of the United States, Canada, or Mexico must obtain an academic evaluation by a reliable credentials evaluation service that specializes in such evaluations. Unlike the H-1B category, an applicant for a TN cannot combine education and experience and obtain a degree equivalency in order to meet the bachelor degree requirements for a TN. Where a TN occupational category requires a bachelor's or licenciatura degree, an individual may satisfy this requirement by possessing a degree from an educational institution outside of the USMCA countries (from a college or university outside the U.S., Canada, or Mexico).
TN Visa Occupational Categories
The TN visa broad occupational categories are:
An individual may apply for TN status under USMCA in one of the several dozen occupations set forth in USMCA. The USMCA TN laws and regulations do not specifically define the types of positions or job duties permissible under the TN occupational categories. A citizen of Canada or Mexico may enter the U.S. under TN status “to engage in business activities at a professional level” in one of the professions set forth in Appendix 1603.D.1. INA § 214 (e); 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (a). For example, a position may qualify for TN status under a given category if in order to successfully complete the duties of the position, an individual must possess one of the credentials listed for that category. If a position requires a bachelor's degree, then the position should be eligible for TN visa status under that category.
A successful application for TN status requires several documents. These include but are not limited to a support letter from the employer and evidence of the applicant's citizenship, credentials, and experience. We have successfully prepared numerous TN packets for application at a port of entry or for filing by mail with USCIS.
Applicants who file with USCIS are required to submit additional forms and filing fee. We can advise you on whether filing at a port of entry or with USCIS would be appropriate in your case.
TN visa vs. TN status
Individuals new to U.S. immigration law and unfamiliar with the USMCA provisions for Canadian and Mexican citizens often confuse a TN visa with TN non-immigrant status. There is a significant difference between a TN visa and TN non-immigrant status. Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a TN visa at a consulate, but they must establish eligibility for TN status when they seek to enter the U.S. However, Mexican citizens must apply for a TN visa at a consulate in order to enter the U.S. in TN status.
Family of TN Nonimmigrants
The spouse and children (under age 21) may qualify to accompany or join the TN nonimmigrant in TD status. TD status does not allow these family members to work in the United States, but it does permit them to study in the U.S.
If you are serious about getting legal assistance, a consultation is the best place to start. Spend up to a full hour with an immigration attorney to discuss the details of your case, get answers to your questions, work through complex issues and supporting documents and plan an immigration strategy for obtaining benefits.