TN Visas for Canadian and Mexican Professionals

What Is TN Status?

TN status allows Canadians and Mexicans to temporarily work as professionals in prearranged business activities in the United States.

The TN non-immigrant classification allows qualified citizens of Canada and Mexico to seek admission to the United States as engineers, accountants, pharmacists, lawyers, teachers, scientists, and many other professional occupations.

What Are the Requirements for TN Status?

Chapter 16 of Appendix 2 in the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement has listed the occupations eligible for TN status. Unless an exemption is listed, the applicant must also present a licensure or bachelor’s degree from a university or college.

2020 Update

On July 1, 2020, the USMCA went into effect, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, the TN status was largely unaffected by this new trade agreement. Further, the text NAFTA used to describe TN status was heavily reused in Chapter 16. These are the most up-to-date policies for the enforcement of TN status, and as of August 2020, no new material for it has been published.

COVID-19 Restrictions

Caution: Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S./Canada border is closed for all nonessential travel. However, those who seek TN status will still be able to get authorization to work even with the closures. Nevertheless, applicants might experience stricter border inspections to ensure that they are essential travelers. To avoid this, they may opt to travel by air.

How Can I Apply for TN Status?

The procedure to apply for TN status differs for Canadians and Mexicans. We have provided the procedures for each one below.

One essential element for any TN status application is to demonstrate “nonimmigrant intent.” This means that you must demonstrate to the immigration officials that you have no intention of staying in the United States permanently, and that you plan to return to your home country.

Applying for TN Status as a Canadian

Canadian citizens do not need to apply for TN status at a United States consulate or embassy. They may simply apply for TN status at a United States port-of-entry.

You can do this by presenting all the necessary documents to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official at a designated port-of-entry, or at a pre-flight inspection post at a Canadian airport.

An applicant must present the following to a CBP officer:

  • Canadian passport
  • A letter from your prospective employer detailing your professional position, length of stay, purpose of employment, and educational attainment
  • If applicable, an evaluation of your Canadian academic credentials for U.S. equivalency
  • Applicable fees

Alternatively, your prospective employer may apply for TN status on your behalf. They must file Form I-129, which is a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Once approved, you can be admitted with TN status by a CBP official at a port-of-entry or preflight inspection post by showing:

It is wise to keep a copy of Form I-129 with supporting documents (those that were submitted to USCIS) because the CBP officer can ask questions regarding your eligibility. You may also have to pay an inspection fee.

Applying for a TN Visa as a Mexican

Citizens of Mexico must apply for TN status at a U.S. consulate or embassy in Mexico.

1. Complete the Online Visa Application Form

The applicant must complete Form DS-160, which can be accessed online. You must print the confirmation page to bring to your interview. You can read the Form DS-160 frequently asked questions online.

You may need a photograph to complete your Form DS-160.

2. Interview Scheduling

An interview must be scheduled at a U.S. consulate or embassy in Mexico.

3. Preparing for the Interview

Mexican citizens must pay a $160 application fee. You may also be required to pay an issuance fee.

The applicant  must present the following documents at the interview:

  • Mexican passport
  • Form DS-160 confirmation page
  • Application fee payment receipt
  • A photograph if not previously provided
  • Letter from prospective employer
  • Documentation to demonstrate you meet the requirements for your profession and position

How Long Can I Stay in the US With TN Status?

TN status can be granted for 3 years. Extensions are available in 3-year increments  as long as you continue to meet the requirements, and your job offer is extended.

However, TN status extensions are not easy due to the requirement to maintain “nonimmigrant intent.”  In practice, immigration officials may limit TN status to fewer than three years, if the intended employment will be accomplished in less time..

It is important that the prospective employment letter request a full three-year period if necessary or desired.

How Can I Extend My TN Status?

TN status must be extended before expiration to remain valid. The guidelines provided below are the steps you must take to extending or reapplying for a TN visa.

Extending My TN Status Inside the United States

Your employer can file Form I-129 with USCIS to obtain an extension of your TN status.

Employers may not apply for an extension until 6 months before your current TN status expires.

The processing time for an extension can take between 2 and 7 months. If you want a faster processing time, you may pay USCIS an additional fee for premium processing, to obtain  a decision in as few as 15 calendar days.

Extending My TN Status Outside the United States

Rather than wait for USCIS to process an extension, it is sometimes possible for an applicant to obtain an additional three years under TN status by simply traveling to a port-of-entry, where CBP can issue another period of stay

There are risks involved with this approach. One of the most common risks is that if you leave the United States and are denied TN status at a port-of-entry, you may not be permitted to reenter the United States.

Next Steps

If you are planning to obtain TN status, you need the help of an expert who can guide you through the process and strengthen your application. Reeves Immigration Law Group can provide you with the information and expertise you need.

We have four offices available to meet your TN status needs. If you are unable to visit one of our locations, you may consult with us by phone or via video conference. Give us a call today to explore your options.

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