TN Visas Trade NAFTA Temporary Work


A citizen of a foreign country, who wishes to enter the United States, generally must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The type of visa you must have is defined by immigration law, and relates to the purpose of your travel.


The "TN", or "Trade NAFTA" nonimmigrant visa category was created by the North American Free-Trade Agreement ("NAFTA") in 1994. NAFTA covers citizens, not landed immigrants or permanent residents, of Canada, Mexico, and the United States.


In order to qualify for a TN visa, the position for which a Canadian or Mexican citizen is being sponsored must be one listed under NAFTA, and the Canadian or Mexican citizen must possess the credentials specified under NAFTA as necessary to qualify for the position. For example, a "Systems Analyst" must have one of the following: (1) a baccalaureate degree, (2) a licenciatura degree, or (3) post secondary diploma/certificate plus three years of relevant experience.

For a complete list of TN occupations available and the minimum qualifications for each occupation, please see the "TN Occupation List."


The TN category is similar to H-1B category, except there are fewer limitations. For example:

  • The admission procedure for a TN visa is faster because the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") need not approve a petition prior to the professional's entry into the United States. [1]
  • TN status does not have a six year limit on stays in the United States (like H1B workers). Rather, a TN professional may extend his/her status indefinitely.
  • There is no annual cap on the number of TN professionals that may enter the United States.
  • The prevailing wage rules of the H1B program are not applicable to TN status holders.


A TN visa is usually obtained from a Free Trade Officer at any Class A port of entry, as well as at a number of international airports. Mexican citizens must apply at the U.S. Embassy or consulate nearest the applicant's place of residence. Minimal documentation is required to apply for a TN visa at the border. However, it is important to note that many qualified applicants fail to receive a TN visa because the letter of support and supporting documentation are not properly presented.

TN professionals already in the United States may apply for TN status by filing a TN petition with the USCIS. Petitions can be filed under the standard approach or the "premium processing" approach. Under the premium processing approach, the USCIS will review a TN petition within two weeks of filing. Note that this does not mean that the USCIS will decide a case within two weeks, although most cases are decided within this time frame.


A TN professional may be admitted into the United States for a period of time not exceeding one year; but can be extended indefinitely in yearly increments.


The spouse and unmarried children under 21 of a TN applicant may be admitted as TD non-immigrants. If the spouse and children accompany the TN applicant and apply for a visa at the border, then no separate application or filing fee is required. If, however, the spouse and children enter the United States after the TN has already been admitted, or are filing from within the United States, a separate filing must be made either at the border or with the USCIS to obtain TD status. Family members of the TN applicant are not authorized to work in the United States unless they have an independent basis for employment authorization. However, the family members may attend school.


Certain conditions and activities may make an applicant ineligible for a visa. In some instances, waivers may be available. Examples of these ineligibilities are:

  • Trafficking in Drugs
  • Having HIV/AIDS
  • Overstaying a previous visa
  • Practicing polygamy
  • Advocating the overthrow of the government
  • Submitting fraudulent documents

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