US TN Visas for Canadian & Mexican Citizens
If you are either a Canadian or Mexican citizen, you may be eligible for the TN visa to allow you to work in the United States in a professional capacity.
The following guide for visa applicants looks at the TN visa rules and requirements. We also look at how to apply for a TN visa, the cost and time involved, as well as the rules for dependents and extensions.
What is the TN visa?
The TN visa is a nonimmigrant visa intended for USMCA professional workers, where USMCA stands for the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. The USMCA came into force on July 1 2020, substituting the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) introduced back in 1994 between the United States (US), Canada and Mexico.
Both the NAFTA and USMCA agreements were designed to eliminate barriers to trade and investment. As such, TN (Trade NAFTA) visas are specifically for citizens of Canada and Mexico wanting to work in the US, where TN nonimmigrant classification allows eligible Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in prearranged business activities at a professional level with US or US-based employers.
Among the types of Canadian or Mexican professionals eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, lawyers, engineers, pharmacists, scientists and teachers.
What are the TN visa rules?
Under the TN visa rules, as a qualifying Canadian or Mexican professional, you can come to the United States to engage in any USMCA-accepted profession. Your spouse or any child under 21 can also accompany or follow to join you, where they will typically be granted a TD (Trade Dependent) visa to expire at the same time as your own. However, they will not be permitted to work while in the US, although they will be permitted to undertake study.
TN visa requirements?
To be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, in addition to being either a Canadian or Mexican citizen — where permanent residents of Canada and Mexico are not eligible for TN visas — there are various eligibility requirements that you must meet, including that:
- your particular profession must be USMCA approved
- you must meet all educational and experience requirements for that profession
- you must have either a full-time or part-time job offer from a US-based employer, where self-employment does not qualify for TN classification
- the available position in the US must require an USMCA professional
- you must demonstrate intent to return to your home country on expiry of your TN visa.
When it comes to the qualifications required to work as an USMCA professional, most professions requires a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree as an entry-level requirement. Additionally, where a degree is required, experience cannot be substituted for that degree although, for some professions, an alternative to a baccalaureate degree is listed. In some cases, however, experience is also required in addition to the applicant’s degree.
A complete list of accepted professions with the minimum educational requirements and alternative credentials for each is set out under Appendix 2 of USMCA, Chapter 16.
How to apply for a TN visa
When it comes to applying for a TN visa, the process can vary depending on whether you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen. Below we set out the procedural rules relating to both:
Applying as a Canadian citizen
Unlike Mexican citizens, Canadian citizens are usually able to enter the United States as an USMCA professional without a visa. This essentially means that, as a citizen of Canada, you will not be required to apply for a TN visa at a US embassy or consulate. You may instead seek admission on arrival in the US at certain CBP-designated ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. However, you will be required to produce certain documentation to a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official and must be prepared to respond to questions about your eligibility as a TN nonimmigrant.
In these circumstances, you must provide the following documentation to a CBP officer:
- proof of Canadian citizenship
- a letter from your prospective employer detailing the professional capacity in which you will be working in the US, the purpose of your employment, your proposed length of stay, and your educational and professional qualifications
- your credentials evaluation, if applicable to your profession.
Alternatively, a prospective TN employer may petition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) on your behalf by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker. If USCIS approves the petition, you can then apply for admission at a US port of entry by providing proof of your Canadian citizenship and the Form I-129 approval notice to a CBP officer. When seeking admission, however, it is advisable to also have in your possession a copy of Form I-129 and all supporting documentation submitted to USCIS.
Applying as a Mexican citizen
In contrast to Canadian citizens, as a Mexican citizen, you will first need to apply for a TN visa to request admission to the United States as an USMCA professional. This means that you will need to apply for a visa at a US embassy or consulate in Mexico before you travel.
To apply for a TN visa, you will need to complete Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application, and pay the relevant fee. You will also need to schedule an in-person interview.
Once you have been approved for a TN visa, you can apply for admission at certain CBP-designated US ports of entry or a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. You will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant, provided a CBP officer finds you eligible.
TN visa supporting documents
If you are an USMCA professional required to apply for a TN visa in advance, you will need to bring the following documentation with you to interview:
- your passport, valid for a minimum of 6 months beyond your period of stay in the US
- the confirmation page for your nonimmigrant visa application, Form DS-160
- the application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview
- a photo in the appropriate format, but only if you are a Mexican citizen applying outside of Mexico and your photo upload has failed while completing the online application
- a contract or letter of employment to show that you have a US job offer in one of the professional occupations listed in Appendix 2 of USMCA, Chapter 16
- documentation proving that you meet the minimum educational and experience requirements as set out in Appendix 2 of USMCA, Chapter 16.
Evidence of your education could include degrees, diplomas, certificates, professional licenses and membership in professional organisations, whilst evidence of your experience could include letters from former employers or business records if you were self-employed.
In the context of the letter from your prospective US employer, in addition to confirming your upcoming employment, this should also include the following details:
- your purpose of entry and anticipated length of stay in the US
- a detailed description of your proposed job responsibilities
- your educational qualifications or other appropriate professional credentials
- proof of compliance with any Department of Homeland Security regulations or state laws
- the arrangements for your pay.
How much does a TN visa cost?
The costs associated with a TN visa can vary, depending on whether you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, as well as how you choose to apply.
If you are a Canadian applying at the US border, you will be charged a $50 application fee and a $6 fee for your I-94 arrival/departure card. However, if your employer first files a petition on your behalf to USCIS, the fee will be $460.
As a Mexican citizen, the cost of filing online Form DS-160 is $160.
How long does it take to get a TN visa?
The length of time it will take to obtain a TN visa, where required, will usually depend on the wait times to obtain an interview at the relevant US embassy or consulate. However, when a US employer is petitioning for TN classification on your behalf, a premium processing service is available. Employers can pay the $2,500 premium processing fee when available, and USCIS will typically adjudicate the TN petition within 15 calendar days.
TD visa dependents
As with the principal TN nonimmigrant, the way in which any dependents apply for a TD visa will depend on whether they are Canadian or Mexican citizens, where the rules are:
Canadian citizens: no visa will be required, but they will still need to seek admission at a CBP-designated US port of entry or a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. They will also need to provide proof of Canadian citizenship; proof of their relationship with you, such as a marriage or birth certificate; and, if they are seeking to join you in the US at a later date, photocopies of your admission documents and proof that you are maintaining your USMCA professional status by way of a valid Form I-94.
Mexican citizens: a visa will be required, where any dependent must first apply for a TD visa at a US embassy or consulate. They will then need to apply for admission at a CBP-designated US port of entry or a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. If they are seeking to join you in the US, they will again need to provide proof that you are maintaining your TN visa status by way of a valid Form I-94.
If your spouse or dependent child is neither a citizen of Canada or Mexico, you should check with the US Department of State to determine whether a TD visa is required and, if so, how to apply. Even if a visa is required, your spouse and/or child(ren) will still need to seek admission on arrival, where they will need to provide proof of a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship, plus proof that you are maintaining your TN status.
Importantly, if you are a Canadian citizen residing in a third country with a non-Canadian spouse and/or child(ren), and are planning to enter the US as an USMCA professional with your immediate family, you will need a TN visa for any dependent to apply for a TD visa.
Extending a TN visa
If you are eligible for a TN visa, you will be allowed to come to the United States to work in your qualifying profession for an initial period of up to 3 years. If you want to remain in the US beyond this period of stay without first departing you must seek an extension, although there is no limit as to how many times a visa-holder can extend their TN status.
However, when seeking to renew your status as a TN nonimmigrant, you may be asked to provide evidence of permanent ties to your home country and your intent to leave the US at the end of your employment. Further, because the TN visa is employment-based, your lawful status in the US will come to an end when your paid employment ends.
If you are in the US, your employer may file Form I-129 on your behalf to extend your stay. Alternatively, you can leave the US before the date your status expires and re-apply at a US port of entry using the same procedure required at the time of your initial application for admission as a TN nonimmigrant. It is worth noting, however, that for Mexican citizens, the option of renewing outside the US will mean re-applying at a US embassy or consulate.
If you apply for an extension of stay in the US at the end of your period of admission as a TN nonimmigrant, any TD family member may also apply to extend their status without leaving the country. However, if a Mexican TD dependent wishes to travel overseas following your approval of any such extension of stay and expiration of their TD visa, they will then be required to apply for a new TD visa at a US embassy or consulate before being allowed to return to the United States in lawful TD status.
NNU Immigration are specialist US immigration attorneys. For advice on making a US work visa application, speak to our experts.
TN visa FAQs
What is TN visa?
The TN visa is a nonimmigrant visa specifically designed under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) for Canadian or Mexican professionals to work in the US in an accepted profession for a US-based employer on either a full or part-time basis.
Who qualifies for a TN visa?
To be eligible for a TN nonimmigrant visa, you must be either a Canadian or Mexican professional with a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a US-based employer. The available position in the US must also require an USMCA professional.
Is TN visa better than H1B?
TN visas are for Canadian or Mexican professionals, whereas H1B visas are for any overseas national looking to work in a specialty occupation. Being admitted to the US as a TN nonimmigrant is easier than under the lottery-based H1B system.
How long can you stay on a TN visa?
Under TN nonimmigrant classification, a Canadian or Mexican professional will be admitted to the United States for an initial period of up to 3 years. However, they may be able to extend their stay once they are in the US.
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.