What is a TN-visa?
A TN visa is a type of non-immigrant work visa that allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in the United States temporarily.
It was created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and is now governed by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The TN visa is designed to facilitate the movement of professionals across the borders of these North American countries.
It provides qualified individuals with the opportunity to work in the United States in certain designated professional occupations without the need for a traditional H-1B visa, which is commonly used for skilled workers from other countries.
To be eligible for a TN visa, the applicant must meet certain criteria, including:
- Citizenship: The applicant must be a citizen of either Canada or Mexico.
- Profession: The individual must be seeking employment in a profession that is listed in the USMCA agreement. The list includes various professional categories such as engineers, scientists, teachers, accountants, and healthcare professionals, among others.
- Qualifications: The applicant must possess the necessary qualifications and educational background required for the specific profession.
- Job Offer: The applicant must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in the designated profession.
- Temporary Intent: The TN visa is a non-immigrant visa, so the applicant must have the intent to work in the U.S. temporarily and return to their home country once their authorized period of stay expires.
The TN visa application process generally involves presenting the required documentation, including proof of qualifications, a job offer letter, and evidence of the applicant’s eligibility for the specific profession.
The TN status is not employer specific which means that the employee may change employers or even work for more than one employer at the same time.
While self-employment is not permitted, a TN visa applicant who has a controlling interest in a company is not precluded from obtaining TN status.
Unlike the H-1B visa, which has a cap on the number of visas issued annually and a more complex application process, the TN visa process is generally simpler and quicker for eligible Canadian and Mexican professionals.
TN visa requirements
The TN visa is a type of non-immigrant work visa available to Canadian and Mexican citizens who are seeking employment in certain professional occupations in the United States.
To qualify for a TN visa, applicants must meet specific requirements and follow the application process.
The general requirements for obtaining a TN visa include the following:
- Citizenship: You must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico to be eligible for a TN visa.
- Qualifying Profession: Your profession must be included in the list of professions specified in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced NAFTA. These professions cover a wide range of fields, including but not limited to engineering, science, teaching, research, medicine, law, accounting, and more. Each profession has specific criteria and requirements.
- Educational Qualifications: You must possess the necessary educational credentials for the profession you’re applying for. This typically means having at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent in a related field. Some professions may require higher levels of education or specific licenses.
- Job Offer: You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer that is related to your profession. The job offer should include details about the position, duties, duration, and compensation.
- Temporary Intent: You must demonstrate that you intend to work in the United States temporarily and that you plan to return to your home country once your authorized period of stay is over.
- Application Process: The process for obtaining a TN visa involves submitting an application to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a designated U.S. port of entry or, in some cases, applying through a U.S. consulate or embassy. You will need to provide supporting documentation, which typically includes:
- Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship (passport or birth certificate).
- Documentation of your qualifications, such as degrees, diplomas, transcripts, and licenses.
- A job offer letter from a U.S. employer, including details about the position, your duties, and the duration of your employment.
- Any additional documentation relevant to your profession, such as certificates or references.
- I-94 Admission Record: Upon approval, you will be issued an I-94 admission record, which specifies your authorized period of stay in the U.S. Make sure to adhere to the expiration date and not overstay your visa.
How to apply for a TN visa?
The application process is different for Canadian and Mexican nationals. Canadian nationals can apply for TN status at the port of entry. Mexican nationals must apply for a TN visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Mexican nationals are also required to obtain a B-1/B-2 visa prior to applying for TN status.
To apply for a TN visa, follow these steps:
- Determine Eligibility: Ensure that you meet the eligibility criteria for the TN visa. This includes being a Canadian or Mexican citizen, having a qualifying profession, possessing the required educational qualifications, and having a valid job offer from a U.S. employer.
- Choose Port of Entry or U.S. Consulate: Decide whether you will apply for the TN visa at a U.S. port of entry or at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. Applying at a port of entry might be quicker, but applying at a consulate allows for more preparation time.
- Prepare Documentation: Gather the necessary documents, which typically include:
- Proof of citizenship (passport, birth certificate, etc.).
- Educational qualifications (degrees, transcripts, licenses, etc.).
- Job offer letter from a U.S. employer.
- Supporting documentation for your profession (certificates, references, etc.).
- Form DS-160 confirmation page (if applying at a consulate).
- Pay Visa Application Fee: Pay the required non-refundable visa application fee of $185.00. The most current fee amount can be found on the U.S. Department of State’s website.
- Complete Form DS-160: If applying at a U.S. consulate, complete Form DS-160, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You will receive a confirmation page with a barcode that you’ll need for your visa interview.
- Schedule Visa Interview: Schedule a visa interview appointment at the U.S. consulate or embassy. Wait times for appointments can vary, so plan ahead. You can check the approximate waiting times for visa appointments and processing times on the official U.S. Department of State webpage.
- Prepare for Visa Interview: Prior to the interview, thoroughly review all your documentation, including your job offer letter and educational qualifications. Be prepared to discuss your qualifications, job offer, and intention to work in the U.S. temporarily.
- Attend Visa Interview: Attend the scheduled visa interview. Answer all questions honestly and clearly. The consular officer will make a determination based on your documentation and responses.
- Visa Approval and Processing: If your TN visa application is approved, you will receive a visa stamp in your passport. This indicates the visa classification and the period of validity.
- Enter the U.S.: Once you have the visa stamp, you can enter the U.S. during the visa’s validity period. At the port of entry, you will go through immigration inspection.
- Receive I-94 Admission Record: If admitted, you will be issued an I-94 admission record that specifies the duration of your authorized stay in the U.S. Make sure to comply with the terms of your visa and leave the U.S. before your authorized period of stay expires.
TN visa fees
The TN visa fees for Canadian and Mexican citizens can include the following:
- Visa Application Fee (MRV Fee): This is a non-refundable fee that must be paid when submitting your visa application. The fee amount may vary depending on the type of visa you are applying for and the U.S. consulate or embassy where you are applying. The current fee for a TN visa is $185 USD.
Additionally, it’s important to be aware that there might be other costs associated with the TN visa process, such as foreign documents translation or cost of obtaining required documentation.
TN visa checklist of documents
While the specific documentation required for a TN visa application can vary based on your profession, situation, and the U.S. port of entry or consulate you’re applying through, here’s a general checklist of documents you may need:
Proof of Citizenship and Identity:
- Passport (valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay).
- Birth certificate or other acceptable proof of citizenship.
- Degrees, diplomas, certificates, and transcripts related to your profession.
- Any professional licenses or qualifications required for your occupation.
Job Offer Documentation:
- Detailed job offer letter from a U.S. employer that includes your job title, duties, salary, and other relevant details.
- Proof of the employer’s credentials, such as business registration, tax documents, etc.
Form DS-160 Confirmation Page:
- If applying at a U.S. consulate, the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application confirmation page (Form DS-160).
Visa Application Fee Receipt:
- Proof of payment for the non-refundable visa application fee of $185.00 (MRV fee).
Supporting Documentation for Your Profession:
- Any documents that support your expertise and qualifications in your profession, such as certificates, references, awards, publications, etc.
Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV):
- A detailed resume or CV outlining your education, work experience, and professional achievements.
- Passport-sized photographs that meet the U.S. visa photo requirements.
Proof of Temporary Intent:
- Documentation that demonstrates your intent to return to your home country after your authorized period of stay in the U.S., such as property ownership, family ties, etc.
- Any other documents required by the U.S. port of entry or consulate where you are applying.
How long does it take to obtain a TN visa?
The processing time for obtaining a TN visa can vary based on several factors, including the workload of the U.S. consulate or embassy you’re applying to, the completeness of your application, and any additional administrative processing that may be required. Here’s a general overview of the timeline for obtaining a TN visa:
- Application Preparation: The time it takes to gather all the required documents and prepare your application can vary based on your individual circumstances. This step may take several weeks to ensure you have all necessary documentation in order.
- Visa Appointment Scheduling: The availability of visa interview appointments can vary depending on the U.S. consulate or embassy where you plan to apply. In some cases, you might need to wait for a few weeks to a couple of months to secure an appointment. You can check the approximate waiting times for visa appointments and processing times on the official U.S. Department of State webpage.
- Visa Interview: The visa interview itself is usually a brief process, often taking around 15-30 minutes. However, you might need to factor in waiting times and any additional administrative processing that the consular officer might require.
- Administrative Processing: In some cases, the consular officer might need to conduct additional administrative processing before making a decision on your visa application. This can be due to various factors, such as security checks or verification of information. Administrative processing can add additional weeks to the processing time.
- Visa Issuance: If your visa application is approved, the U.S. consulate or embassy will issue a visa stamp in your passport. This process usually takes a few business days.
- Travel to the U.S.: Once you have your visa, you can travel to the U.S. during the visa’s validity period. At the U.S. port of entry, you’ll go through immigration inspection, which typically doesn’t take too long.
Additionally, if you’re applying during peak travel seasons, it’s a good idea to plan well in advance to account for potential delays.
How long can I stay in the US on a TN visa?
The length of stay on a TN visa in the United States can vary based on several factors, including your specific profession and the terms of your employment agreement. Here are some general guidelines:
- Initial Period of Stay: TN visa holders are typically admitted to the U.S. for an initial period of up to three years. However, the exact duration can depend on the specific terms of your employment agreement and the discretion of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry.
- Extensions: You may be eligible to extend your TN visa status in increments of up to three years. There is no maximum limit on the number of extensions you can apply for, as long as you continue to meet the requirements for the TN visa category.
- Dependents: If you have dependents (spouse and/or children) accompanying you to the U.S., they can enter on TD (dependent) visas. TD visa holders are generally allowed to stay as long as the primary TN visa holder maintains valid TN status.
It’s important to note that while there is no specific limit on the total time you can spend in the U.S. on TN status, the TN visa is intended for temporary employment.
Therefore, you should demonstrate your intent to maintain a temporary work status and not establish permanent residence in the U.S.
When entering the U.S., the CBP officer at the port of entry will stamp your passport with an “Admitted Until” date on the Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record.
This date represents the expiration of your authorized stay in the U.S. It’s crucial to depart the U.S. before your Form I-94 expiration date to maintain your lawful status.
If you plan to stay longer than your authorized period, you will need to apply for an extension of stay before your current TN status expires.
This typically involves submitting a new TN visa application with updated documentation and obtaining an extension of your Form I-94.
How can I change status from TN to a green card?
Changing your status from a TN visa holder to a U.S. green card (permanent residency) involves a multi-step process.
Here’s a general overview of the steps you might take. Consult official U.S. government sources or an immigration attorney for the most current and accurate information.
- Determine Eligibility for Green Card Categories: There are several ways to apply for a green card, such as family-sponsored, employment-based, among others. Choose a category that aligns with your qualifications and circumstances.
- Labor Certification and I-140 Petition: For employment-based green cards, you’ll typically need an employer to sponsor you. They might need to complete a Labor Certification (PERM) process and file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140) on your behalf.
- Priority Date: Once your I-140 petition is approved, the date it was filed becomes your “priority date.” This date is important for tracking your progress in the green card queue, especially if your category has visa number limits.
- Wait for Visa Number Availability: Depending on your green card category and your home country, there might be a waiting period for visa numbers to become available. Some categories have annual limits on the number of green cards issued.
- Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) or Consular Processing: Depending on your circumstances, you can either apply for Adjustment of Status (Form I-485) if you’re already in the U.S., or go through consular processing if you’re outside the U.S. This step is where you officially apply for your green card.
- Apply for Employment Authorization and Advance Parole: If you’re adjusting status while in the U.S., you might also apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole (AP) document, which allow you to work and travel while your green card application is pending.
- Biometrics Appointment and Interview: You’ll likely need to attend a biometrics appointment where your fingerprints and photo will be taken. If required, you’ll also attend an interview as part of the green card application process.
- I-485 Approval: If your Form I-485 is approved, you’ll receive your green card, which grants you permanent residency in the U.S.
- Maintain Status and Legal Counsel: Throughout the process, it’s essential to maintain your lawful status and adhere to all requirements.
Please note that the process can be different for each individual and based on the green card category you’re applying under.
Additionally, there are waiting times, requirements, and potential complexities that can vary.
Always refer to official U.S. government sources or consult an immigration attorney to ensure that you have the most accurate and up-to-date information for your specific situation.