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TN NAFTA

Q.  Who is considered a TN NAFTA Professional?

A. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level: https://www.uscis.gov/working-united-states/temporary-workers/tn-nafta-professionals

Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.

Q.  What are the eligibility criteria for TN nonimmigrant status?

A. You may be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, if:

You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;

  • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
  • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment); and
  • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

Unlike Mexican citizens, Canadian citizens are generally eligible for admission as nonimmigrants without a visa. The TN category, a nonimmigrant classification, simply reflects this general exemption from the visa requirement. NAFTA governs which evidence is required to prove whether a Canadian or Mexican citizen is a professional in a qualifying profession.

Q.  What are the regulations for Canadian citizens interested in TN nonimmigrant status?

A. If you are a Canadian citizen, then you are not required to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate.

You may establish eligibility for TN classification at the time you seek admission to the U.S. by presenting required documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. You must provide the following documentation to the CBP officer:

Proof of Canadian citizenship;

  • Letter from your prospective employer detailing items such as the professional capacity in which you will work in the United States, the purpose of your employment, your length of stay, and your educational qualifications; and
  • Credentials evaluation (if applicable), together with any applicable fees.

Please refer to CBP’s website for additional information and requirements for applying for admission to the U.S. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.

Alternatively, a prospective TN employer may choose to file on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is outside the U.S. by submitting Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to USCIS. Premium Processing Service is available.

If USCIS approves Form I-129, you, the prospective worker, may then apply to CBP for admission to the U.S. as a TN nonimmigrant by providing the following documentation to a CBP Officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship; and
  • Approval Notice from USCIS for Form I-129.

In addition, when applying for admission, you should have in your possession a copy of the Form I-129, and all supporting documentation that was submitted to USCIS, to respond to questions about your eligibility. You should also be prepared to pay any applicable inspection fees at the time you seek admission. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.

Q.  What are the regulations for Mexican citizens interested in TN nonimmigrant status?

A. If you are a Mexican citizen, then you are required to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. as a TN nonimmigrant. You should apply for a TN visa directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico. See the U.S. Department of State webpage, Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Worker.

Once you are approved for a TN visa, you may apply for admission at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. Please refer to CBP’s website for additional information and requirements for applying for admission to the U.S. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, then you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.

Q.  What is the initial period of stay permitted for a TN nonimmigrant?

A. Up to 3 years.

Q.  Can I extend my stay in the U.S. as a TN nonimmigrant?

A. If you wish to remain in the U.S. beyond your initial period of stay without first departing from the U.S., you must seek an extension of stay. If you are in the U.S., your employer may file Form I-129 on your behalf.

Alternatively, you may depart from the U.S. before the date your status expires, and then, once abroad, you may apply at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station using the same application and documentation procedures required at the time of your initial application for admission as a TN nonimmigrant.

Q.  Can the dependents of TN nonimmigrants accompany the approved TN nonimmigrant?

A. Any accompanying or “following to join” spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. Spouses and children are:

  • Not permitted to work while in the U.S., but they are permitted to study;
  • Granted TD status for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN nonimmigrant.

If spouse or dependents are Canadian citizens, then no visa is required, but they must show proof of Canadian citizenship, proof of relationships to the TN nonimmigrant (e.g., marriage certificate or birth certificate), photocopies of the TN nonimmigrant’s admission documents, and proof that the TN nonimmigrant is maintaining his or her TN nonimmigrant status. They can apply for admission at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.

If spouse or dependents are Mexican citizens, a TD nonimmigrant visa is required, which is obtained through application at an American embassy or consulate. They must also show proof that the TN nonimmigrant is maintaining his or her TN nonimmigrant status. They can apply for admission at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.

If spouse or dependents are neither citizens of Canada nor Mexico, then they should check with the U.S. Department of State to determine whether a visa is required.

Q.  What do I need to know to extend my stay as a nonimmigrant TN?

A. If a Canadian or Mexican TN nonimmigrant applies for an extension of stay in the U.S. at the end of his or her period of admission or authorization as a TN, any eligible TD family member may also apply to extend their status without the need to travel abroad.

If a Mexican TD dependent wishes to travel abroad following approval of any such extension of stay and expiration of the TD visa, then the family member will be required to apply for a new TD visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate before being permitted to return to the U.S. in TD status.

Q.  Can a U.S. employer file a TN petition without an attorney?

A. Yes.  The immigration regulations do not require a U.S. employer to use the services of an attorney.

Q.  Why should I retain an attorney for obtaining TN nonimmigrant status?

A. An experienced immigration attorney is very familiar with the nuances of the TN process including preparing the employer support letter and complete petition package, responses to requests for evidence, if any, documentation collection, government communication and advocacy. The attorney can successfully overcome possible issues by providing clients with well-reasoned advice based upon education and experience. Please contact our office at evaluation@niwus.com for a free evaluation.

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