The purpose of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was to create and foster a special economic and trade relationship among the United States, Canada and Mexico. Under the TN classification, eligible Mexican and Canadian professionals can enter the US for a temporary period of time to engage in business activities in a profession listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA. The types of eligible professionals under this category include accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.
The foreign national must fulfill the following criteria:
- 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 – see documentation required below)
- You have the qualifications of the profession
It is important to note that the TN visa is not a dual intent visa, unlike the H-1B category.
Duration of Stay
The maximum duration of stay for this category is 3 years, with extensions of stay allowed in three-year increments. Unlike the H-1B category, there is no total limit on the number of extensions a person can seek under this category.
Documents and Procedures
Canadians can enter the United States under NAFTA without the requirement of a USCIS petition approval, unlike the H-1B category. Canadians need only provide documentation at the port of entry that they are from one of the aforementioned designated professions, and that they have the required documents to prove such a claim, including:
- 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, your educational qualifications
- Credentials evaluation (if applicable)
Mexican nationals, on the other hand, require a visa before entering the United States. They may apply directly to the appropriate U.S. consulate without the need of an employer having to file any documentation with USCIS.
For Canadian and Mexican nationals under this category, the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record will serve as evidence of admission.
Family Members and Dependants – TD Nonimmigrants
Under NAFTA, the spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age of a TN applicant may be eligible for TD status, provided that they prove a bona fide relationship with the primary applicant. Moreover, the family members do not need to be Mexican or Canadian nationals. Although dependants are not eligible for work authorization while in the United States, they are permitted to study.