The TN visa originated from the North American Free Trade Agreement (“NAFTA”). The TN visa category is available to Canadian and Mexican nationals in certain designated professional occupations with job offers from U.S. employers. The job offer must be for a position in an occupation that falls under Schedule 2 of NAFTA and the TN candidate must possess the necessary qualifications for the position. Most, but not all, TN occupations require a bachelor’s degree or higher degree. Some TN occupations also require professional licensure. Some examples of TN occupations are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.
If the TN candidate is in the U.S., the employer can generally file a petition with USCIS. The USCIS filing fee is $325. Premium processing service is available for TN petitions. This requires an additional $1,225 filing fee and guarantees a 15 calendar day processing of the petition. Within 15 calendar days, USCIS will issue an approval notice, or if appropriate, a Request for Evidence. A request for premium processing service can be made either at the time of the initial filing or after the petition has been filed.
If the TN candidate is outside of the US, a petition is not required. Canadian citizens can apply for TN status in person at Class A U.S. ports of entry. They are admitted to the U.S. without a visa. Mexican citizens are required to obtain a TN visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, which usually requires them to attend a visa interview.
In addition to the significant savings in filing fees, there are several other advantages with the TN category over the H-1B and L-1 categories. Unlike H-1B visas, TN visas are not subject to an annual cap. Also, a TN petition or application may be approved for a period of up to 3 years and may be extended an unlimited number of times. The downfall is that unlike H-1B and L-1 visas, the TN visa is considered a “nonimmigrant visa”, and therefore, TN employees must maintain the intent to remain in the U.S. temporarily. A TN petition or application may be denied if the TN candidate is unable to demonstrate that he or she possesses nonimmigrant intent. Prolonged periods of employment in the U.S. may cause an adjudicator to suspect that a TN employee has the intent to immigrate to the U.S., and therefore, has not maintained nonimmigrant intent.
The spouses and children of TN employees are eligible for a dependent visa, the TD visa. To obtain TD status, the dependent must either file an application with USCIS or apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate overseas. TD visa holders are not permitted to work, but they may attend school.