TN Visas for Citizens of Canada & Mexico (NAFTA)

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created certain economic relationships among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The TN visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily come to the U.S. to engage in business activities at a professional level. Canadian and Mexican citizens who wish to enter and work in the U.S. on a TN visa must work in jobs specifically enumerated on the NAFTA list of professionals. There are a variety of professionals on NAFTA’s list, including accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, teachers, and more. Unlike an H-1B employment visa, there is no annual cap for a TN visa.

For a NAFTA professional to work in the U.S., the following requirements must be met:

  • The individual must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • The profession must be on the NAFTA professional job list;
  • The U.S. job must require a NAFTA professional;
  • The Canadian or Mexican citizen must have a pre-arranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer; and
  • The Canadian or Mexican citizen must be qualified for the job in question.

Under a TN visa, individuals may live and work in the United States for up to three years at a time. Once the three-year term is up, you can renew the visa for another three-year period. There is no limit or maximum number of years for TN visa status. A TN is considered a temporary visa, so the Canadian or Mexican citizen must be able to show that he or she intends to leave to return to his or her home country once the visa expires.

As NAFTA professionals, Canadian citizens do not need a visa in the same way that Mexican citizens do. A Canadian citizen can seek the TN NAFTA status at the border by showing certain documents:  a request for TN status admission to the immigration officer, a letter from the prospective employer showing proof of professional employment, proof of qualifications like relevant degrees and diplomas, proof of ability to meet relevant license requirements, and proof of Canadian citizenship.

Mexican citizens are required to get a visa to enter the U.S. as TN non-immigrants. They must have pre-arranged employment arrangements in certain approved professions. Mexican citizens can apply for a TN visa directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico. One aspect of the process involves an interview for most applicants. Once the Mexican citizen’s application for a TN visa is approved, they may seek admission at certain U.S. ports of entry. After inspection by a CBP officer, the Mexican citizen will be allowed into the U.S. as a TN non-immigrant.

Dependents of TN visa holders may come to the U.S. for the duration of the TN. This includes a TN holder’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21. Spouses and children are not allowed to work in the U.S., although they can attend school. They can also obtain a driver’s license and open up a U.S. bank account. If your spouse wants to work, he or she would have to gain his or her own employment authorization through a TN visa or some other work visa category.