A TN visa is a type of work visa that allows a Canadian or Mexican citizen in a professional occupation to come to the U.S. based on a job offer by a U.S. employer. Although the status lasts for no more than three years, the foreign national can renew it in three-year increments indefinitely. USCIS does not impose a cap on TN visas, but an applicant must show that they have a job offer from a U.S. employer, they fall within one of the permitted types of occupations, and they are not inadmissible under immigration laws. A TN visa offers a more efficient way of getting legal status in the U.S. than applying for many other types of work visas. You can bring a spouse or child to the U.S. through a TN visa, although they will not be able to get work authorization in the U.S. (You must provide proof of your relationship with the spouse or child, such as a marriage or birth certificate.)
You do not need to fill out a specific immigration form or obtain advance approval to get a TN visa. Instead, a Canadian or Mexican citizen can go to a border crossing or another port of entry, such as an airport, and ask a Customs and Border Protection officer to review their application. If the CBP officer approves their application, they will obtain their TN status immediately and continue into the U.S. The Canadian or Mexican citizen also must pay a small fee. They will receive an I-94 in paper or electronic form. Checking the information on this form is important to ensure that any errors are corrected promptly.
Documents Required for a TN Visa Application
In addition to your Canadian or Mexican passport, you will need to show a signed job offer letter from the U.S. employer to the CBP officer. This must prove that you will be working in a professional occupation that is covered by the TN visa regulations. The job letter should discuss any prerequisites for the job, as well as the nature of your principal job duties, the length of the job, the salary that you will be paid, and the location where you will be working. You also should provide documentation supporting your professional qualifications. This often consists of college diplomas, professional licenses, or memberships in professional associations. Even if your employer or lawyer compiles your applicant packet on your behalf, you should make sure that you know what it contains so that you can discuss it knowledgeably with the CBP officer.
Some TN visa applicants may apply in advance through the mail, especially if they have been denied previously. If a Canadian or Mexican citizen mails documents to USCIS, they should not send originals. There is no guarantee that the mailed documents will be returned. By contrast, if you are applying in person, you should bring the originals of the documents.
To get an extension of your TN visa without leaving the U.S., you can submit Form I-129 to the USCIS Vermont Service Center, while including documents similar to those used in your initial application. You can also leave before your original TN status expires and get an extension from a U.S. consulate in your home country.
Denial of a TN Visa
If the CBP officer denies your TN visa application, you can go home to collect more documentation to address the problem and then try again. You do not need to try again at the same border crossing or airport, but this may make the process easier. If you cross at the same place, you might have your second application reviewed by the same CBP officer, who will be familiar with your situation. You can find the name of the officer who reviewed your initial application at the bottom of the CBP eligibility checklist form that was returned to you.
Applying for a TN Visa While in the U.S.
If you have legal status in the U.S. and have not overstayed your visa, you can ask your employer to help you adjust your status to a TN visa. This would involve submitting Form I-129 and paying a fee. You would not need to have a direct conversation with a CBP officer in this situation. Handling the process by mail can make it less stressful.