NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement. It creates special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals to work in the United States. Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not able to apply to work as a NAFTA professional.
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The Conditions for Professionals from Mexico and Canada to Work in the United States
- TN applicants must be Citizens of Canada or Mexico;
- TN applicants must apply to work in a profession that is on the NAFTA list;
- TN applicants position must fill an approved position in the U.S. that requires a NAFTA professional;
- Mexican or Canadian applicants must work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a U.S. employer (see documentation required). Self employment is not permitted;
- Professional Canadian or Mexican citizens must have the qualifications required for the position;
Requirements for Canadian Citizens
Canadian citizens usually do not need a visa as a NAFTA Professional, although a visa can be issued to qualified TN visa applicants upon request. However, a Canadian residing in another country with a non-Canadian spouse and children would need a visa to enable the spouse and children to be able to apply for a visa to accompany or join the NAFTA Professional, as a TD visa holder. To apply for visa, please see the requirements under the section Mexican Citizens- Applying for a TN Visa- Required Documentation.
A Canadian citizen without a TN visa can apply at a U.S. port of entry with all of the following:
- Request for admission under TN status to Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. immigration officer;
- Employment Letter - Evidence of professional employment;
- Proof of professional qualifications, such as transcripts of grades, licenses, certificates, degrees, and/or records of previous employment;
- Proof of ability to meet applicable license requirements;
- Proof of Canadian citizenship- Canadian citizens may present a passport, as visas are not required, or they may provide secondary evidence, such as a birth certificate. However, Canadian citizens traveling to the United States from outside the Western Hemisphere are required to present a valid passport at the port-of-entry;
Requirements for Mexican Citizens
Since 2004 the procedures were simplified for Mexicans by removing the requirement for petition approval and for filing of a labor condition application. Mexicans are no longer subject to numerical limitation for these professionals. However, Mexican citizens still require a visa to request admission to the United States.
Mexican Citizens - Applying for a TN Visa - Required Documentation
Mexican citizens may apply at consular sections around the world for a NAFTA professional (TN) visa. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for most visa applicants. Interviews are generally by appointment only. As part of the visa interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan can generally be expected. The waiting time for an interview appointment for most applicants is a few weeks or less, but for some embassy consular sections it can be considerably longer.
Each Mexican applicant for a TN visa must submit these forms and documentation, and submit fees as explained below:
- An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, completed and signed.
- A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States.
- One (1) 2x2 photograph. A photograph is not required if you are applying in Mexico.
- Letter of employment in the United States. The letter must indicate that the position in question in the U.S. which requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity, consistent with the NAFTA Chapter 16, Annex 1603, Appendix 1603.d.1.
Additionally, as nonimmigrants, applicants must demonstrate that:
- That their stay is a temporary period that has a reasonable, finite end that does not equate to permanent residence.
The applicant must present evidence of professional employment to satisfy the Consular Officer of your plans to be employed in prearranged business activities for a U.S. employer(s) or entity (ies) at a professional level. Part-time employment is permitted. Self-employment is not permitted. An employment letter or contract providing a detailed description of the business activities may be provided from the U.S. or foreign employer, and should state the following:
- Activity in which the applicant shall be engaged;
- Purpose of entry;
- Anticipated length of stay;
- Educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status;
- Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws; and
- Arrangements for pay.
- Although not required, proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the United States may be offered along with a job offer letter, or other documentation in support of a TN visa application.
The Required Fees
- Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee - Each applicant for a visitor visa must pay a nonrefundable nonimmigrant visa application processing fee.
- Visa issuance fee - Additionally, if the visa is issued, there will be an additional visa issuance reciprocity fee, if applicable. If there is a fee for issuance for the visa, it is equal as nearly as possible to the fee charged to United States citizens by the applicant's country of nationality.
Additional Documentation or Qualifying Requirements
Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as NAFTA Professional for TN visa, under U.S. law by:
- Education Requirement - The applicant's employer must submit proof that the applicant meets the minimum education requirements or has the alternative credentials set forth in NAFTA agreement, chapter 16 appendix 1603.d.1. Evidence of professional qualifications may be in the form of degrees, certificates, diplomas, professional licenses, or membership in a professional organization. Degrees, diplomas, or certificates received from an educational institution outside the United States, Canada, or Mexico must be accompanied by an evaluation by a reliable credentials evaluation service specializing in evaluating foreign documentation.
- Work Experience Requirement - Documents proving the applicant's experience should be in the form of letters from former employers. If the applicant was self-employed, business records should be submitted proving that self-employment.
Requirements for NAFTA professional do not include licensure. Licensure to practice a given profession in the United States is a post-entry requirement subject to enforcement by the appropriate state or other sub-federal authority.
Spouses and children (unmarried children under the age of 21) who are accompanying or following to join NAFTA Professionals (TN visa holders) may receive a derivative TD visa. Applicants must demonstrate a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship to the principal TN visa holder. Dependents do not have to be citizens of Mexico or Canada. Spouses and children cannot work while in the U.S. They are permitted to study.
Canadian citizen spouses and children do not need visas, but they must have the following documents at the port of entry:
- Proof of Canadian citizenship;
- Proof of relationship to the principal applicant, such as marriage certificate and birth certificate; and
- Photocopies of entry documents of the principal applicant.
If the spouse and children are not Canadian citizens, they must get a TD nonimmigrant visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate. They must contact the U.S. embassy or consulate that serves their area for information on how to make visa applications.
Mexican citizen spouses and children must apply for TD nonimmigrant visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Spouses or children following to join must show a valid I-94, thereby providing proof that the principal TN visa holder is maintaining his/her TN visa status.
Period of Stay and Extensions
The maximum period of initial admission into the U.S is three years. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants extensions of stay in time amounts of one year. There is no limit on the number of years a TN visa holder can stay in the United States. However, the TN visa status is not for permanent residence.
For Canadian or Mexican citizens admitted as a NAFTA Professional may seek an extension of stay, which may be granted up to one year, by:
- If the applicant is in the U.S., employer may file Form I-129 Petition for Non-immigrant Worker with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Nebraska Service Center; or
- Applicant may apply at a port of entry using the same application and documentation procedures above as required for the initial entry;