What is a TN Visa?
A TN Visa is a professional Visa, which is essentially an agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico where one can work in either county if they qualify. The TN Visa is governed by the North America Free Trade Agreement also known an NAFTA.
The idea behind this visa is that if one has a professional job designation in their home country, then they can work in each other country for a limited period of time. The limited period of time comes with one caveat which is one must keep their nonimmigrant intent.
The Canadian government drafted an occupations list that can be seen here.
Some occupations include a lawyer, doctor or teacher but they go so far as an interior designer or an animal breeder. Many people are quite surprised when they qualify.
No Dual Intent (Nonimmigrant Visa)
A TN Visa is considered a “nonimmigrant visa” because you essentially do not posses dual intent when you are on this visa. Now many people often ask what does this mean? Dual intent means that although you are working temporarily in the US, you eventually intend to try and live in the US permanently. On a TN Visa, that type of plan is not allowed. For a TN to be granted you need to show the officers that this is a temporary plan and that you do intend to return to your home country. That may mean that you show them that you have a car in your home country, that you have family, a house, a job plan for the future or any other documentation or oral proof to show these points.
If the officers believe that you are just getting this visa in order to move to the US permanently then there is a good chance that it will be denied. Make sure you are clear with them that you do intend to return to your home country.
Requirements for Canadians in the US
Unlike Mexico the US does not require Canadians to apply for a TN Visa at the consulate, instead this Visa can be applied for at any port of entry (by sea or land).
The individual would be required to bring all of the documentation needed and then for example when they are going through customs at the airport tell the customs agent that they are wanting to apply for a TN Visa.
The required documentation is as follows:
One key point to remember is more is always better. If you are not sure if you should bring a document, always bring it, the government officials would rather see more documents then try to make a decision on the documentation that you have.
Proof of Canadian Citizenship – This can be done with a passport. It is also a good idea to bring your Birth Certificate as well and/or any other supporting documentation.
Detailed letter from your employer – For the TN Visa, you will need a detailed letter from your employer. It should explain that you have a solid offer for employment, with a starting and ending date. It should explain your job duties, the type of work you will be doing, how long the work will commence for and lastly what you can add over someone who is a US Citizen. Also it is not required to have to prove this, it helps if the employer can explain why you are such a suitable candidate. For example if someone with a Law Degree wanted to come and work in the US, one could explain that their connections in Canada or Mexico would be very beneficial for the firm. These connections could be something a US citizen does not have and therefore an officer is much more inclined to grant this Visa in order to help the business.
Educational Qualifications – You need to show all of your educational qualifications. It is a good idea to literally bring the actual copy of your degree that you were given. Also bring any certifications, your transcripts, awards you may have gotten well in school and any other supporting documentation. Remember more is always better.
You will also need to fill out an I-129 form, which can be found on here http://www.uscis.gov/i-129, this can be filled out beforehand or at the border crossing for Canadian Citizens.
Lastly it is a good idea to bring your credit card or your checkbook. There are always fees attached to these visas. As of 2015 the standard fee for a TN Visa is around $325 but there can also be other costs associated with the transaction as well.
Requirements for Mexican Citizens in the US
The Process for Mexican Citizens is a little different from Canadians. Mexican Citizens are required to apply at a US Embassy or a US consulate in Mexico.
This application requires filling out an I-160 form, which can be found here https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
You then need to upload your photo online while filling out the application and you need to schedule an interview. Individuals from the ages of 14-79 will be required to have an interview. This cost of this application in 2015 is $160.
Preparing for your interview (Mexican Citizens)
In the time preparing for your interview you will want to get all the required documentation needed. The documentation needed is the same as for Canadian Citizens (see above). A lawyer can attend the interview with you and is always a good idea to have them there. They can prep you for the interview and make sure you have all the proper required documentation. At the interview you will likely have your digital fingerprints taken and at that point the officers will indicate what their decision is that they are going to make.
Initial Period of Stay
The initial period of stay on a TN Visa is up to 3 years. On your employment letter the employer needs to be very specific of the amount of time because that is the only documentation the officer has to go off of. It cannot be open-ended, there needs to be a clear start and end date. Although the maximum is 3 years, these types of visas can vary from 6 months to 3 years.
Renewal of a TN Visa
TN Visas can always be renewed as well, sometimes for a period of 3 years again. One key thing to remember though is if the officers start to believe you have acquired dual intent then it will be very unlikely you will be able to renew. Examples of this could be registering your car in that State you are living in, getting married, having a child, these are things that show your intent to live in the US permanently.
Can my spouse get a TN Visa as well?
Spouses can get a version of a TN Visa, called a TD visa. A TD visa is granted to spouses or children of the TN Visa holder. All that needs to be shown is the documents that indicate a spousal or parent-child relationship and all of the documentation showing the original TN Visa.
One very important detail here is that the TD visa holders cannot work in the US while on the term of the visa. However, they can study and go to a school of their choice while on this visa. The TD visa can be renewed just like the TN visa but it can never get an extension longer than the TN.
It is very important to have a lawyer guide you through this process. This is your life and we want to help you achieve your dreams.