NAFTA Professional Workers Program (US, Canada and Mexico)

If you are looking to work in Canada as a citizen of the United States or Mexican, you should check out the TN visa also referred to as TN status (Trade NAFTA).

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Citizens of the U.S. or Mexico are given preferential treatment as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Even as we use the term “Visa” here, Mexicans and United States citizens who wish to enter Canada in order to work for a Canadian enterprise do not actually get a visa issued to them; rather, they are admitted on a TN status as they are approved.

There is a wide range of occupations/professions eligible for NAFTA professional designation and we have given a list here, kindly check to see if your occupation fits in.

What is TN Visa – NAFTA Definition

TN visa also referred to as TN status (Trade NAFTA) is a unique non-immigrant classification in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, that allows them to work in any of their countries for three years.

The TN status was established as a result of provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement as a work permit or work visa for a number of professionals from any of the three NAFTA member states in any of the member states.

Benefits of the TN Visa

  • Citizens of Canadian can obtain a NAFTA visa at the border. There’s no approval process by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or a Labor Certification from the Department of Labor.
  • Once a Canadian and Mexican professional has obtained a TN Visa status, they can request extensions based upon their qualifying professional activity.
  • If you have a TN Visa, you can request a TD dependent visa status for your spouse and children who are under the age of 21. This means, your dependents can attend school, as far as they are qualified under the TD visa classification criteria.
  • Your movement in and out of the U.S. is free as far as you have a valid TN status

Requirements for TN Visa

There are only a few requirements that wouldn’t cause you to pull a hair. In order to qualify for the TN Visa (NAFTA), you may have  to meet the following TN Visa requirements:

  • You should be a U.S., Canadian, or Mexican citizen
  • The job you desire must be listed in the NAFTA job list in NAFTA (Appendix 1603.D)
  • You should be qualified to work by having the experience, and/or required licenses, degrees to perform the job offered
  • A job has been offered to you by any U.S., Canadian, or Mexican employer
  • You do not intend to stay permanently in the country as the visa is temporary.

TN Visa Categories

There are basically two types of TN visas and they include the TN-1 Visa and the TN-2 Visa.

While the three states have their ranking of the Visa, Canada refers to the visas issued to the U.S. citizens as a TN-1 Visa, and that issued to the Mexicans as TN-2 Visa.

On the other hand, the U.S. refers to the permit issued to the Canadian citizen as TN-1 and that issued to the Mexican citizen as TN-2.

Important Note: A Canadian citizen has free access to the USA and does not need a visa for entry, hence, Canadian citizens are technically applying for a TN Status and not a Visa. However, the term TN Visa or TN1 Visa may be used in this post for the purpose of simplicity.

TN Visa Checklist

It is important for you to go along with all the required documents when seeing the immigration officer. Reason being that you wouldn’t want to be sent back to get some more documents, hence missing your flight.

We have listed out the required documents you need to go with to see the immigration officer below:

  • Citizenship proof
  • Your Employment Letter (or TN Visa Application Letter)
  • Proof that you meet the requirements for the occupation you are applying for under NAFTA
  • Fee for filing

You may need some extra documents depending on your educational qualification, job experience, and occupation.

How To Apply For Your TN Visa Application

You are right if you think that the process for different countries varies from one to another.

There are slight modifications in the application process for different citizenships and countries, and here we will be splitting the application process like so.

  • Canada citizens applying by mail to USCIS office
  • Canada citizens applying at a U.S. border crossing
  • Mexican citizens applying at a U.S. border crossing
  • American citizens applying to work in Canada

Canada Citizens Applying by mail to USCIS Office

Application by mail got easier since the approval of new applications by mail from outside the U.S. in October 2012 as you could only apply by mail if you already had an existing TN Visa, resided in the US, and was renewing their TN Visa for the same position.

This includes the following: filing a Form I-129 form, the Free Trade Supplement, and the above-mentioned supporting documents.

Get the I-129 address details. Mail your application to the Vermont Service Center. 

No document should be left out, you are to submit all documents as though you were applying at the Port of Entry (POE).

If you think this is an easier way, or an option if you wish to dodge the immigration officer’s interview, then you are wrong as you will be interviewed at the border and can still deny you entry even after your application had been approved. Always be prepared for an Immigration Officer’s interview.

You also get to pay a filing fee in US dollars for Form I-129 which must be paid alongside your mailed application. See application details on the USCIS Form I-129 web page.

Canada Citizens Applying At A U.S. Border Crossing

Canadian citizens can apply for TN Visa at different border points including land or sea.

Land Border Crossing 

There are several border crossings and not all of them require processing TN Visa, so it is advisable to plan ahead of time if you can apply for the TN Visa.

Tips

If a Canadian works in California, he can easily drive down to the San Diego / Tijuana border crossing (officially the San Ysidro crossing) and go ahead to renew their TN Visa without having to return to Canada.

Pre-clearance Center (or Pre-flight station) 

You can find a U.S. Pre-clearance centre at a Canadian international airport. Flying out of a major city in Canada may require you to go through the U.S. Customs and Immigration after the ticketing desk and just before departing to your gate. 

Your TN Visa Application will be submitted to the US Immigration Officer on duty, and this area is referred to as “US soil.”

Tips

Do not book the first flight in the morning as the Pre-clearance centre may not be open so early, it is recommended for you to book for a flight later in the day.

Be punctual. Arrive as early as 3 to 4 hours to your departing time in order to provide enough time for the Officer to review your application. 

U.S. International Airport 

In some cases, the airport you depart from may not have a pre-clearance centre, hence, you will do your customs and immigration once you arrive at a U.S. International Airport. Here you will submit your application and present your TN request.

Tips

We do not recommend this process for your first application, as if you are been denied a TN Visa, you won’t be allowed to enter the U.S. hence, leaving you with no option other than purchasing a flight ticket back to your country.

Mexican Citizen Applying to Work in the US

There are a lot of similarities between a Mexican citizen and a Canadian citizen applying for the TN Visa, except for the fact that Mexicans may need some more additional steps prior to leaving Mexico, which includes:

  • File your application at a US Embassy or Consulate in Mexico
  • Complete the DS-160 application
  • Schedule an appointment for an interviewed
  • Pay the interview fee and be interviewed

Some U.S. employers are not willing to wait for this process in a situation where they wish to start working immediately since this process takes some time. Therefore, it should be planned very well.

What to do – Let your employer know that there might be some delay and you will try your best to obtain the TN Visa as quickly as possible. Also, try to keep them updated on your progress, this helps to keep their minds on you and know that you are moving forward.

Some things to know before applying for your first TN Visa in Mexico:

  • You will have to pay a fee for obtaining this visa from the US Consulate.
  • You will be given an appointment time to submit your TN Visa application, hence, you will wait for the available appointment time.
  • You will need to give additional time after your interview as the Consulate adjudicates (reviews and approves) your application.
  • Try to stay close to a U.S. Consulate. If you do not live near one, travel a day ahead of time in order to deal with any delays the following day.

U.S. Citizen Applying to Work in Canada

Applying to work in Canada from the U.S. or Mexico is different from every other country. This is a result of the NAFTA law. 

Canadian employers are required to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) for foreign workers and foreign workers need a work permit to work in Canada. This is not the case with Mexican citizens and U.S citizens as NAFTA automatically waives this away for them and allows them to quickly apply for a TN Visa even at the Point of Entry.

Remember, U.S. and Mexican citizens looking forward to working in Canada must complete the essential TN Visa Application documents alongside any additional supporting document

See the list of documents required for TN Visa here.

TN Visa Cost

Below we have given a list of every fee you will need to pay in this process.

  • Filing Fee – Regular $460
  • Filing Fee – Premium $1,900
  • Visa Pro Processing Time is 4 business days

If you wish to start this process and need someone to talk to, do well to reach out to us.

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