Canadian and Mexican citizens who plan to move to the U.S. to work on a temporary basis can do so by getting a TN visa. This classification (also known as a “NAFTA professional”) is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement that created special economic and trade relationships among our three countries.
Among those who can apply for admission to the U.S. as “TN nonimmigrants” are scientists, engineers, teachers, pharmacists and attorneys. In addition to working or being qualified to work in one of these or other designated professions and having citizenship status in either Canada or Mexico, an applicant for a TN visa must have a “prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer.” Further, that job must require a NAFTA professional.
Obtaining a TN visa
Canadian citizens can seek a TN visa at a point of entry to the U.S. via U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), including pre-flight inspection stations at airports. You don’t need to go to a U.S. consulate. You will need to provide the necessary documentation to a CBP officer. This includes proof of Canadian citizenship and a letter from your employer with details about your qualifications, your job and your stay in the U.S.
An employer can also apply with USCIS on behalf of a prospective employee and get a Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) for them. The employee still needs to present their proof of citizenship along with their approved I-129 to USCIS before leaving Canada.
A TN visa is good for up to three years in the U.S. If your job requires you to stay longer, your employer can file for an extension. However, if you return to Canada and then need to come back to the U.S. for work, you can typically just reapply for a TN visa as you did initially.
Note that the law and procedures around TN visas for Mexican citizens are not identical to those for Canadians. There are some important differences. We’re simply addressing Canadian citizens here because of the proximity to New York. Whether you have questions about obtaining a TN visa for yourself or an employee or you’re considering transitioning to another type of non-immigrant visa or even getting a green card, it’s wise to seek experienced legal guidance here in the U.S.