THE NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT (NAFTA) CREATED SPECIAL VISA CATEGORY FOR QUALIFIED CANADIAN AND MEXICAN CITIZENS TO SEEK TEMPORARILY ENGAGE IN BUSINESS ACTIVITIES AT A PROFESSIONAL LEVEL.
In August 1992, the United States, Canada, and Mexico entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which provides for expedited admission of business persons from each country. Under NAFTA, a designated group of H-1B level professionals are admissible under NAFTA in the TN nonimmigrant category. Professionals entering in the TN category can work for a U.S. entity in several situations:
- Professionals who are employees of U.S. companies can work for those companies on a temporary basis and be paid by them in an identical manner to H-1B professionals
- Professionals who are self-employed can work for U.S. companies if a service contract exists between the self-employed professional and the U.S. companies providing for the rendering of professional services
- Professionals who are employees of Canadian or Mexican companies can work for U.S. companies if a contract exists between the Canadian or Mexican employer and the U.S. companies providing for the rendering of professional services (employees of Mexican companies are not eligible for TN status)
Key Distinctions from H-1B Visa:
- Canadian professionals may enter the United States under NAFTA without the requirement of a USCIS petition approval required in the H-1B category
- Can enter the United States simply by providing documentation at the port of entry that they are engaged in one of the designated professions, and that they possess the requisite educational credentials to qualify in the listed profession.
- Mexican nationals seeking TN status must apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate.
- Does not prevent a self-employed professional who otherwise qualifies for TN classification from entering the United States to engage in substantial, prearranged activity for a U.S.-based enterprise owned by a person or entity other than the TN alien. Eligible if, prior to the time TN classification is sought, the professional has entered into a formal arrangement with a U.S. entity to render professional services. The formal arrangement may be: (1) through an employee-employer relationship with a U.S. entity, (2) through a signed contract between a self-employed professional and a U.S. entity, or (3) through a signed contract between the professional’s foreign employer and a U.S. entity.
To qualify for TN status, the intended U.S. activity must be in a profession listed in the NAFTA Treaty, and the alien must possess the necessary credentials to be considered a professional in one Treaty’s listed fields. Please contact us now to determine if your profession is one of those listed.
Period of Stay/Extension of Stay
|Initial Period of Stay|
|Up to 3 years|
If you wish to remain in the United States beyond your initial period of stay without first departing from the United States, you must seek an extension of stay. If you are in the United States, your employer may file a petition on your behalf. Alternatively, you may depart from the United States before the date your status expires, and then, once abroad, you may apply at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station using the same application and documentation procedures required at the time of your initial application for admission as a TN nonimmigrant.
Dependents of TN Nonimmigrants
Any accompanying or “following to join” spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. Spouses and children are:
- Not permitted to work while in the United States, but they are permitted to study.
- Granted TD status for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN nonimmigrant.