Law Offices of Adan G. Vega & Associates, PLLC

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico including non-immigrant visas. The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico as NAFTA professionals to be employed in certain capacities in the United States. However, permanent residents of Canada and Mexico are not able to apply to work as NAFTA professionals in the United States. Professionals of Canada or Mexico may be employed in the U.S. under the following conditions:

  • Applicant is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Profession of the job offer position is on the NAFTA list;
  • Position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;
  • Mexican or Canadian applicant is to work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a U.S. employer (see below for documentation required). Self employment is not permitted;
  • Professional Canadian or Mexican citizen has the qualifications ( diploma, license, and/or experience) of the profession as stated in the treaty.

The requirements for applying for the TN by citizens of Canada and Mexico, shown below, are different.

Citizens of Canada are exempt from the visa requirement and they may apply for the TN status directly at one of 14 designated U.S. ports of entry (POE). 8 CFR 214.6 (d) (2); 22 C.F.R. § 41.2 (a). As Canadian citizens usually do not need a visa as NAFTA Professionals, a visa can be issued by the U.S. consulate 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 from the U.S. consulate 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 a visa, please see the requirements as shown below.

Citizens of Canada may apply for a TN at 3 distinct locations:

  1. At (1 of 10) a U.S. Class A port-of-entry (“POE”);
  2. At (1 of 4) a U.S. pre-clearance / pre-flight station (“PFI”); or
  3. an international U.S. Airport (arrivals only). 8 C.F.R. § 100.4 (a).
  • Request for admission under TN status to Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer;
  • Employment Letter - Evidence of professional employment (See Employment Letter below);
  • 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;
  • Payment of the appropriate fee;
  • These applications are adjudicated on the spot by USCBP officers.
  • If an individual plans to submit his or her TN application at an airport, that person must apply the same day as his/her flight.
  • Depending on the particular rules of the port-of-entry, an individual who applies for a TN at a land POE may travel back into Canada the same day after approval of the TN. Caution should be exercised since each POE has its own rule on this issue.
  • Additionally, how far in advance of the start date an individual may file for a TN is often left open to the discretion of the inspecting CBP officer. It may be prudent to contact the POE in advance to determine any POE specific rules.
  • USCIS announced in October 2012 that Canadian citizens could file a FORM I-129 petition by mail from outside of the U.S. in order to secure an initial TN.
  • In addition to the main components of a TN application, individuals must also file FORM I-129 along with the FORM I-129 Free Trade Supplement.
  • The FORM I-129 form with supporting documents is then filed with USCIS at the vermont service center (as of oct. 3, 2014).
  • For an additional filing fee, an individual can apply for premium processing of the FORM I-129 petition, and receive a decision on the petition within 15 calendar days.
  • Individuals can check the status of their petition at any time at the USCIS website by entering their receipt number where indicated. Applicants can also sign up through the USCIS website to receive email updates on the status of the petition.

Before applying for admission to the U.S. at a designated POE, a citizen of Mexico must first file for a TN visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. 8 CFR 214.6 (d) (1). As of January 1, 2004 the procedures were simplified for Mexicans by removing the requirement for petition approval and for the filing of a labor condition application. However, Mexicans are no longer subject to a numerical limitations for certain professionals wishing to be employed in the U.S. However, Mexican citizens still require a visa to request admission to the United States with the TN.

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, an ink-free, digital 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 the wait time can be considerably longer. Visit the Embassy Consular Section website where you will apply for your visa to find out how to schedule an interview appointment, pay the fees and any other post instructions. Each Mexican applicant for a TN visa must submit thefollowing forms and documentation, and submit fees as explained below:

  • An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160, completed and signed.
  • Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form.
  • 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 (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).
  • One (1) 2x2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Nonimmigrant Photograph Requirements. A photograph is not required if you are applying in Mexico.
  • Letter of employment in the United States (see below)

The employer in the U.S. must provide to the applicant a “Letter of Employment” in the United States. The letter must indicate that the position in question in the U.S. requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity, consistent with the NAFTA Chapter 16, Annex 1603, Appendix 1603.d.1.

The applicant must present evidence of professional employment to satisfy the Consular Officer or USCIS officer or USCBP officer of the 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
  • 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.

Additionally, applicants must demonstrate that they are properly classifiable as a NAFTA Professional for TN visa under U.S. law by presenting the following :

  • 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 the 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 – A document 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.

The requirements for a NAFTA professional to qualify for TN do not include stateside 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 the NAFTA Professional (TN visa holders) may receive a derivative TD visa. Applicants must demonstrate the existence of 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 in order to qualify for the TD visa. Spouses and children cannot work while in the U.S while in the possession of the TD status but are permitted to study.

Mexican citizen spouses and children must apply for TD nonimmigrant visas at a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate.

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 obtain a TD nonimmigrant visa from a U.S. embassy or U.S. consulate. The U.S. embassy or consulate that serves their area of residence will provide the local rules and information on TD visa applications for such spouses and minor children.

Spouses or children following to join must present a valid I-94 of the TN family member, thereby providing proof that the principal TN visa holder is maintaining his/her TN visa status in the U.S.

  • Border Applications - Canadians Only: $56.00 at land port-of-entries; $50.00 at pre-flight inspection offices (as of 10/3/2014).
  • U.S. Embassy / Consulate - Mexicans Only: $160.00 (as of 10/3/2014).
  • I-129 petitions: $325.00 (as of 10/3/2014).
  • I-129 petition premium processing (if needed): $1,225.00 (as of 10/3/2014).

For a complete list of professions with minimum education requirements and alternative credentials, see NAFTA's website. With some exceptions, each profession requires a baccalaureate degree as an entry-level requirement. If a baccalaureate is required, experience cannot be substituted for that degree. In some professions, an alternative criteria to a bachelor's degree is listed. For some professions, experience is required in addition to the degree.

  • No assurances regarding the issuance of visas can be given in advance. Therefore, final travel plans or the purchase of nonrefundable tickets should not be made until a visa has been issued.
  • Unless previously canceled, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, if the traveler has a valid U.S. visitor visa in an expired passport, do not remove the visa page from the expired passport. You may use it along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

The following professions are covered by Appendix 1603.D.1 of the North American Free Trade Agreement. For more information on obtaining a TN Visa, please consult the relevant section of this website. Source: U.S. Department of State


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