Applying for a TN Visa at the United States Border or Consulate

March 7, 2014

196716_files.jpgThe majority of temporary work visas are available to foreign nationals from all countries. However, there are a small number of visas that are reserved for foreign workers from a handful of countries. One of these types of visas is called the TN visa.

What is the TN Visa?

The TN visa stands for "Treaty National" visa and was created by the U.S. government pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The goal of NAFTA was to facilitate beneficial trade among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. The TN visa is a nonimmigrant (temporary) work visa that does not lead to a green card but does provide the foreign national with work and travel authorization for a specified period of time (usually in three-year increments).

Who Qualifies for a TN Visa?

Since the TN visa was created to facilitate the provisions of NAFTA, only Mexican or Canadian citizens can qualify for the visa. Moreover, the Mexican or Canadian citizen must be planning to work in the U.S. in one of the pre-approved list of TN-eligible occupations, which include Accountants, Computer Systems Analysts, Engineers, Graphic Designers, Lawyers, Mathematicians, and others.

Benefits of the TN Visa

There are many benefits to applying for the TN visa over other types of temporary work visas, such as the H-1B visa. For example, there is no annual cap on how many foreign nationals may receive TN visas, so there is no race to obtain a TN visa like there is to obtain an H-1B visa (since Congress only allots 65,000 H-1B visas every year). Moreover, there is no limit on how many times the foreign worker can extend the TN visa, whereas most foreign nationals are subject to a six-year limitation on the H-1B visa.

Additionally, the TN visa holder's spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany the worker as TD visa dependents. Also, the worker need not be coming to the U.S. to engage in full-time employment. For the purposes of the TN visa, part-time employment is perfectly acceptable (though self-employment is not allowed).

How to Apply for a TN Visa

One of the most attractive benefits of the TN visa is that it does not require the U.S. employer to submit a visa petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Just this year, the Department of State eliminated the requirement for Mexican nationals to have an approved TN petition. Instead, the foreign national applicant, whether in Canada or Mexico, goes right to the U.S. Consulate (or even right to the U.S. border if the applicant is Canadian) and provides the immigration official with a signed job offer letter from the U.S. employer which outlines the foreign worker's proposed job duties, salary, and length of employment; proof that the worker possesses the needed credential for the job such as copies of degrees or professional licenses; and proof that the job is listed in the NAFTA approved professions.

The Rant

The TN visa is a particularly attractive temporary work visa alternative to the H-1B. The process for obtaining the TN visa is usually cheaper, faster, and much, much easier for both the foreign worker and the U.S. employer. If you are a Mexican or Canadian citizen, contact our office today to discuss your potential TN visa case!

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