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TN Mexico: NAFTA Visa for Mexican Professional Workers
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The TN Mexico is a professional work visa category created in 1994 by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), a multi-country trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The NAFTA treaty contains special sections that apply to immigration between the three countries. The primary aim of the immigration provisions of this Trade Agreement was to facilitate the temporary transfer of professionals between the United States, Canada and Mexico to engage in professional activities on a temporary basis.

While the TN NAFTA work visas are available to both Mexican and Canadian citizens, in this article we will be looking at it only from the standpoint of a Mexican citizen. Because Mexican citizens, unlike Canadians, are required to have a visa before applying for admission to the U.S., the TN Mexico work visa application procedure for Mexican citizens is more complex than for Canadians. Even though the process of TN Mexico work visa is more complex in January 2004 it was significantly simplified. Under the current procedure a Mexican citizen must first obtain a TN visa at a U.S. consulate (generally in Mexico). Once the TN visa stamp is obtained in the Mexican citizen's passport, they may enter the U.S. in TN status in a similar manner to a Canadian citizen.

Qualifications for TN Mexico Work Visa:

To qualify for a TN Mexico work visa, you must demonstrate that:
  • You are a citizen of Mexico;
  • Your profession is on the NAFTA list;
  • The position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a job offer from the US Employer;
  • You will be working in a prearranged full-time or part-time job, for a U.S. employer (self employment is not permitted);
  • You posses the required qualifications (as listed by NAFTA) for the profession in which you will be working in the US.
Ineligibility to Apply for TN Mexico Work Visa:

The TN Mexico is a professional work visa available only to citizens of Mexico. Permanent residents of Mexico are not eligible, since the NAFTA and INA have made provision only for citizens of the member countries.

Applying for TN Mexico Work Visa at the U.S. Consulate in Mexico:

Mexican citizens may file their applications for TN Mexico work visa directly at a U.S. consulate in Mexico. The TN Mexico work visa no longer requires a petition pre-approved by the USCIS or an approved Labor Condition Application (LCA). Moreover, Mexican nationals applying for TN Mexico work visa are no longer subject to a numerical limitation. Mexican citizens, however, are still required to have a visa to request admission to the United States.

Required Documentation for TN Mexico Work Visa:

As noted above a TN Mexico national must file a TN visa application with a U.S. consulate in Mexico. Most U.S. consulates now have an appointment system set up that must be followed to set up an appointment. You should make your appointment for an interview as soon as you have all the documents prepared. As part of the TN Mexico 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 consulates it can be considerably longer. Once the TN visa stamp is obtained in your passport; you may enter the U.S. in TN status and begin your employment.

You must bring the following documents to your TN Mexico Work Visa interview:
  1. Letter of Employment in the United States: You must provide an original job offer letter, written in English and addressed to the embassy on company stationery.

    NOTE: Emailed, faxed, and scanned letters will NOT be accepted.

    The letter must indicate that the position in question in the U.S. requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity, and that the position is listed in NAFTA.

    You must present sufficient evidence of professional employment to satisfy the Consular Officer of your plans. The evidence must show that you have prearranged business activities for a U.S. employer(s) or entity(ies) at a professional level. Part-time employment is permitted, however self-employment is not permitted. An employment letter or contract providing a detailed description of the business activities may be provided from your U.S. or foreign employer in the U.S., and should state the following:

    • Activities in which you will be engaged;
    • Your purpose of entry;
    • Your anticipated length of stay;
    • Your educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status;
    • Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws;
    • Arrangements for your remuneration; and
    • Although not required for all professions, 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 Mexico work visa application.

  2. Valid Passport: Your passport must be valid for travel to the United States with minimum validity of six months beyond your intended period of stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions).

  3. Visa Application: You must submit an online electronic application form, DS-160 Non-Immigrant Visa Electronic Application.

    NOTE: You will simply need to print out the confirmation page containing the bar code and bring this page to the visa interview. It is no longer necessary to provide a printed application form to the Consular Officer during the visa interview.

  4. Visa Interview Fee: You must havean original Banamex receipt for the visa interview fee.

  5. Evidence of Professional Licensure and/or Work Experience: You must demonstrate that you are eligible for a TN visa via your educational background and/or prior work experience.

    Education Requirement: If you are a TN NAFTA professional requiring a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree you must present an original college degree (titulo) and/or a professional credential (cédula professional). Degrees, diplomas, or certificates received from an educational institution outside the United States, Canada, or Mexico must be accompanied by an evaluation from a reliable credentials evaluation service specializing in evaluating foreign documentation.

    Work Experience Requirement:If you qualify for TN NAFTA visa via your work experience, you must provide letters from your former employers. If you were self-employed, then you should submit business records.
Change of Status to TN Mexico if you are Already Inside the U.S.:

If you qualify for TN Mexico status and you are legally present in the U.S. in another valid non-immigrant status that allows for a change of status, then your employer may apply for change of status to TN by filing a Form I-129 with the Vermont Service Center. All documents required to obtain TN status, that we discussed above must be submitted along with the Form I-129. TN status will be granted on Form I-797 Notice of Action which includes an I-94 form at the bottom.

Duration of Stay on TN Mexico Work Visa:

The maximum period of admission to the U.S. in TN status is three years. The USCIS can grant extensions of stay in increments of three years. There is no limit on the number of years a TN Mexico visa holder can stay in the United States as long as the individual can show that they are a nonimmigrant, i.e., that they plan to return to Mexico when they complete their TN stay in the U.S.

Extension of Stay on TN Mexico Work Visa:

You may seek an extension of stay, which may be granted for up to three years.

To extend your TN Mexico work visa:

  • your employer must file a Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, with the USCIS at the Vermont Service Center, if you are in the U.S.; or 
  • you may apply at a U.S. consulate using the same application and documentation procedures above as required for the initial entry, if you are outside the U.S.

Spouses and Children of TN Mexico Visa Holders: May Spouse Work?

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can accompany the principal TN Mexico visa holder to the United States on a derivative TD visa. Dependents must demonstrate a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship to the principal TN Mexico visa holder. Spouse and children do not have to be citizens of Mexico to qualify for TD status. Neither the spouse nor the child(ren) can accept employment in the U.S. while in derivative TD status, however they are permitted to study in the U.S.  To obtain a TD visa, the spouse or children intending to join, must show that the principal alien has valid TN status.  This could include a copy of the principal’s visa and a copy of his or her valid I-94.

TN Mexico Work Visa Does Not Support Dual Intent:

The TN Mexico work visa does not recognize dual intent. You must demonstrate that your stay in the U.S. will be temporary, reasonable and finite. However, TN professional is not limited to any set amount of time.

TN Mexico Work Visa in Contrast to H-1B Visa:
  • TN visa has many similarities and differences with the H-1B visa. Both are for professional or specialty occupations in the U.S., however to qualify for the TN Mexico work visa, the occupation must be specifically listed..
  • The TN Mexico work visa does not need to have a petition pre-approved by the USCIS unlike H-1B visa. However, because the TN Mexico work visa can be adjudicated at the consulate it is important to be sure that any application package is complete and as close to airtight as possible.
  • The TN Mexico work visa does not have a maximum number of years that an Mexican citizen can remain in the U.S., unlike the H-1B which limits the holder to 6 years.
  • The most important difference between H-1B visa and TN visa is that TN status does not include the doctrine of dual intent. Therefore, while in TN status you must be careful if you desire to pursue a green card. You must either first switch to the H-1B visa before applying for the green card, or you must carefully time your applications to ensure that you do not attempt to renew your TN status after the green card application process has been started, (generally meaning that an I-140 package has been filed for a TN holder; those pursuing consular process can sometimes renew their TN status until just before their immigrant visa appointment at a U.S. Consulate).
Advantages of TN Mexico Work Visa Over H-1B Visa are:
  • Although the TN Mexico work visa is granted for only three years at a time, the number of renewals permitted is unlimited; the H-1B visa has a definite time cap (generally set at 6 years).
  • No specific forms are required for the TN Mexico work visa application made at a U.S. consulate, unlike the H-1B visa.
  • TN status can be obtained in person at a U.S. consulate instead of having to be submitted to the USCIS for pre-approval, as do most other visa applications.
  • TN status is available to some people who do not qualify for H-1B status (and vice versa).

TN Mexico work visa has become a very good alternative to the H-1B for Mexican citizens, avoiding the cap issues associated with the H-1B visa. It can be obtained relatively quickly and is not limited in the number of years that the Mexican national can remain in the U.S. The tradeoffs for the ease of application and ability to remain indefinitely in the U.S. include the more limited scope of occupations that qualify for TN treatment and the lack of dual intent. With the emergence of the TN visa, Mexican professionals can access the U.S. market with greater ease.

Our experienced attorneys are always there to assist you.

Contact VisaPro if you have any questions regarding your TN Trade NAFTA visa, or need help in filing. Our experienced attorneys will be pleased to assist you.

We also cover the latest happenings on various other work visas in Immigration Monitor, our monthly newsletter. Click here to subscribe to Immigration Monitor.

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