TN Canada:

NAFTA Visas For Canadian Professional Workers

Introduction

The TN work visa for Canadians (TN-1) is a nonimmigrant visa category under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) available to citizens of Canada. The TN visa category was created after the United States entered into the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 with Canada and Mexico.

The primary aim of the immigration provisions of NAFTA is to facilitate the temporary transfer of professionals between the member states, the United States, Canada and Mexico, and to support the entry of Canadian and Mexican Citizens to the United States to engage in professional activities on a temporary basis.

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1. TN Visa Requirements For Canadian Citizens

To qualify for a TN Canada Visa, you must demonstrate that:

  1. You are a citizen of Canada
  2. Your profession is on the NAFTA list of occupations for TN visas
  3. The position in the U.S. is for a job on the NAFTA list
  4. You will be working in a prearranged full-time or part-time job for a U.S. employer (self-employment is not permitted under NAFTA), and
  5. You possess the required qualification of the profession in which you will be working in the U.S.

DID YOU KNOW
In order to be eligible for the TN Canada Visa, you must be a citizen of Canada.

Canadian permanent residents or landed immigrants are not eligible for the TN visa.

2. TN Visa USA Application Process For Canadians

There are 2 ways that Canadians can apply for the TN: 1) at a Port-of-Entry and 2) through the petition process, if they are in the U.S.


3. Applying For TN Visa At A Port of Entry

Because Canadians are visa exempt, they may apply for TN status directly at any U.S. Class “A” port of entry at a U.S. airport handling international traffic, or at a U.S. pre-flight/pre-clearance station in Canada.

Required Documentation For Application At The Port-of-Entry

To qualify for admission as a TN for Canadians at the U.S. Port of Entry, you will:

1. Present Letter of Employment in the United States: You must provide an original job offer letter, written in English, on company letterhead.

Your prospective employer in the U.S. should provide you a Letter of Employment. The letter must indicate that the position in question in the US requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity, consistent with the requirements listed by NAFTA under TN visa regulations.

The letter should include sufficient information and evidence of the professional employment to satisfy the inspecting officer of your plans to be employed in prearranged business activities for a US employer. The employment letter or contract should provide a detailed description of the business activities of the U.S. employer, and should include the following:

a.Activities in which you will be engaged

b.The specific purpose of entry

c.The anticipated length of stay

d.Your educational qualifications and/or appropriate credentials demonstrating the professional status

e.Evidence of compliance with USCIS regulations

2.Evidence of Professional Licensure and/or Work Experience: Bring the original documentation such as a copy of your college degree and employment records which establishes your qualifications for the prospective job. Proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the United States may be offered along with the job offer letter and other documentation in support of the TN visa application.

3.Proof of Canadian Citizenship: Canadian citizens are required to present a passport for entry into the U.S. so they may use the passport as proof of Canadian citizenship. They may also provide other primary evidence, such as a birth certificate.

4.Fee: Payment of the required fees at the port of entry.


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4. Change of Status To TN Status If You Are Already In The U.S.

If you qualify for TN status as a Canadian and you are legally present in the U.S. in another non-immigrant status, it allows for a change of status filing. Your employer may apply for change of status to TN by filing a Form I-129 with the Vermont Service Center.

All required TN visa documents that we discussed above must be submitted along with the Form I-129. TN status will be granted on Form I-797 with a new I-94 form at the bottom.

DID YOU KNOW
Part-time employment is permitted on the TN as well as having multiple employers (however you must be approved for employment with each employer). Self-employment is not permitted while on the TN.

5. TN Status Validity

The maximum period of initial admission into the U.S. under TN Visa for Canadians is three years. USCIS may grant extensions of stay of up to three years at a time. There is no limit on the number of years a TN visa holder can stay in the United States. However, there is no dual intent with the TN status and you must prove that you intend to return to Canada at the end of your authorized stay.


6. Extension of Stay On The TN Work Visa

You may seek an extension of stay, which may be granted up to three years at a time:

  • If you are in the U.S., your employer may file Form I-129, Petition for Non-immigrant Worker, with the USCIS Vermont Service Center, or
  • You may apply at any Class A port of entry using the same application and documentation procedures required for the initial entry.

7. Spouses And Children Of TN Visa Holders

The spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 who are accompanying, or are intending to join the principal TN visa holder in the U.S. may receive derivative TD status. Applicants must demonstrate a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship to the principal TN visa holder. The TN visa holder spouse and children do not have to be citizens of Canada. Those in TD status are not eligible to work in the U.S., however they are permitted to study in the U.S.

Canadian TD applicants can obtain TD status at a port of entry, just like the principal TN holder, by accompanying the TN applicant and showing proof of relationship, or by showing proof of the principal’s TN status (I-94 record, entry stamp, etc.) and proof of relationship.

Dependents who are not Canadian citizens and are outside the U.S. must apply for the TD visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Dependents who are legally present in the U.S. in another non-immigrant status that allows for a change of status may apply for a change of status to TD by filing Form I-539.

DID YOU KNOW
One of the drawbacks of the TN visa is that it does not fall under the doctrine of “dual intent”. This means that an individual in TN status may not be able to extend their TN status if they begin the permanent residence process. This makes it critical to carefully plan out a strategy if you wish to pursue permanent residence in the United States while in TN status.

8. TN Visa vs. H-1B Visa

The TN Canada work visa has some similarities with the H-1B visa, but it also has some significant differences. Let’s compare the two:

TN VisaH-1B Visa
The TN for Canadians can be granted for up to 3 years at a time, with unlimited renewals.The H-1B can be granted for up to 3 years at a time for a maximum period of 6 years.
There is no annual quota for TN Visas.There is an annual of quota of 65,000 H-1B’s, which results in USCIS having to run a “lottery”.
An approved petition from USCIS is not required to apply for TN visa at a port of entry.USCIS must approve an H-1B I-129 petition before an employee can enter the U.S. under H-1B status.
The TN is only available to Canadian and Mexican citizens.The H-1B is available to all foreign nationals, regardless of nationality.
The TN is reserved for NAFTA professionals. While most NAFTA occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree, some do not.The H-1B is for individuals in a “specialty occupation” (an occupation that requires that an individual have at least a bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent in a specific field, with no exceptions).

9. TN Visa – A Great Alternative For Canadians With No Bachelor’s Degree

One of the major advantages of the TN visa is that not all the TN NAFTA professional positions require that the applicant have a bachelor’s degree. Some of the professions, for example, require a Bachelor’s degree OR a state/provincial license (Architect, Land Surveyor, Lawyer, Physician, etc.). For many of these professions, a Bachelor’s degree or higher would be required in order to obtain a state or provincial license.

Several TN professional positions require only a two or three year degree plus experience (Computer Systems Analysts, Graphic Designer, Hotel Manager, Industrial Designer, Interior Designer, Technical Publications Writer and Medical Laboratory Technologist).

Finally, there are two professions that do not require any formal post-secondary education to qualify for the TN status – Management Consultant and Scientific Technician/Technologist. For the position of Management Consultant, 5 years of related experience would be accepted in lieu of a Bachelor’s degree. For Scientific Technician/Technologist, the minimum requirement is possessing “theoretical knowledge” in certain sciences and the “ability to solve practical problems” in those scientific disciplines.

NOTE: The open nature of these two professions invite increased scrutiny from both CBP and USCIS.


Conclusion

TN Canada Visa (TN-1) visa is one of the best H1B alternatives for Canadian citizens. Not only there is no limitation on the number of TN visas available each year, there is no limit on the number of years a person can remain in TN status. Finally, the process of obtaining TN status is quick and relatively easy, and not all professions require a bachelor’s degree. The major drawback of the TN NAFTA Visa is that the offered position in the U.S. must fall within the list of qualifying occupations established by NAFTA.

If you have any questions regarding TN visa, or any US work visa, our best immigration lawyers will be happy to assist you. Schedule A Free Immigration Lawyer Consultation Today >>


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