TN Mexico:

NAFTA Visa For Mexican Professional Workers


The TN for Mexicans (TN-2) is a nonimmigrant visa category under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) available to citizens of Mexico. 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.

Here, we provide a brief overview of the TN for Mexicans, the processing of which differs from that of the TN for Canadians.

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Qualifications For A TN Visa For A Professional From Canada

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

  1. You are a citizen of Canada;
  2. Your profession is on the NAFTA list;
  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 and as listed by NAFTA in which you will be working in the U.S.

In order to be eligible for the TN Visa for Mexicans, you must be a citizen of Mexico. Those who are permanent residents of Mexico are not eligible for the TN.

Applying For The TN Visa For Mexicans

There are 2 ways that Mexican nationals can apply for the TN- directly at a US Consulate, or if they are in the U.S., through the petition process.

Applying At A US Consulate

Mexican citizens may file their applications for the TN visa directly at a U.S. consulate. The TN visa does not require a pre-approved petition from US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). Once approved, the TN visa applicant will receive a visa stamp in the passport, which must be presented to a US CBP officer at a Port of Entry when entering the U.S.

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Required Documentation For Application At The U.S. Consulate

To qualify for the TN visa for Mexicans at a US Consulate, you need to have:

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

NOTE: Emailed, faxed, and scanned letters are strongly discouraged.

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 requirements.

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 or entity at a professional level. 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 or appropriate credentials demonstrating their professional status;

e.Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws.

2.Evidence of Professional Licensure, Degree Credentials and/or Work Experience: Bring the original documentation and as well as a copy of your college degree and employment records which establish your qualifications for the prospective job. 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 if required.

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.

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

4.DS-160 Confirmation Page: You must submit an online electronic application form, DS-160 Non-Immigrant Visa Electronic Application prior to the interview.

NOTE: You will need to print out the confirmation page containing the bar code and bring this page to the visa interview.

All nonimmigrant visa applicants in Mexico must pay the visa fee in cash at any Citi Banamex or Scotiabank location in Mexico before the appointment can be scheduled. Follow the instructions on the specific consular website for details. You don’t have to take proof of payment to the interview as the appointment cannot generally be scheduled until the fee is paid.

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

If you qualify for TN status as a Mexican and you are legally present in the U.S. in another 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 with a new I-94 form at the bottom.

NOTE: Although not required, an employer may wish to file the Form I-129 for the TN classification and obtain petition approval from USCIS for applicants outside the U.S. This is advantageous in cases that have been previously denied at the US Consulate or that are complex or unusual. The prior petition approval from USCIS should increase the likelihood of approval at the US Consulate.

TN Status Validity

The validity of a TN visa will not exceed 1 year due to reciprocity guidelines between the US and Mexico.  However, the maximum period of admission into the U.S. for TN Visas is three years. That means despite the fact that the TN Visa may be only for 1 year, the CBP officer can admit the TN visa holder for up to 3 years if the Letter of Employment has requested 3 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.

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 Nonimmigrant Worker, with the USCIS Vermont Service Center; 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 Visa Holders

The spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 can accompany the principal TN 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. The spouse and children do not have to be citizens of Mexico to qualify for TD the visa. Those in TD status are not eligible to work in the U.S. but are permitted to study full-time.

To obtain a TD visa, the spouse or children intending to join the main TN holder, must show that the principal alien has valid TN status or visa. This could include a copy of the principal’s visa and a copy of his or her valid I-94 or I-797 Approval Notice with I-94 attached and pay stubs.

Dependents who are Canadian citizens and are outside the U.S. may apply for admission in TD status at a Class A Port of Entry.

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.

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.

The TN Vs. The H-1B

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

The TN for Mexicans 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 with a total limit 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 for the TN visa application at the US Consulate. USCIS must approve an H-1B I-129 petition before an employee can apply for a TN visa.
The TN is only available to Canadian and Mexican nationals/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”, i.e. an occupation that requires that an individual have at least a bachelor’s degree or its foreign equivalent in a certain field, with no exceptions.

The TN Visa For Mexicans- A Great Alternative For Those With No Bachelor’s Degree

One of the major advantages of the TN visa is that not all the 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.). Of course, 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), while others only require that the applicant have the appropriate state or provincial license (Accountant, Engineer, Forester, Land Surveyor, Lawyer, and the medical professions).

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. It’s important to remember that the open nature of these two professions invite increased scrutiny from both CBP and USCIS.


The TN Visa for Mexicans (TN-2) has become one of the best alternatives to the H-1B for Mexican citizens. Not only are there no limitations 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 can be quick and relatively easy.

To explore this and other great work visa options for Mexican nationals, Contact VisaPro. Our experienced immigration attorneys, who have a near-100% approval track record, will be happy to assist you.

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