The U.S. /Canada Free Trade Agreement (CFTA)_ implemented on January 1, 1989, was the first trade agreement under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the predecessor to the World Trade Organization. The TN visa is a temporary work visa for certain professional citizens of Canada and Mexico. The TN is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which established special economic and trade relationships between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The TN visa requires the applicant to be a professional as specified on the NAFTA list and have a U.S. job offer in the qualifying professional occupation.
Most TN occupations require a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree, but a few of the listed professions allow a valid state or provincial license. TN’s can obtain dependent TD status for their spouse and children, but TD status does not provide work authorization.
The TN application process varies depending on citizenship. Canadian citizens may apply directly for admission in TN status with US Customs & Border Protection at a port of entry. Mexican citizens are required to apply for a TN visa through U.S. Department of State’s consulates abroad before they can enter the U.S. in TN status. TN Extensions for both Canadian and Mexican citizens may be filed with US CIS in the U.S., but many TN’s still file their extension applications abroad.
It is extremely important to discuss any immigration or criminal history with a trustworthy and experienced immigration attorney, including all prior filings for yourself and family, gaps in status, lack of status, illegal entry, fraud, unauthorized work, denied applications, extended questioning or refusal of admission by immigration or border employees, deportation issues, arrests, convictions, probation or jail time. This advice applies when applying for any immigration benefit, but it is especially important for TN’s since most applications are made outside of the U.S., where a denial means being prevented from entering.
The TN visa does not allow self-employment in the U.S. If that’s the goal, an E-1 or E-2 treaty trader or investor visa might be a possible alternative. However, self-employment of the TN applicant abroad may be permissible if the case involves pre-arranged services with a US entity (not owned or controlled by the TN applicant) based upon a formal agreement entered into before filing the TN application.
With all U.S. visas, the expiration of status for each entry into the U.S. will be listed on the I-94, not on the visa. This is especially important for a Mexican TN, because the maximum TN visa validity for a Mexican citizen is one year, whereas the I-94 can authorize TN stay for up to three years. Thus, a Mexican TN visa holder will need to be sure their TN visa will be valid when they re-enter from abroad, even though the I-94 they were provided is still valid.
The TN visa is intended for temporary entry and can be denied with evidence of intent to remain in the U.S. permanently. Yet, TN’s can sometimes obtain permanent residence (i.e. green card) status based on extremely careful planning, timing and strategy. In some cases, this strategy involves changing to other visa classifications.
As with all immigration issues, each case is different and one small detail can change eligibility and outcomes. Contact the immigration attorneys at Shabani & Associates, P.C., to assess your particular circumstances. We can point out your available options, potential pitfalls and what you can expect throughout the process. Call or email us today.