Generally, a foreign citizen wishing to visit the U.S must first acquire a visa. They could obtain either an immigrant visa that allows permanent stay or a nonimmigrant one that permits temporary stay. The NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) established special trade and economic treaties for Canada, the U.S, and Mexico. This means that if you are a Mexican or Canadian citizen, you may qualify under NAFTA to visit the United States on a TN visa to work in various specialized occupations.

Applying for a TN/TD visa is a relatively straightforward process. However, an omission, error, or poorly worded statements on supporting documents may lead to the denial of your application. Thus, you want to ensure that your application is meticulously prepared. At the California Immigration Attorney, we have many years of experience helping clients obtain nonimmigrant visas. If you are in California and would like to discuss the TN/TD visa application process with one of our experienced attorneys, don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a comprehensive, free consultation. 

Overview of TN/TD NAFTA Professional Worker Visa

The TN status allows Mexicans and Canadians, whose professions are listed under NAFTA, to work in the U.S by engaging in pre-planned commercial activities for foreign or U.S employers. Permanent Mexican or Canadian residents that are not NAFTA professionals can’t work in the country on a TN status. The TN status category is further divided into two: the TN1 and TN2 visas. TN1 status applies to Canadian nations, while the TN2 visa applies to Mexicans. On the other hand, TD visas are granted to dependents of TN holders who wish to accompany them to the United States. 

Eligibility for a TN Visa

You may qualify to apply for a TN visa if the following conditions are true:

  • You’re a Mexican or Canadian citizen.
  • Your profession is included on the NAFTA professional list.
  • The position in which you are going to work in the U.S needs a NAFTA professional
  • You’ll work in a pre-planned part-time or full-time job for the employer. Self-employment isn’t permitted.
  • You bear all the qualifications that meet the specific requirements, for instance, education, experience, and skills of the profession you are coming to practice.

With a few exceptions, every profession needs a bachelor’s degree as an entry-level requirement. Even if a bachelor’s degree is necessary, experience can’t be substituted for it. For a few professions, there’s an alternative for a baccalaureate degree. And for a few others, the experience is necessary, in addition to this degree.

Requirements for a TN Status

The requirements for Mexicans and Canadians differ as explained in this section:

Requirements for Canadians

If you’re a Canadian national, you do not have to submit your application for the TN status at a United States consulate or embassy. You can simply prove your eligibility at a United States port of entry or pre-flight/pre-clearance inspection station when seeking admission into the United States, and you’ll be granted the visa. To establish eligibility, you will need to present the necessary documentation to the United States Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer. They include:

  • Proof that you’re a Canadian.
  • A letter from your potential employer explaining the capacity in which you’ll work in the U.S, the reason for your employment, your academic qualifications, and the period of stay.
  • Credentials evaluation, if applicable. This involves comparing Canada credentials to the ones for the United States.
  • Any applicable charges.

If the CBP officer determines that you qualify for admission, you’ll be allowed in as a TN non-immigrant, that is, a NAFTA professional. 

Alternatively, your prospective U.S employer can opt to apply for the TN visa for you if you’re outside the U.S by completing and submitting Form l-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker at the USCIS (the U.S Citizenship & Immigration Services). If the USCIS approves the application, you, the potential worker, can then seek admission to the country as a TN nonimmigrant. When seeking admission, you will have to present the following documents to the Customs & Border Protection officer at a United States ports of entry or pre-flight/preclearance inspection station:

  • Approval Notice from the USCIS for Form l-29
  • Proof that you’re a Canadian national

Additionally, when seeking admission, you must have a duplicate of Form l-129 with you, plus all supporting documents submitted at the USCIS to answer questions concerning your eligibility. You must also be ready to pay the inspection fee, if applicable. 

If you live in another country with a non-Canadian spouse and children, they’ll need to seek a TD visa if they’re coming with you to the U.S. 

Requirements for Mexicans

If you’re a Mexican, you’re required to acquire a TN status to come into the U.S as a NAFTA professional worker. However, unlike Canadian citizens, you must apply for a visa at the U.S consulate or embassy in Mexico. Once your application is approved, you can then seek admissibility at a United States ports of entry or pre-flight/pre-clearance inspection station. If the CBP officer determines that you qualify for admission, you’ll enter the country as a TN nonimmigrant.

The Application Process

Several steps are involved in the visa application process. Their order of completion can vary from one United States consulate or embassy to another. Generally, the application process involves:

1.  Completing the Online Application

Online application involves completing Form DS-160, i.e., the visa application form. After filling it, print its confirmation page as you will have to carry it with you to the interview. You’ll need to upload your passport photograph while completing this form. The photo should be in the required format (a photograph isn’t necessary if you’re seeking the TN visa in Mexico). 

2.  Scheduling an Interview

Generally, interviews are necessary when applying for a visa, with a few exceptions. For example, it is not required if you’re 13 years or younger or 80 years or older. And if you’re 14 to 79 years, you must be interviewed, but there are a few exclusions for renewals.

You have to set an appointment for the interview at the United States consulate and embassy in your home country. You could schedule the interview at the U.S consulate or embassy in a different country, but know that it can be more challenging to be eligible for the visa there. The waiting period for scheduled interview appointments usually varies based on the visa category, season, and location, so you must submit your application early enough. 

3.  Preparing for the Interview

If you must pay the application fee before the interview, ensure you do so. The application charges are usually non-refundable. And if the consulate or embassy approves your application, you will also be required to pay issuance charges if it applies to your country.

4.  Gathering the Required Documents

You should assemble and prepare all the necessary documentation before the interview. They include:

  • A valid passport — The passport should be valid for travel to the U.S, and the validity should go beyond the period for your stay by no less than six months unless your country is exempted due to specific agreements. If other people other than you are listed in the passport, they have to obtain a visa separately if they need one.
  • The confirmation page for Form DS-160
  • Passport photo — You’ll upload your passport photograph when filling in the online application form. But if the uploading fails, you have to carry the photograph with you and note that it should be in the required format. Also, it’s worth repeating that a photograph isn’t needed if you’re applying from Mexico.
  • A letter or contract of employment in the U.S to show you have been offered a job. Also, provide an employment letter/contract from your prospective U.S employer confirming your approaching employment in any of NAFTA professions. The letter must also explain:
    • Your reason for entry.
    • A comprehensive account of your expected job responsibilities or commercial activities.
    • The expected period you’ll be staying in the United States.
    • Your academic qualifications and any other credentials showing your professional status.
    • Arrangements or agreement for your salary.
    • Proof that you comply with the DHS (Department of Homeland Security) requirements.
  • Documents showing that you satisfy the minimum work experience and education qualifications set forth under NAFTA. Proof of education is certificates, diplomas, degrees, professional licenses, membership for professional organizations, etc. To prove your experience, submit letters from your former employers. In case you were self-employed, then you’ll give your business records.
  • Application fee payment receipt— If you must pay an application fee before the interview, you must bring the payment receipt.

Additional Documents May Be Requested

The consular officer interviews you to establish your eligibility for the TN status. He/she may request additional documentation to help him/her deduce whether or not you’re qualified. These documents might include proof of your intention to leave the U.S once your employment responsibilities have ended. Evidence of familial ties might be enough to substantiate that you intend to go back to your country. 

Licensure— Evidence of licensing to practice a particular profession in the United States isn’t required for you to obtain a TN status. However, you want to consider submitting this kind of proof together with the letter proving the job offer you’ve been given and other documents that support your visa application. After you arrive in the U.S., non-Federal or state authorities may need you to submit evidence showing that you have the license that allows you to perform the responsibilities you’ve been sent to do.

5.  Attending Your Interview

As we mentioned above, the consular officer establishes whether or not you’re eligible for a visa during the interview. You’ll need to prove that you satisfy all the requirements outlined under the United States law to obtain the TN status. Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans are taken as one of the conditions in the application process. Usually, they’re taken during the interview, though this may vary depending on the application location. When your application is approved, you’ll be told how our visa and passport will be given back to you.

TN Visa Processing Period

The time to process TN visas varies based on the applicant’s specific case and where the application is filed. For instance, if you apply at a port of entry, you can be granted your visa within a few hours. And if you are petitioning to change your status while in the U.S, the USCIS may take a maximum of six months to process your application. Whereas you can pay an additional premium processing fee to accelerate the process to fifteen calendar days with USCIS, this won’t alleviate approval chances. Processing at the consulate or embassy can take anywhere between one to three months. 

Period/Extension of Stay

The initial period of staying in the U.S on a TN visa is up to three years. But if you would like to stay beyond the initial period without first leaving the U.S., you have to apply for an extension. If you’re in the U.S, your employer could complete and file Form l-129 for you. 

Alternatively, you can leave the U.S before the expiration date of your visa. Once you are abroad, apply for the extension at a United States port of entry or pre-flight/pre-clearance inspection station. You will use the same documents and application procedures required during the initial application for admission to the U.S on a TN status.

Specific time brackets apply to requests for a visa extension. Your employer can’t request an extension on your behalf before six months to the end of your present TN status. Processing an extension application may take anywhere from two to seven months, but luckily, the USCIS has premium processing services available at an added cost. The processing time when you opt for the premium services is fifteen calendar days. 

On paper, you can extend your TN status in three-year increments, provided you meet all the requirements. But, in reality, doing so is unfortunately not that simple. Several factors can impact the period you can live in the United States on a TN status. And like any other visa, you can also renew your TN status. The renewal process is similar to the application process of obtaining a new visa. You will have to submit the same documentation and follow the same steps. 

Visa Application for Family Members

Your dependents (unmarried children and spouse) may seek TD visas if you’re going with them to the U.S., or they would like to follow you later. Part of the requirements for approval of their status is that you must prove you’ll be capable of financially supporting them for the period they’ll be in the country. If your spouse and children are all Canadian citizens, they don’t need these kinds of visas to enter the U.S. However, they’ll need to submit various eligibility requirements at the port of entry pre-flight/pre-clearance inspection station. They include:

  • Proof that they are related to you, such as birth certificate/certificates for the child/children or marriage certificate for the spouse.
  • Valid passport
  • Your TN employment letter
  • Visa stamp (for non-Canadian dependents)
  • Copy of TN’s Form l-94 or i-797 Approval Notice

On the other hand, if you’re a Mexican citizen, your spouse or children have to apply for the TD visa, whether they are from Mexico or not. The same applies to a spouse and children who are non-Canadian citizens. The bottom line is, while you can obtain a TN visa only if you’re a Canadian or Mexican citizen, your dependents may apply for a TD visa even if they are citizens of other countries. 

Please note the following points:

  • The TD visa continues to be valid throughout the TN visa’s validity period. This means that if the TN visa expires, the TD one will also have expired.
  • TD visa holders aren’t permitted to work while in the United States, but they can study. However, they could still seek a different visa that will allow them to work.
  • When a child with a TD status turns twenty-one years, he/she isn’t considered a minor anymore under the INA (Immigration & Nationality Act). In this case, he/she has to change the TD status to another nonimmigrant status.

Also, note that if your wife or children are in the United States, they can apply for their TD visas there. Documentations necessary to apply for a TD visa within the U.S include:

  • l-539 application form
  • Evidence of relationship (birth certificates for children or marriage certificate for the spouse)
  • Application fee
  • Copies of prior visa documents (l-20, l-797, DS-2019)
  • Copy of passport
  • A duplicate of the most recent Form l-94
  • If you are a non-Canadian applicant, copies of prior visa stamp

Domestic partners and extended family members (siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) don’t qualify to enter the United States on TD visas. They have to seek a B1 or B2 visitor visa or come in under the waiver program. 

Note that unless revoked or canceled, a visa remains valid until the date it expires. Thus, an authentic United States visa that’s in an already expired passport can still be used. In case you have this kind of visa, don’t pluck it out. You can always use it while in the same passport, but now with a valid passport for traveling and admission to the U.S.

TN Visa Denials and Ineligibility 

The United States law generally dictates that a consular officer interviews a visa applicant at a United States consulate or embassy. After the officer reviews relevant information, the application will be denied or approved, depending on the standards dictated under the U.S statute. 

Whereas most visa applications are approved, the law outlines several grounds under which a visa application can be denied.  For instance, your application can be declined if:

  • The consular officer doesn’t have all the information necessary to establish if you qualify for the visa.
  • You aren’t eligible for the TN status, for example, because your profession is not on the NAFTA list.
  • The reviewed information indicates that you fall within the brackets of ineligibility or inadmissibility grounds of the law. Your past or current actions like criminal activities may make you ineligible for the TN visa and inadmissible to the United States.
  • You’re trying to obtain the visa through fraud or willful misrepresentation of a material fact.

If your visa application is denied, you’ll be informed of the law section that applies in your case. The consular officer will also advise if you can apply for a waiver of your ineligibility. You can reapply for the visa if you believe you have further evidence of your eligibility or your circumstances have changed.

TN Visa Taxes

While in the U.S on a TN visa, you must pay taxes. The U.S Tax Guide for Aliens enacted by the IRS outlines these guidelines. Based on the period you will be in the U.S, you’re liable for taxes either as a non-resident or resident alien. A resident alien is a person with a green card or who has had a considerable presence in the U.S. 

If you are a residential alien, you’ll be taxed like a United States citizen.  And if you are a non-resident alien, you’ll mostly pay your tax on your income that’s linked to a United States business or trade. Note that ‘non-resident’ and ‘resident’ are categories that the IRS uses for tax purposes. They don’t necessarily reflect on immigration status. 

Talk to a Competent California Immigration Attorney Near Me

Seeking help from a skilled immigration lawyer when looking for a TN visa can increase your application’s approval chances and relieve your stress. At California Immigration Attorney, we are experienced in the non-immigrant visa filing process. We will answer all of your questions and guide you through the application process. 

Call us at 424-789-8809 to schedule a free consultation. You will speak to one of our skilled attorneys, who will inform you everything you need to know about TN visas for Mexican and Canadian citizens. We help clients in California navigate through the country’s immigration law and other issues related to non-immigrant visas.