Enacted in 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created the largest free trade zone in the world, reducing tariffs and duties, and allowing certain types of professional workers to move more freely between the United States, Mexico and Canada. NAFTA links 450 million people and has more than tripled the amount of trade between the three countries since it’s inception.

Under NAFTA, TN visas are granted by the United States to citizens of Mexico and Canada in more than 60 professional job categories, creating a more free flowing movement of labor between the three North American countries.

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But even if you’re a well educated and trained professional considering working in another North American country, attempting to navigate through the U.S. visa process can be daunting. There are numerous forms to complete and each program has it’s own specific requirements.

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TN Professionals

Under Appendix 1603.D.1 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the following professions qualify for a TN visa. Workers traveling from Canada to the United States to work in a professional capacity under NAFTA are granted TN-1 visas. Workers from Mexico are granted TN-2 status. 

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Professional CategoryDegree/License Required
Accountant
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A.
Agriculturalist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Animal Breeder
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Animal Scientist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Apiculturist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Architect
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Astronomer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Biochemist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Biologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Chemist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Computer Systems Analyst
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diplomaor Post-Secondary certificate, and three years' experience
Dairy Scientist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Dentist
D.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental; or state/provincial license
Dietitian
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years' experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims
Economist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Engineer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Entomologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Epidemiologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Forester
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Geneticist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Geologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Geochemist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Geophysicist/Oceanographer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Graphic Designer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience
Horticulturist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Hotel Manager
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management, and three years' experience in hotel/restaurant management
Industrial Designer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience
Interior Designer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience
Land Surveyor
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial/federal license
Landscape Architect
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Lawyer
LL.B., J.D., LL.L., B.C.L. or Licenciatura Degree (five years); or membership in a state/provincial bar
Librarian
M.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite)
Management Consultant
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by statement or professional credential attesting to five years' experience as a management consultant, or five years' experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement
Mathematician
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the U.S.)
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience
Meteorologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Nutritionist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Occupational Therapist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Pharmacist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Pharmacologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Physician (teaching or research only)
M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or state/provincial license
Physicist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Physical Therapist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license
Plant Breeder
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Poultry Scientist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Psychologist
State/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree
Range Manager/Conservationist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Recreational Therapist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Registered Nurse
State/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree
Research Assistant (working in a post secondary educational institution)
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Scientific Technician
Possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics; and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research
Social Worker
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Soil Scientist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Silviculturist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Teacher
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Technical Publications Writer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience
Urban Planner
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Veterinarian
D.V.M., D.M.V. or Doctor en Veterinaria; or state/provincial license
Vocational Counselor
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree
Zoologist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Advantages of a TN Visa

  • TN status for both Canadian and Mexican workers is generally good for three years or until a passport expires. 
  • Unlike other visas, such as the H-1B status, which usually has a maximum duration of six years, TN workers can seek an extension at the end of their approved period and there is no limit to how long they can enjoy TN status. 
  • Decision times for TN Visas are generally much shorter than with other types of visas. With Canadians, a decision is made on the spot at the border when crossing into the United States. When you are denied entry, you are usually given an immediate reason why and can attempt to correct it immediately.
  • Application fees are generally much less than with other types of visa fees.
  • There are no annual TN visa quotas, which is the case with H-1B visas.
  • TN visa holders have the flexibility to work for a Canadian or a Mexican company in the United States if those companies are involved with projects with U.S. based companies.
  • Dependents are given special status so that they can accompany the TN visa holder to the United States for the duration of their stay.

How to apply for a Canadian TN Visa

For Canadians who want to secure TN-1 status, the process is fairly simple. The Canadian worker must provide written proof of a job offer in one of the recognized professions. This paperwork along with proof of Canadian citizenship (birth certificate or passport), an application and fees are presented at the border. In most all cases, a decision is rendered on the spot and the Canadian worker is granted TN-1 status without delay. If approved, a TN-1 worker can enter the United States and immediately begin working for a U.S. employer. 

The approved TN-1 status is good only for the original employer on the application, and if the Canadian worker changes jobs, he or she will need to complete a new application. 

As part of the visa process, the Canadian citizen will also need to demonstrate that their intent to stay in the United States is only temporary. Applicants can be denied if they have an application for immigration to the United States that is currently in the works.

If a Canadian worker is in the United States on a different type of visa, their employer can apply to change their visa status to TN of behalf of the employee. To do so, the employer must submit a Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker and an application fee of $325 to a USCIS Service Center.

How to apply for a Mexican TN Visa

Requirements for being granted TN-2 status for Mexican workers are different than for Canadian workers. Mexican workers must apply at a U.S. Consulate in Mexico and if approved, their passport is stamped with a TN visa stamp. Mexicans will need to complete a Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-160, present a passport or birth certificate, written proof of a job offer, and take part in an interview and fingerprinting process.

Just as it is with Canadian TN visa applicants, as part of the visa process, the Mexican citizen must show their intent to stay in the United States is only temporary. Applicants can be denied if they have an application for immigration to the United States that is currently being processed.

Visas for family members of TN Professional workers

Spouses and children under 21 of the TN worker can also come to the United States to be with that person by securing TD status. Family members should apply for TD-1 visas if they are from Canada and TD-2 visas if they are family members from Mexico.

Family members are not authorized to work in the United States, but they can attend school and further their education during the TN period. The length they are allowed to stay is no longer than the length of stay granted to the primary TN worker.

To renew a TD status visa, applicants can submit an I-539 Form, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status.