TN Nonimmigrant Status
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established special economic and trade relationships between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Among the benefits that arose from NAFTA was the creation of nonimmigrant Trade NAFTA, or TN, nonimmigrant status. This classification was established to allow citizens of Canada and Mexico to enter the United States to engage in temporary business activities at a professional level. These professions include accountants, attorneys, engineers, scientists, and teachers, among others.
TN nonimmigrant professional workers may remain in the U.S. for as many as three years at a time. Extensions of stay may be granted in increments of up to three years. Further, there is no limit to the number of times a Mexican or Canadian citizen may apply and be granted TN nonimmigrant status so long as the stay is considered temporary.
Who is Eligible for TN Nonimmigrant Status?
Professionals from Canada and Mexico may qualify for TN status if the following eligibility requirements are met:
- The applicant is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
- The profession is recognized under NAFTA;
- The position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;
- The applicant has a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (self-employmenat is not permitted); and
- The applicant has the qualifications required for the professional position.
The requirements and application procedures are different for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadian citizens may submit their application packet for admission as a TN nonimmigrant at any U.S. port of entry, U.S. airport handling international traffic, or U.S. pre-clearance/pre-flight station. Mexican citizens seeking TN status must first obtain a visa in order to enter the U.S. in TN nonimmigrant status.
Can the TN Applicant's Family Accompany Him to the U.S.?
The TN applicant's spouse and children under 21 may be eligible for NAFTA dependent, or TD, nonimmigrant status which allows them to accompany or follow to join the principal applicant in the U.S. In order to qualify for TD nonimmigrant status, the spouse and children must provide proof of a bona fide spousal and parent-child relationship to the principal applicant. While the principal applicant's spouse and children may accompany him, they cannot work while in the U.S. They are, however, permitted to study in U.S.
H-1B v. TN – Weighing The Options
There are numerous factors to consider in determining whether an H-1B visa or TN nonimmigrant status is the better option in view of the immigration objectives at hand. The below table is a summary of just some of the considerations:
|H-1B Visa||TN Nonimmigrant Status|
|Applicant must be seeking employment in a "specialty occupation"||Applicant must be seeking a position that falls within NAFTA-specific professions|
|Bachelor's degree is required, but education and experience may be combined to satisfy degree requirement||Bachelor's degree or license is required for almost all professions, and experience will not satisfy this requirement|
|Employer must submit H-1B petition which must be adjudicated by USCIS||Prior approval from USCIS not required|
|Applicant may have dual intent (may apply for permanent residence while maintaining H-1B nonimmigrant status)||Applicant must have temporary nonimmigrant intent|
|There are numerical limits on the number of H-1B visas issued each year||There is no numerical limit on the number of TN applicant who may be approved each year|
|Substantial filing fees must be paid||Requires more modest filing fees|
Immigration Law Associates has extensive expertise with both visa categories so please do not hesitate to contact us for a detailed consultation to explore your options.