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TN Visas

The TN nonimmigrant category was created by Congress to implement America’s obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Thus, the TN category is limited to citizens of Canada and Mexico. One significant difference between TN visas for Canadians and TN visas for Mexicans is that a Canadian citizen is not required to apply to have a TN visa issued into his or her passport prior to coming to the United States. (For most nonimmigrant categories, such as the H-1B visa, Canadian citizens do not require a visa in order to proceed to a port of entry to apply for nonimmigrant status). Thus, a Canadian citizen who is approved for TN classification does not receive a “TN visa” but rather receives “TN status.” A Mexican citizen must obtain a TN visa from a US Embassy or Consulate before entering the United States and being admitted to the US in TN visa status.
 
Occupations Suitable for TN Classification
The TN category is similar to the H-1B classification for occupations that require a bachelor’s degree in a particular field. However, the requirements of the two categories are not the same.
Most of the listed TN occupations require that the applicant possess the Canadian or Mexican equivalent to a US bachelor’s degree, which is why the TN category is often thought of as an alternative to the H-1B visa. For positions such as Engineers, the bachelor’s degree requirement for TN classification is the same as for H-1B classification.
 
However, many positions that require a bachelor’s or higher degree and, therefore, make for proper H-1B classifications are not listed in the Appendix to NAFTA and thus are not eligible for TN classification. Conversely, the TN list contains several occupations that require less than a full bachelor’s degree, as well as occupations that might require a bachelor’s degree, but can also be performed with a lesser degree if combined with sufficient work. Thus, even if an occupation has customarily been approved for H-1B classification, it does not guarantee that TN classification can and will be approved.
 
Length of Status
The USCIS has increased the period of time for which TN status is granted to a maximum of three years. Unlike the H-1B, an TN candidate has no definite total limit in such TN nonimmigrant status.  As such, some employers find the TN category a useful “stop-gap” to permit the temporary employment of a Canadian or Mexican professional for several years until a change to H-1B status is successfully made.
 
No “Dual Intent”
Unlike the H-1B petition, the TN applicant is required to convince the US CIS of his or her intent to return to their home country at the end of the TN employment.  As such, the TN applicant must demonstrate that he or she does not intend to apply for permanent residency, but intends to return to his or her home country.