Immigration Law Center, L.L.C.
P.O. Box 11032
Montgomery, Alabama 36111-0032 U.S.A.

Telephone:  (334) 832-9090

Special Notice:  The extended credential certification requirement deadline for Mexican and Canadian healthcare workers other than physicians is ending on July 26, 2005.  After July 26, 2005 healthcare workers such as registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and medical technologists working under NAFTA trade status in the U.S. and who were employed and licensed in the U.S. prior to September 23, 2003 must have credential certification.

Requirements for Trade Nafta visa for professionals

Attorney at Law and Civil Law Notary

    This article describes the requirements and procedures to obtain the TN (Trade Nafta) nonimmigrant visa for professionals.  Formerly known as TC (Trade Canada), TN visa petitions are filed with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) by U.S. employers on behalf of Canadian and Mexican citizens who wish to work temporarily in the United States.
    Canadian citizens benefit from expedited procedures at the port of entry (or border crossing), and there is no limit on the number of extensions of stay or applications for readmission that may be filed, and no limit on the number of admissions that may be granted.  Mexican citizens, unfortunately, are subject to a "labor condition application."  The process for Mexicans is similar to the H-1B (temporary worker) visa process.  Mexicans are also subject to stricter consular questioning concerning their intent to immigrate to the United States.  The only problem is that Congress restricted the visa validity to six months. Most of my clients hate the frequency of renewal for this visa, and I don't blame them.  The TN visa is available for a limited number of professions.  For a list of those professions and a few frequently asked questions, please click on the following link:  Trade Nafta Professionals.
    There is a licenciatura degree requirement (normally a five-year program) as an alternative to the baccalaureate degree.  Three-year baccalaureates are allowed, primarily because of Canadian degree programs. In a limited number of professions, a TN visa applicant may qualify with a state or provincial license in lieu of a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree.  Self-employed persons are not allowed to apply for the TN visa.
    Canadians may file an application for the TN visa at a U.S. class "A" port of entry, a U.S. international airport, or a U.S. pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station.  No prior petition, labor condition application, or prior approval is required, but certain documentation establishing eligibility must be presented.  Canadians are admitted for a period not to exceed one year.
    The annual TN visa limit for Mexicans is 5,500. Only a U.S. employer may file for a Mexican citizen. The labor condition application, approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, must accompany the TN visa application. In addition, the application's supporting documentation requirements are more rigorous than required for Canadians. Spouses and unmarried minor children of TN applicants may apply for TD (Trade Dependent) status.  No fee is required.  No dependents of a TN visa holder may accept employment.  Canadians may apply for an extension of stay through an INS district office or at a port of entry within one year of admission to the United States.  Mexicans must apply for extensions of stay through an INS service center.  The extension authorized is one year for both.
    If the TN visaholder wishes to change employers, both Canadians and Mexicans are required to have the new employer file a new application on their behalf.  Neither Canadians nor Mexicans are required to file a new petition if they are transferred to another location in the United States by their U.S. employer to perform essentially the same services, unless the new location is run by the U.S. employer's separately incorporated subsidiary or affiliate.
    The professional fields covered are in the areas of computer science, architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, business specialties, accounting, law, theology, the arts, and many teaching positions, much as occupations under the H-1B (specialty worker) nonimmigrant visa.
    A TN visa does not normally lead to a "green card" (permanent resident status) because the TN visa is renewable virtually indefinitely.  Still, it is possible to obtain "green cards" for TN visaholders.

Information from the Department of State

    NAFTA is the North American Free Trade Agreement.  It creates special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico.  The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals to work in the United States.  Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not able to apply to work as a NAFTA professional.

Requirements for Canadian Citizens

    Canadian citizens usually do not need a visa as a NAFTA Professional, although a visa can be issued to qualified TN visa applicants upon request. However, a Canadian residing in another country with a non-Canadian spouse and children would need a visa to enable the spouse and children to be able to apply for a visa to accompany or join the NAFTA Professional, as a TD visa holder. To apply for visa, please see the requirements under the section Mexican Citizens- Applying for a TN Visa- Required Documentation.

    A Canadian citizen without a TN visa can apply at a U.S. port of entry with all of the following:

Request for admission under TN status to Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. immigration officer;
Employment Letter - Evidence of professional employment. See Employment Letter below;
Proof of professional qualifications, such as transcripts of grades, licenses, certificates, degrees, and/or records of previous employment;
Proof of ability to meet applicable license requirements;
Proof of Canadian citizenship- Canadian citizens may present a passport, as visas are not required, or they may provide secondary evidence, such as a birth certificate. However, Canadian citizens traveling to the United States from outside the Western Hemisphere are required to present a valid passport at the port-of-entry;
Fee of U.S. $50

Requirements for Mexican Citizens

    As of January 1, 2004 the procedures were simplified for Mexicans by removing the requirement for petition approval and for filing of a labor condition application. Mexicans are no longer subject to numerical limitation for these professionals. Mexican citizens still require a visa to request admission to the United States.

    Mexican citizens may apply at consular sections around the world for a NAFTA professional (TN) visa. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the embassy consular section is required for most visa applicants.  Interviews are generally by appointment only. As part of the visa interview, a quick, two-digit, ink-free fingerprint scan can generally be expected. The waiting time for an interview appointment for most applicants is a few weeks or less, but for some embassy consular sections it can be considerably longer. Visa wait times for interview appointments and visa processing time information for each U.S. Embassy or Consulate worldwide is now available on our website at Visa Wait Times, and on most embassy websites.  Visit the Embassy Consular Section website where you will apply for your visa to find out how to schedule an interview appointment, pay the fees and any other instructions.

    Each Mexican applicant for a TN visa must submit these forms and documentation, and submit fees as explained below:

An application, Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-156, completed and signed. Select Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form DS-156 to access the electronic and non-electronic versions of the DS-156.  Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit the electronic version of the DS-156. The DS-156 must be the current version on the Department of State website.
Supplemental Nonimmigrant Visa Application, Form DS-157 provides additional information about your travel plans. Submission of this completed form is required for all male applicants between 16-45 years of age. It is also required for all applicants from state sponsors of terrorism age 16 and over, irrespective of gender, without exception. For this purpose nationals of the following countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism, including North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, and Libya must submit the supplemental form. Select Special Processing Procedures to learn more. You should know that a consular officer may require any nonimmigrant visa applicant to complete this form. Here is Form, DS-157.
A passport valid for travel to the United States and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant's intended period of stay in the United States.
One (1) 2-inch by 2-inch photograph. A photograph is not required if you are applying in Mexico.
Letter of employment in the United States (see below)

    Additionally, as nonimmigrants, applicants must demonstrate that their stay is a temporary period that has a reasonable, finite end that does not equate to permanent residence.  My clients sometimes (but rarely) run into problems at particular border crossings with officers who ask about this issue, but we have been able to resolve all problems so far.

    Boyd F. Campbell is a member of the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).  He has served as Chair of the Immigration Law Committee of the ABA's General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Lawyers Section and as Co-Chair for the Immigration Law Committee of the ABA's Labor and Employment Law Section.  He was a member of the ABA's Coordinating Committee on Immigration Law from 1994 to 1998.  He was Vice-Chair a task force that created the International Law Section of the Alabama State Bar, and served as Chair of the International Law Section from 2000 to 2002.  Mr. Campbell was selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America Consumer Guide, published by Woodward/White, Inc. This database of U.S. attorneys is available by subscription and can be found online:  CLICK HERE.  For more information about Mr. Campbell, CLICK HERE.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to:
Immigration Law Center, L.L.C.
P.O. Box 11032
Montgomery, Alabama 36111-0032 U.S.A.

Telephone:  (334) 832-9090

BACK to the Immigration Law Center Home Page:  CLICK HERE