How Can I Apply for a TN Visa at the United States Border or U.S. Consulate?

paper-map-2-1372604-m.jpgNearly all of the nonimmigrant (temporary) work visas available to foreign employees are not country specific - meaning that regardless of the employee's country of origin, the worker may qualify for the visa. However, there are a few visas that are reserved only for workers from specific countries and one of these visas is called the TN visa.

The TN visa, (the abbreviation for "Treaty National" visa) was created pursuant to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which was signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The goal of NAFTA is to facilitate and encourage trade among these three countries. Thus, the TN visa is a temporary work visa which allows qualifying foreign workers to work in the U.S. for a specific employer and for a specific time period (typically in increments of one year, though the visa may be extended).

Since the TN visa was created pursuant to NAFTA, only Canadian or Mexican citizens can qualify for it. Not only does the foreign worker need to prove Canadian or Mexican citizenship, but the worker must also prove that he/she will work in the U.S. in one of the pre-approved TN-eligible jobs. These jobs include Engineers, Graphic Designers, Accountants, Computer Systems Analysts, Mathematicians, and lawyers, and the complete list may be found here.

Although the TN visa may seem restrictive and therefore an unattractive option, as long as the foreign worker is Canadian or Mexican, the TN visa is actually quite beneficial - to both the worker and the U.S. employer. For instance, unlike the widely popular (and thus highly sought after) H-1B visa which has an annual cap of 65,000 per year, there is no limit to how many TN visas may be given out each year. Also, again unlike the H-1B visa which in most cases can only be extended for up to six years, a TN visa can be extended for as long as the worker needs to perform the job duties.

Moreover, the foreign worker does not need to be employed full-time in order to receive the TN visa; part-time work is absolutely fine (but note that self-employment is not allowed for a TN visa holder).

Finally, one of the most beneficial aspects of the TN visa is that it does not require the U.S. employer sponsor to send an application U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services. In the absence of such an application, the TN worker simply goes directly to the U.S. consulate (or even directly to the U.S. border if the worker is Canadian) and provides the consulate or border official with a job letter from the U.S. employer, the worker's educational degree and any applicable licenses, and proof that the job is a pre-approved TN-eligible job.

Clearly the TN visa can be a very attractive option for U.S. employer seeking to hire foreign workers who happen to Canadian or Mexican. Contact our office at 650-293-0270 to speak to a member of our legal team about the TN application process.

Additional Blog Posts

ACLU Sues U.S. Government Over Voluntary Departure, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, June 7, 2013
Let's Put USCIS Forms in the Post Office, Silicon Valley Immigration Lawyer Blog, March 1, 2012

Work Visas / by Michelle Gee