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What Is a NAFTA (TN) Visa?

Thanks to NAFTA (North American Free-Trade Agreement) of 1994, the TN (Trade NAFTA) Visa was created. This is a work visa designed to allow professionally qualified Canadian or Mexican nationals the ability to work in the United States. This article will give an overview of the TN Visa.

Who Qualifies

Firstly, the individual must be a legal citizen of either Canada or Mexico. There needs to be a valid job offer with an American company, and it must be from the NAFTA list of professions that qualify for TN Visas. In general, the professions require an equivalent of a bachelor’s degree or higher. Many of the professions are in science and are extremely specialized. This is not an immigration visa. The applicant must have intent to return to his or her own country.


It is not necessary for a NAFTA Professional Canadian citizen to have a TN visa stamp unless they are attempting to bring a non-Canadian spouse or children with them to the United States during their time of employment. Without the requirement of a stamp, the Canadian citizen can seek TN status from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Boarder Protection, or a U.S. Immigration officer.

When applying for the TN status, the individual will need proof of Canadian citizenship with either a passport or birth certificate. Then a letter from the prospective American business proving a legitimate job offer for a position that qualifies under the NAFTA restrictions. The applicant must also prove they are qualified for the position they are filling by showing such documents as school transcripts, licenses, degrees or proof of past employment records. Then they are required to pay a $50 fee.


Unlike Canadians, Mexicans are required to have a TN stamp in their visa. In order to procure one, they must apply with a U.S. Embassy/Consulate in Mexico that has jurisdiction over the applicant’s residence.

As with the Canadian citizen, the Mexican applicant must supply a letter from the prospective employer. However, this letter should also include a description of activity in which the applicant shall be engaged, the purpose of entry, and the anticipated length of stay. Then he or she must further show educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status, evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws; and arrangements for employment compensation.


The TN visas restrict stay to one-year increments. However, there are an unlimited number of renewals available with the stipulation that the foreign national maintains residence in their home country. The TN Visa is not meant to be used an immigration visa. If the foreign national wishes to gain Green Card status, it is suggested they change their visa to an H1-B Visa which facilitates immigration.

The visa holder must continue to be employed by the company who sponsored the visa, returning home if the employment is terminated. The employee can switch employers while in the U.S. only if the new employer files for a TN visa on behalf of the employee.

Spouses of TN Visa holders may receive a TD status in order to live in the United States. However, the spouse cannot work in the country unless he or she applies for their own separate work visa. Unmarried children under the age of 21 may also move to the United States with their parent. Any family member is permitted to study in the United States.

For more information, contact an immigration lawyer who will be knowledgeable about the details of obtaining these visas. The Chugh Firm specializes in California immigration law.

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