Canadian and Mexican Professional Workers Can Now Work in U.S. For Up To Three Years at a Time

October 22, 2008

The U.S. Immigration and Immigration Services (USCIS) has increased the period of time that a professional worker from Canada or Mexico may work in the United States in TN (Trade-NAFTA) status before seeking readmission or an extension of stay to three years. Formerly, TN workers were only allowed to remain in the United States for a year at a time. Under the new rule, TN workers can also receive extensions in increments of three years.

TN nonimmigrant status allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to work temporarily in one of the occupations listed in NAFTA, a treaty among the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Canadian or Mexican citizen must demonstrate that he or she will be working in a listed occupation and has at least a Bachelor’s degree or other qualifying credentials required for working in that occupation. The listed occupations include, among others, engineers, accountants, pharmacists, various health care providers and certain computer professionals.

Unlike H-1B status, there is no annual limit on the number of individuals who can obtain TN status in a given year. In addition, the process for applying for TN status is much simpler than for H-1B status and less costly. There is also no limit on the number of times a person can apply for TN status.

Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa at a U.S. consular post in Canada or file a petition with the USCIS in the United States in order to obtain TN classification. Instead, Canadians can apply for admission as TN workers at an airport prior to boarding a flight or at a land port-of-entry. They must provide proof of citizenship, a letter from their prospective employer detailing the job assignment and length of stay, and evidence of their qualifications. Following inspection by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, an eligible Canadian citizen will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant to the United States to work for a specified employer and will receive a “multiple-entry” Form I 94 as evidence of this admission.

The procedure for Mexican citizens is slightly different. Mexicans also do not need to file a petition with the USCIS. They are required, however, to apply for a visa at a U.S. consular post in Mexico. As with Canadians, they must present proof of citizenship, a letter from the prospective employer, and proof of education or other qualifying credentials. Mexican TN visa holders then apply for admission at a U.S. port-of-entry, and, if found qualified by the CBP inspector, receive a multiple-entry Form I-94.