A TN Visa Overview: A Possible Alternative to the H-1B

Many people who are wanting to get a temporary work visa in the U.S. have likely heard of the H-1B visa. There is another classification called the TN visa that is similar in some ways to the H-1B, and if you are a Mexican or Canadian citizen, this work visa could be for you.

The TN classification allows for Mexican and Canadian citizens to come into the U.S. temporarily to perform professional assignments. This classification does require that the person be a national of Canada or Mexico, have a professional assignment in the U.S., and possess a bachelor’s degree or have a professional license.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) specifies a list of occupations as well as the required educational and/or licensure requirements for the type of job that the person is seeking to get TN classification for. You can find that list here.

If a person has a degree that was not received from a U.S., Canadian, or Mexican university, the degree must be evaluated to ensure that the degree is equivalent to a U.S., Canadian, or Mexican degree. Other evidence of a person’s professional credentials would include professional licenses, certificates, or membership in professional organizations.

A person cannot get TN status if they want to be self-employed in the U.S., even if it is one of the professions listed on the NAFTA list. See my post on E-2 visas, which would be the more appropriate visa for someone who wants to start a business in the U.S.

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 of TN professionals are also eligible to come to the U.S. and would hold “TD” status. TD dependents do not have to be Mexican or Canadian citizens to get TD status. TD status holders are not allowed to work in the U.S., but they are allowed to go to school.

TN status is good for three years at a time, and renewable if the assignment ends up lasting more than three years. However, one thing to keep in mind is that if a person has had several renewals, those TN applications may be closely scrutinized because the immigration officials will want to ensure that there is no immigrant intent. TN holders are classified as nonimmigrants, and the intent for that classification is that the person will return to their home country.

One of biggest advantages of seeking the TN classification is that, unlike the H-1B classification, there is no cap on the number of people who can receive TN status. Seeking TN status is a great alternative to the H-1B classification if a person meets all of the requirements to get TN status.