E. Adriana Kostencki, Esq.
Abogado admitida en Florida, EE.UU. y Venezuela
Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to work in the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created 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 in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers.
The great advantage of the TN process is the relative speed with which this visa status can be acquired. Many U.S. employers hiring Canadian and Mexican citizens find that they can bring their candidates "on board" (and on U.S. payroll) within a matter of days or weeks, rather than the months-long wait that other visa categories usually require. Further, unlike the H-1B or L-1 nonimmigrant visa categories, there is no set "cap" on the amount of time a Canadian or Mexican citizen may remain in the United States in TN status. Although, generally, TN visas are approved for no more than a one-year period, TN status may be indefinitely renewed after initial entry.
Canadians and Mexicans may be eligible to work in the United States as NAFTA professionals under the following conditions:
- Applicant is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
- Profession is on the NAFTA list;
- Position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
- Applicant will work in a prearranged full-time or part-time job for an employer. Self-employment is not permitted;
- Applicant has the qualifications, meeting the specific requirements, education, and/or experience, of the profession.
With some exceptions, each profession requires a baccalaureate degree as an entry-level requirement. If a baccalaureate is required, experience cannot be substituted for that degree. In some professions, an alternative to a bachelor's degree is listed, and for some professions, experience is required in addition to the degree. Professionals, such as accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, economists, engineers, graphic designers, hotel managers, interior designers, librarians, lawyers, management consultants, mathematicians, social workers, dentists, dietitians, occupational therapists, pharmacists, psychologists, teachers, among others, may be eligible to work in the United States as NAFTA professionals.
Requirements for Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens usually do not need a visa as a NAFTA Professional, although a visa can be issued to qualified Canadian TN visa applicants upon request. A Canadian citizen without a TN visa can apply for TN nonimmigrant status at a U.S. port of entry. However, a Canadian without TN nonimmigrant status, who resides in a third country with a non-Canadian spouse and/or child(ren), and who plans to enter the United States as a NAFTA professional at the same time as the family member(s), will need a TN visa in order for the family members to be eligible to apply for derivative TD nonimmigrant visa(s).
Requirements for Mexican Citizens: Mexican citizens require TN visas to request admission to the United States in this status. Mexican citizens should apply for TN visas at U.S. consulates abroad, and will be given a valid visa for up to one year.
If a TN (NAFTA Professional) petition is filed before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, the petition may be valid for up to three years. Dependent spouses and children of TN professionals hold TD (NAFTA Dependent) status. Also, an extension of TN status may be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or the beneficiary may apply for a new period of TN status at a port of entry (Canadians) or at a U.S. Consulate abroad. It is imperative for all TN visa applicants to understand that they may not have any intention of immigrating to the United States while they remain in TN status.