Global Work Glossary

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Table of Contents

How is the TN visa different from the H-1B visa?

What do you need to qualify for a TN visa?

How to apply for a TN visa?

Canadian citizens

Mexican citizens

Fast-track your TN visa with Deel immigration

What is a TN visa?

The TN visa is a nonimmigrant category that permits Canadian and Mexican citizens to live and work in the United States in a NAFTA profession. The TN (Trade NAFTA) classification is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The treaty establishes unique economic relationships between the US, Mexico, and Canada.
TN visas are temporary. But while they only allow the holder to stay in the country initially for three years, you can renew them in 3-year increments indefinitely. A TN visa allows the holder’s spouse and children to apply for TD nonimmigrant visas and accompany them to the US.

See also: Worldwide Visa Support for Dependents: A Guide for Businesses

How is the TN visa different from the H-1B visa?

Both the TN visa and H-1B visa allow the holder to live and work in the United States. However, the TN visa is different in several ways. It has no annual limit, and as many eligible applicants can apply.

This is unlike the H-1B visa, which is more competitive and capped at 65,000 slots a year. The USCIS also processes the TN visa faster than the H-1B visa.

The TN visa allows the holder to renew their status indefinitely. The H-1B visa, meanwhile, permits approved applicants to remain in the US for a maximum of 6 years.

The TN visa is also limited to Canadian and Mexican citizens working in specific TN occupations. You cannot change your employer without a new application, and you may need to re-enter the US after long periods abroad. On the other hand, the H-1B1 covers more occupations, is open to foreign nationals of all nations, and does not require a new application to change employers.

To pick the right visa, determine whether your profession is a TN occupation and how long you plan to work in the United States. A TN visa is ideal if you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen who works in a TN occupation and prefers easy entry into the country.

💡 The Deel platform offers a visa eligibility checker that can help you determine which visa is ideal for you or your worker. Discover which US visas Deel supports with our free US immigration guide.

What do you need to qualify for a TN visa?

The applicant must meet five general requirements to qualify for a TN visa. The eligibility criteria for this status include the following:

✔️ Citizenship: The TN visa is reserved for citizens of Canada and Mexico. It does not apply to permanent residents of either country. Entry into the country as a NAFTA professional is possible for Canadian citizens without a visa, although the USCIS may provide one upon request. This is not true for Mexican nationals.

See also: How to Get a US Work Visa for a Foreign Worker

✔️ Job offer: In addition to proving Canadian or Mexican citizenship, TN visa applicants must have a valid job offer to work in the country. The applicant cannot freelance, be self-employed, or start business activities on TN status.

💡 Are you an employer looking to hire talent from Canada or Mexico in the US? Deel’s EOR service includes visa sponsorship support to help you hire employees and acquire visas, even if you do not qualify as a sponsor or have a US entity.

“It’s clear that Deel is the best on the market. We were able to hire approximately 40 employees in the Philippines within a matter of months. Their background check process was easy and effective." — Bree Cohen, VP of Talent at Power Digital Marketing

✔️ NAFTA profession: The job a US employer offers you must be a TN or NAFTA occupation. NAFTA governs what professions qualify for this visa and the requirements you must meet for each. A few jobs that qualify include:

  • General occupations like lawyer, architect, accountant, engineer, and graphic designer
  • Scientist occupations like chemist, biologist, astronomer, and agriculturalist
  • Medical occupations like dietician, dentist, and occupational therapist
  • Teacher occupations

Physicians who enter the US on a TN visa may only work in a teaching or research capacity. View the full list of TN occupations here and learn more about professional visas here.

✔️ Educational and professional qualifications: The applicant must meet the educational and professional requirements to enter the US for a TN occupation. The guide above provides a complete list of qualifications for each TN job. Nonetheless, here are a few tips to help determine eligibility:

  • Most TN occupations require a Licenciatura or Baccalaureate degree
  • A Baccalaureate degree (usually 4 years) could be 3 years long
  • The degree must be in the field the applicant intends to work in or a related field

The applicant may qualify for some TN occupations with a post-secondary certificate or diploma. Others only require a state or provincial license.

The applicant may also qualify for a TN position with a degree, certificate, or diploma from outside Mexico, Canada, and the US. For this, you must submit evaluation documents showing that the degree is equivalent to a US, Mexico, or Canada degree.

💡 With Deel’s Immigration support, preparing and submitting supporting documentation is as easy as tapping a button. Once our experts onboard the applicant onto our user-friendly platform, a case manager will collect their personal details, and they can upload their documentation.

✔️ Nonimmigrant intent: Finally, the applicant must prove nonimmigrant intent to qualify for a TN visa. This requires demonstrating that your assignment is temporary and has a predictable end date and that you intend to leave at this end date. Where possible, also demonstrate plans to maintain your foreign residence. Submit the following documents:

  • Foreign bank accounts
  • A mortgage in your foreign residence filed in your name
  • Bills sent to your foreign residence
  • A pending job offer in your home country for when your TN assignment ends

How to apply for a TN visa?

The applicant must first gather the necessary documents to apply for TN visa status. The specific documents they must submit depend on their unique educational qualifications, available documents, credentials, etc.

But they must have the following papers at hand:

  • Evidence of their Canadian or Mexican citizenship – a passport
  • Professional and educational qualifications, including your degrees and resume
  • An employment contract
  • Evidence of nonimmigrant intent
  • A job offer and support letter from the US employer
  • The support letter should detail the applicant’s responsibilities at the new job, how long they will work at the company, and why their skills are necessary.

Once the applicant has all their documents, they can apply for their TN visa.

The application process is different for Canadian and Mexican citizens, as you will see below.

💡 Not too crazy about visa applications? Deel’s immigration experts can manage your TN visa applications. We handle everything from the paperwork to status tracking.

Canadian citizens

Canadian citizens do not need to apply for a TN visa at a US consulate in their home country. They can do so directly at a US port of entry.

To do this, the applicant should submit the documents listed above to a customs and border protection (CBP) officer and pay the application fee. The CBP officer will analyze the documents and ask questions to determine their eligibility. If they determine the applicant meets the TN requirements, they will grant them TN status and admit them into the country. The CBP website offers more information on this.

Alternatively, the applicant can file for pre-approval through USCIS before entering the country. Getting I-129 approval does not guarantee that the TN status will go through. However, going through the USCIS first improves your chances of receiving TN status at the port of entry. It also excludes the applicant from paying the $50 processing fee at the port of entry.

To explore this option, the US employer must fill and submit Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker) on the applicant’s behalf. If the USCIS approves the form, submit the necessary documents to CBP at a port of entry alongside an Approval Notice from USCIS for Form I-129.

See also: How to hire international employees without an entity

Mexican citizens

Unlike citizens of Canada, Mexican citizens cannot apply for TN classification as a port of entry. They also cannot apply for pre-approval for initial classification by filing Form I-129 through USCIS.

Instead, the applicant must apply for and get a TN visa before they attempt to enter the US. They can do this directly at a US consulate in their home country by:

  1. Creating an online account with the US Department of State
  2. Completing and submitting Form DS-160 (Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form) online
  3. Paying the $160 visa fee
  4. Scheduling an interview appointment with the consulate office
  5. Attending the meeting with your supporting documents and receipts

The consulate office will assess the application and respond. If approved, the office will issue a TN visa. The applicant must then seek TN classification at a port of entry. The applicant must bring their TN visa stamp, passport, and other important documents.

While the CBP officer at the port of entry will not likely invalidate the applicant’s petition, they may ask some questions about why you wish to enter the US. The applicant must answer factually and honestly. The applicant will receive a 3-year TN classification if the CBP officer approves the petition.

Mexican citizens do not need to pay a $50 fee at the port of entry.

💡 Employers and applicants can track the TN visa progress through the Deel Immigration dashboard.

Fast-track your TN visa with Deel immigration

If you or your worker come from Canada or Mexico and wish to work and stay in the United States, the TN visa offers relatively easy entry and many nonimmigrant benefits. Employers can use it to import talent at the professional level, and workers can use it to work in TN occupations in the country.

Yet, getting TN classification is not always easy. Different rules exist for Canadian and Mexican citizens, and the requirements may vary across occupations.

At Deel, we streamline the TN visa application process, handling everything from eligibility checks and applications to sponsorships and onboarding. Contact the Deel immigration team today to expedite your TN visa process and start your US adventure.

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