Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

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New York, NY 10004

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TN Trade NAFTA Non-immigrant Visas

Q: When is the TN visa appropriate?

A: TN visas are available only to Canadian and Mexican Nationals, and are created as a result of trade treaties with these two countries. They are available for positions or occupations on a statutorily-defined list (available here), and often those seeking admission to perform these jobs must demonstrate possession of a specific degree or specific work experience.

Q: What is the procedure to apply for a TN visa?

A: This depends on whether the beneficiary is a Canadian or Mexican national.

For a Canadian, the initial TN visa petition is generally not submitted through a USCIS Service Center like most other visas, but rather is submitted to a Pre-Flight Inspection point or border post abroad (unless the individual is already present in the U.S. and a change of status or extension of status is requested through the USCIS Service Center).

This can be a significant advantage in terms of the speed with which the application can be approved. Often, a TN holder in the U.S. who seeks extension will choose to travel to a point abroad to reenter rather than wait for approval of an extension through the USCIS Service Center.

Note that only Canadians have the option of applying at a Pre-Flight Inspection point or border post, as Canadians may enter the U.S. without a visa stamp.

For a Mexican national, the TN application still requires application at a US consular post and issuance of a visa stamp in a valid passport prior to presentation for entry at a border post or other immigration checkpoint.

Q: Can a foreign national begin the process of applying for permanent residence while on a TN visa?

A: Technically, no. The TN visa does not permit "dual intent" - the intent to enter temporarily on a non-immigrant visa while simultaneously intending to eventually attain permanent residence in the U.S. A TN visa holder must in most cases first change to a visa which permits dual intent, such as an H-1B or L-1 visa, before beginning the process of applying for permanent residence or risk not being re-admitted after foreign travel, or not having their status renewed by USCIS while here in the US.

Q: How long can an individual be on a TN visa?

A: TN visas are valid for up to three years, and may be renewed. There is no specific limit on how many times they may be renewed, but with each renewal it may become more difficult to convince the interviewing official at the border (or the USCIS adjudications officer at the Service Center) that the intent of the foreign national is to remain in the U.S. only temporarily.

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The above is presented for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The information provided should not be used as guidance in pursuing an immigration matter absent consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.