The TN Visa Explained

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In the world, it pays to have good relationships with the countries surrounding you. This is why the United States has implemented a visa that makes it easy for our neighbors from Mexico and Canada to come and work legally in the United States if they so shall choose.

The TN visa stems from a trade agreement with these countries called NAFTA. The North American Free Trade Agreement allows citizens of the two countries to travel and work together and receive economic benefits on top of professional benefits.

If you are questioning whether or not you can qualify for a TN visa, this article will give you all the information you need to make an informed decision. Read on for more information on how to apply for this visa, the documents needed to do so, and what careers qualify.

What Is a TN Visa and Its Use?

If you are a citizen of Mexico and Canada, then you should be well aware of the TN visa. And more so if you are looking to work legally in the United States. The visa TN is a specific visa created to approve Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in the United States.

Now, what does TN mean? Stemming from its definition, TN means Trade NAFTA. So, when we say this visa truly supports this agreement, the proof is in its name and classification. Ultimately, this visa creates the ability for individuals to travel, test their skills in another country, and strengthen the relationship between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Requirements to Be Eligible for a TN Visa

Of course, as with any U.S. visa, some requirements must be met by the applicants. In general, the basic conditions for Canadians and Mexicans to apply for this include:

  • Being a citizen of Canada or Mexico
  • Qualifying for this visa under the NAFTA profession list
  • Show evidence that the job you are taking requires a professional of your level
  • You have arranged a part-time or full-time job in the United States with a legal employer
  • Proof that you match the credentials and education requirements for the position you are taking

Educational and Experience Requirements

If you are wondering if you meet the requirements for education, you can look at the NAFTA list. Generally, most occupations require a bachelor’s degree or years of experience. If you meet these requirements and have a degree from outside the United States, it must be notarized before it is submitted with your application.

For your work experience, it’s important to have at least three years of work experience in the field you will be pursuing. In order to show work experience, having letters from employers, recommendation letters, or workplace verification can be helpful.

Healthcare Certifications

For those that are choosing to work in healthcare fields with your NAFTA visa, or TN visa, other requirements must be met on top of the general requirements. Again, at the very least, a bachelor’s degree is required.

Additionally, for medical careers, you will need to show proof of all certifications that are required for the specific profession. The jobs that require certifications include:

  • Registered nurses
  • Physical therapists
  • Medical technologists
  • Occupational therapists

NAFTA Occupation List

In order to qualify for this visa, you must have a degree or experience in one of 63 professions. If you have a degree or experience in any of the 63 categories, you are easily eligible to apply for this type of visa.

The 63 careers that you are able to travel abroad for, include four categories. This TN NAFTA professionals list, and some specific positions, will be listed below:

  1. General occupations: These include accountants, engineers, architects, hotel managers, designers, lawyers, research assistants, and social workers. Additionally, consultations or vocational counselors will fall under this category as well. You can look more closely at the professions that fall under this category in your own time to see if you qualify.
  2. Medical occupations: Under this category, any medical professional is likely included. Anyone from dentists and pharmacists to dietitians and veterinarians are eligible.
  3. Science occupations: For science-based jobs, there are plenty of possibilities that will be included. Some careers under this category include animal breeders, chemists, astronomers, physicists, and zoologists can apply for this visa, per the USCIS website.
  4. Teaching occupations: This category is smaller and easy to fall under. This category contains three types of teaching jobs, college teachers, seminary teachers, and university professors.

TN Visa Types

The application for the TN visa will need to include some documents, along with the application and proof of education and experience. When submitting the application, for both the TN-1 and TN-2 visa, you will need a valid passport, a visa photograph, and a letter from your employer.

This letter will need to contain the job you are planning on starting, the job description, contract length, and financial compensation. Additionally, a visa interview may be required as well, depending on the type of visa you apply for.

Generally, the TN visa has two categories that applicants will fall into. These TN visa categories and what additional information is expected will be gone over in detail below.

TN-1 Visa

The TN-1 visa is for Canadian citizens to apply for. The perfect applicant must meet all the above criteria for basic eligibility. In general, Canadian citizens don’t necessarily need a TN visa for work but will need to obtain one if they wish to bring over dependents.

Eligible professions for a TN-1 visa are similar to the list of professions that we have listed above.

How to Apply for a TN-1 Visa?

In order to apply for the TN-1 visa for Canadian citizens, you must complete the following steps.

  1. You must first submit Form I-129, which is the petition for Nonimmigrant Workers. This form should be completed and submitted to USCIS.
  2. Once this is submitted, you are then able to apply for TN status. This can be done prior to entering the United States or can be done at a U.S. port of entry. If you wish to apply upon entry, you must provide your proof of Canadian citizenship, a letter from your respective employer, and your credentials.
  3. When this is submitted, you must then pay the necessary fees. The fees for this visa will be gone over in detail in the following sections.

The letter from your employer must include what profession you will be working in while in the States, the length of your contract, and your educational background.

TN-2 Visa

The TN-2 visa is made specifically for Mexican citizens. Again, those that are applying for the TN-2 visa should meet the above general requirements. If you find that the above-mentioned requirements are met, you are able to apply for the TN-2 visa. The TN visa application process for this type of TN visa will be explained in more detail below.

The eligible professions for a TN-2 visa are the same as the list of professions that we have listed above. And, keep in mind that all the TN visa occupations listed above will require a bachelor’s degree.

How to Apply for a TN-2 Visa?

For Mexican citizens, you can apply for the TN-2 by following the steps listed below. These steps include:

  1. First, submit the necessary documents. These documents include Form DS-160, proof of degree and qualifications, and proof of Mexican citizenship. The listed documents can then be submitted to a U.S. consulate or embassy closest to you.
  2. Next, you will need to attend an interview. This interview will take place at the consulate or embassy after your paperwork was submitted in the first place. Following your interview, you will receive a visa number.
  3. From there, you will be allowed to enter the states at a designated port of entry and selected preclearance stations.

TN Visa Cost

Unlike other United States visas, the cost of this visa is much more affordable than others. The only fee you will need to pay ahead of time is the I-129H Petition filing fee. If you wish to have expedited processing, which only takes 15 business days, the price will be $1,225.

However, it’s important to note that this is to be paid only if you apply ahead of time and submit it by mail. If you have previously applied, after your visa has been approved, you will need to pay a $50 application fee at the border and another $6 for an arrival card.

On the other hand, if you are planning on applying for this visa upon entry to the United States, the fees will differ. If you are a Canadian citizen entering through a port of entry, you will need to pay $56. Or, if you are opting for a pre-flight inspection, the cost will be $50.

TN Visa Processing Time

The answer to this question can be done in two parts. Let’s say, for instance, you apply for your TN visa ahead of time, via the mail. The amount of time for processing will vary based on the USCIS office it was submitted to. Generally, the time will take a few months for approval.

If you choose this route, you can opt for premium processing. However, this comes with a price. But, if you choose this option, your TN visa will be processed in 15 business days. It’s important to note that even if you pay for premium processing, your outcome will still be varied.

If you apply for this visa at the entry port upon arrival, it may take only a few hours. You will not have the option for premium processing here, so it’s up to you if you wish to wait upon entry into the United States.

Checking Your TN Visa Status

If you’ve applied for this visa ahead of time, you are able to track the status of your application. This can be done through your account on USCIS. In most cases, you will have received a receipt number, which is 13 digits. This number will let you check online how your application is coming along.

TN Visa Validity & Extensions

Every TN visa has a validity date of up to three years from the day you arrive in the country. And, the best part about this visa is that it can be extended or renewed indefinitely. This can be done by filing Form I-129 to renew the status.

For this extension, you must give proof of meeting the employment requirements and have a letter that addresses the need for an extension.

Ultimately, as long as you are legally employed in the U.S. and have the evidence to back this up, the visa is valid. However, again, if you change your employment status and employers, you will need to apply for an entirely new TN visa. If you won’t be doing this, then your original TN visa will be valid for an attractive amount of time.

The Advantages and Restrictions of a TN Visa

If you have any knowledge of other work visa options, you will know that this visa and the H-1B visa are incredibly similar. This is why, before applying, you must choose the one that works best for you.


When it comes to the TN visa over other visas, there are advantages and disadvantages. Some of the advantages of the TN visa include:

  • No annual cap on the number of visas that can be issued
  • The long-term validity of the visa
  • The easy and indefinite number of times the TN visa can be extended
  • The lower cost of the visa
  • The ability to apply upon entering the country

A huge benefit of this visa is the freedom to travel. The TN visa is considered a multiple-entry visa. This title allows those that have this visa to travel in and out of the country as many times as they wish. So, if you are needing to visit abroad or take a vacation, this visa will enable you to exit and re-enter the country on the same visa, with ease.

But, a downside to this, is if you have applied for this visa upon entry. Because, when your petition is being processed, it’s not advised to travel. So, travel must be kept until after your application has been fully processed and approved. It helps to have it in your hand, before thinking about traveling abroad.


Nonetheless, along with the advantages this visa can bring, there are some downsides. In order to qualify for this visa, there are only 60 possible types of careers you can have to come to the states legally. Whereas other work visas offer more freedom and flexibility in career options.

Another disadvantage of the TN visa is that you are unable to be self-employed or create a business in the country. With a rise in remote work and online work, this can be an issue for those that are self-employed. It’s important to make it very clear that if you choose to come to the states on a TN visa, you must be employed by a company in the United States.

Changing Your Status

There is no easy option to adjust your status once abroad. The key word being easy. Other visas give applicants an option and opportunity to become permanent residents of the United States.

A huge negative of TN is that it’s a more complicated process to change status. Just to briefly explain, to do so, you must undergo the same process via PERM. PERM is the Permanent Labor Certification Process, which takes electronic review technology to another level.

Generally, H-1B visa holders will go through this, although it’s said to be easier with that given visa. But, luckily, it can be done. Just make sure that if you want to go through with the process, you should really be serious about adjusting your status.

TN Visa Family Members

On this type of visa, there is some wiggle room for family members to join you in the United States. If your spouse or children that are under the age of 21 wish to come abroad as well, there is an option to do so.

Even though there are ways to get your children and your significant other abroad, there are some restrictions with this avenue. While they are joining you abroad, they are not allowed to legally work in the country; however, they are able to study.

For both TN-1 and TN-2 visa applicants, proof of financial stability is required. After being approved for this visa, you need to show that you will have sufficient funds to provide for your dependents. This is very important because any dependents brought abroad are unable to work, so they will have no legal income.

Unemployment on the TN Visa

When it comes to unemployment on this type of visa, there are a few things to keep in mind. The grace period for this type of visa is 60 days. This means that if you switch jobs, or your TN visa ends, you will have 60 days to get yourself sorted. The same goes for unemployment … you will have 60 days to find a new job, or apply for unemployment.

If you choose to file for unemployment, things get tricky. These benefits aren’t just handed out with this type of visa, they are only awarded to you if you have the proper insurance coverage and if you are left jobless through no fault of your own.

Let’s say, for example, your insurance does offer unemployment, but you have voluntarily quit your job without a good work-related cause. Will you get unemployment benefits? No, you won’t, because you have willingly quit your position.

If you have participated in a labor dispute apart from an active lockout, can you claim unemployment benefits? No, you are unable to in this case as well. Additionally, if you were discharged from work for a medical-related reason, you won’t necessarily get unemployment benefits on this type of visa. Or, if you have been out of work and offered various jobs, you can’t claim unemployment.

TN Visa FAQs

Because of how similar the H-1B visa and TN visas are to each other, there are countless questions that come up throughout the application process. Some of the most commonly asked questions will be answered below.

1. Can TN Visa Holders Apply for a Green Card?

The short answer to this question is no, you are unable to apply for a green card while in the United States on a TN visa. The TN visa is not a “dual-intent” visa, which means that if you enter with this type of visa into the U.S., you are unable to try to move abroad.

However, if you do arrive and wish to become a U.S. citizen, there are still ways to do so. First, you can marry a U.S. citizen and obtain a green

2. Can I Study in the U.S. if I Hold a TN Visa?

Luckily, yes you can study in the states if you hold a TN visa. You can choose to study full-time or part-time; however, you must still follow the original requirements of your TN visa. And above all, the TN visa requirements come before studying requirements.

If your TN visa expires before you get a chance to begin studying or before you finish studying, you are able to leave the country and re-enter on a different, more appropriate visa.

3. Can I Get a TN Visa without a Degree?

This question is a tricky one to answer because it’s not a simple yes or no. Needing a degree for a TN visa will depend on the profession that you are seeking abroad. In some cases, in order to qualify for a TN visa will require you to show at least a bachelor’s degree in the career you are seeking employment in.

In some cases, depending on the profession, you are able to show a post-secondary certificate and a minimum of three years of experience in the field, to show you are a qualified professional.

4. What Is the Grace Period After I Leave My Job on a TN Visa?

Once you are finished with your job in the United States, you have a 60-day grace period to find another job or leave the country. If you are going to re-enter on another visa and adjust your status, again, you will have 60 days to do so.

5. Did the USCMA Affect the TN Visa?

This is a great question and one that has a positive answer. No, the U.S.-Medico-Canada Agreement incorporates the same for TN visas as the North American Free Trade Agreement does.

For those that are unsure what this agreement entails, we will explain more. This agreement came into effect in July 2020 and is considered a win for both parties. By creating more balance in trade and better-earning potential for North America as a whole, the USMCA has many benefits. These benefits include the following:

1. Creating higher level jobs for American workers through improved rules and regulations for the origins of cars, trucks, and other high-functioning products
2. Allows American farmers, ranchers, and agricultural businessmen to modernize and strengthen their trade
3. Ensure opportunities for trade throughout North America
4. Opens new chapters between countries that involve digital trade and goods regulatory practices

So, because of the various benefits this agreement brings, the TN visa only strengthens these two countries. This means that the TN visa is a great way to further this connection between the two countries.

6. Can I Change Employers While on a TN Visa?

If you have entered on a TN visa with one company, their name is on the paperwork. Therefore, as long as you are in the country on the given visa, you must stick to working with that company. If you wish to change careers and find a job with a different company, you will need to leave the country and start the application process over again.

From there, you can re-enter the country with a new career and employer, with their name updated on your TN visa.

7. How to Work for Two Employers on a TN Visa?

If you are from Canada and wish to work for two employers in your TN, it’s easier to get it sorted prior to arriving. When you arrive at the port of entry, you must present letters from each of your employers that offer sufficient amounts of evidence for your travel to the U.S.

Additionally, you should ensure that you have had both employees file Form I-129 ahead of time so that USCIS can see you are requesting new concurrent employment. However, if you haven’t done any of this ahead of time, you can still travel to a port of entry after you have arrived, and complete the same steps we have just listed.

Mexican citizens will follow a similar process. Again, it’s easier to have two employers ready upon arrival and present the required documents and letters when you arrive at your port of entry. If you are in the country already on a TN visa, then you are able to present an additional employment letter at the port of entry.

Mexican citizens will not need to leave the country and re-enter on a new visa. This enables both nationalities to easily add another employer to their current TN visa.

8. Can I Work for Two Employers on a TN Visa?

Even though this visa is very specific in the employer sponsoring the visa, you are allowed to work for more than one employer at a time. However, this means that you will need a separate TN visa for each employer. We can do this as concurrent employment.

And, the visa requirements and specifics of having your employer printed on the TN visa you have is carried out throughout all applications. So, if you followed the rules and regulations for your first TN visa, there is no reason the same shouldn’t be done for an additional one.

9. Can Permanent Residents of Canada and Mexico Apply for a TN Visa?

This is a bit of a confusing question, and we will attempt to answer it to the best of our abilities. For starters, citizens and permanent residents are two different things. Citizens of Canada and Mexico are able to apply for a TN visa because it is their home country.

On the other hand, permanent residents of Canada or Mexico are not able to apply for a TN visa. Let’s repeat that again. Permanent residents are not allowed to apply for a TN visa in the United States.

Ready to Apply for Your TN Visa? Get Started Today

After reading this article, you may better understand the TN visa that the United States offers. If you are eligible to apply for this type of visa and wish to work in the United States, then it’s recommended that you get started on the process!

Similar to any entry visa into the U.S., applying for a TN visa takes time and money. This means that making a mistake will cost you both. If you want to begin the process but want to go down the path with someone, ImmigrationDirect is happy to be on your side.

If you need more information about this type of visa or wish to have lawyer guided support, contact us today. Applying for visas is made easy with our state-of-the-art immigration software.

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