TN Visa Application Guide for Canadian and Mexican Professionals

Suppose you are considering a job offer in the United States as a Canadian or Mexican citizen. In that case, the TN visa might be your perfect solution to professional opportunities on the other side of the border. The TN status for nonimmigrant Canadian and Mexican professionals is known for its speed and straightforwardness.

In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about this NAFTA-established TN visa category, including (but not limited to) the TN visa requirements and eligibility criteria, TN restrictions, the documents and forms you must submit to obtain your TN status, the step-by-step application process, and more!

So, let’s get started, shall we?

What Is a TN Visa?

The TN visa, also known as the Trade NAFTA visa (though USMCA has now replaced NAFTA), is a special visa category only for Canadian and Mexican citizens. They must be offered a job in the U.S. that falls under a pre-defined list of professions outlined in the USMCA agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

While you might hear of the TN visa referred to as a NAFTA visa, the official agreement is now the USMCA, which replaced NAFTA in 2020. However, the TN visa category continues to operate under the new agreement’s provisions.

IMPORTANT! Getting a TN status means obtaining a temporary visa, initially valid for up to three years. You can renew it indefinitely if you continue to meet the TN visa eligibility requirements and your job remains a USMCA profession.

TN Visa Requirements: Who is Eligible for This Temporary Nonimmigrant Status?

The TN visa offers qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens an option to work in the United States in specific professional fields. Let’s see the general TN status eligibility criteria to see if this visa category might be a good fit for you.

  • This visa is exclusively for citizens of Canada or Mexico. Being a permanent resident in any country part of the USMCA trade agreement (Canada or Mexico) doesn’t automatically qualify you for benefits under the TN visa program.
  • Your profession must be listed on the official USMCA occupational list. This list includes various fields, like engineering, accounting, science, law, teaching, medicine, and other general occupations. (see the table below).
  • The job offer you receive in the U.S. must demonstrably require a NAFTA/USMCA professional to fill the position. In simpler terms, the duties and responsibilities outlined in the job description must require the specific skills and knowledge of someone in your qualified profession.
  • The TN visa is for employed positions only. Self-employment or freelance work is not permitted under this visa category. You must have a pre-arranged full-time or part-time job offer from a U.S. employer.
  • You must prove you have the qualifications to practice in your chosen profession. This typically involves meeting educational requirements (such as a degree) or experience benchmarks set for the profession. For example, TN engineers must have a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree (or state/provincial license). In contrast, TN hotel managers must have a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree (or Post-Secondary Diploma/Post-Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management) and at least 3 years of experience in HORECA management.

IMPORTANT! Canadian citizens generally don’t require a visa for temporary entry into the U.S. In their case, the TN category acts as an exception to streamline the process of working in professional roles. The TN visa is the standard authorization for Mexican citizens’ temporary professional work in America.

NAFTA Occupational Categories for TN Visas

The good news is that with 60+ professions listed under NAFTA/USMCA, you can find a qualifying field that aligns with your skills and experience. The bad news is that you cannot qualify for TN status unless your profession is among the approved ones. These professions are categorized into four main groups:


General occupations

Medical occupations

Science occupations

Teaching occupations


Accountants, engineers, architects, hotel managers, designers, lawyers, research assistants, social workers, consultants, vocational counselors

Dentists, pharmacists, dietitians, veterinarians, registered nurses, physical therapists, medical technologists, occupational therapists

Animal breeders, chemists, astronomers, physicists, zoologists, agriculturists, biologists, geologists

College teachers, seminary teachers, university professors

IMPORTANT! If you’re seeking a TN visa to work in American healthcare, you might need to meet additional requirements beyond the general ones. At the very least, a bachelor’s degree is still mandatory. However, you’ll also need proof of all certifications for your chosen healthcare profession. Examples of medical occupations requiring certifications include registered nurses, physical therapists, and medical technologists.

While these are the general eligibility criteria, there may be additional requirements specific to your nationality (Canadian or Mexican). The following section will explore these separate requirements in more detail.

TN Visa Eligibility Criteria for Canadian Citizens and How They Can Obtain TN Status

The process for obtaining TN status is designed to be much simpler for a Canadian citizen compared to Mexican TN visa applicants. Here is what you need to know.

In most cases, you won’t need to go through the hassle of applying for a separate TN visa at a U.S. consulate. You can establish your eligibility for TN status right when you enter the United States. When you arrive at the port of entry or pre-clearance station, have these documents ready for the CBP officer:


Proof you're a Canadian citizen

A letter from your U.S. employer

Credentials (if needed)


It could be your passport or a certified birth certificate.

Your future U.S. employer must write you a detailed letter explaining the professional role you'll be filling, why they need someone with specific qualifications, how long your expected stay is, and your educational background.

If you earned your qualifications outside Canada, you might need documentation proving they're recognized as equivalent in the U.S. Include proof that you paid all the fees associated with this evaluation.

If you’re outside the U.S. but have a great job offer lined up, your American employer can file Form I-129: Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS. They can expedite I-129 processing through USCIS’ Premium Processing service, which means their submission will get reviewed a bit quicker (for an extra fee, of course).

You’re almost there once USCIS approves your employer’s petition (Form I-129)! Head to a CBP port of entry or pre-clearance station and present these documents:

  • Proof you’re Canadian (again)
  • The USCIS Approval Notice for Form I-129. It’s wise to have a copy of Form I-129 and all supporting documents submitted to USCIS on you. It can help answer any questions the CBP officer might have about your eligibility.

If the CBP officer determines you meet all the requirements, congratulations! You’ll be admitted to the U.S. and officially be a TN nonimmigrant worker.

IMPORTANT! This process applies to most Canadian citizens. However, there is one exception. You’ll need a TN visa if you live outside Canada with a non-Canadian spouse and/or children and plan to enter the U.S. as a TN professional while they come with you. This visa allows your family members to apply for derivative TD nonimmigrant visas so they can stay with you in the U.S.

TN Visa Eligibility Criteria for Mexican Citizens and How They Can Obtain TN Status

If you’re a Mexican citizen with your sights set on a great TN professional job in the U.S., check this section for eligibility criteria and an application process specifically designed for you.

Remember, unlike Canadian citizens, you’ll need to secure a TN visa before entering the U.S. by applying directly at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico. Before anything else, however, let’s see the TN visa requirements for Mexican citizens (which don’t differ from Canadians’ general TN status eligibility criteria):

  • You must be a citizen of Mexico to qualify for a TN visa.
  • Your chosen profession must be listed on the official USMCA occupational list.
  • You need a pre-arranged job offer from a legal U.S. employer.
  • The job you’re offered in the US requires someone with your NAFTA/ USMCA professional skills to do it well.
  • You need to show you have the training and experience to do the job you’re offered (degrees, equivalent certifications, proven experience, etc.)

Once you have ensured you are eligible for TN status, you need to go through some steps.

Step-by-step TN Visa Application Process for Mexican Citizens

Start your TN status application by filing the Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application: Form DS-160. This online form gathers your biographical information, travel details, and other relevant information about your background.

IMPORTANT! Once you’ve finished filling out the form electronically, be sure to print the confirmation page. You’ll need to bring it to your TN visa interview.

Applying for a TN visa also implies some costs. You must pay the visa application fee of $185 before your interview. 

Next comes the interview. A few exceptions exist, such as applicants under 14 years old or those over 80. Since you are not likely to be in any of these categories, you’ll have to schedule a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico (preferably one in your city or close to where you live).

Gather all the necessary documents before your TN visa interview. Here’s a table for easy reference:


Valid passport

Form DS-160 confirmation page

Application fee receipt

Contract or employment letter

Proof of qualifications


The passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in the U.S.

Printed confirmation page from your completed online visa application (Form DS-160).

The receipt shows payment of the non-refundable visa application fee.

Letter from your U.S. employer confirming your upcoming TN professional position. The letter should detail:
* Purpose of entry
* Job responsibilities
* Length of stay
* Educational qualifications required for the job
* Compliance with U.S. work regulations
* Pay arrangements

Documentation proving you meet your profession's education and work experience requirements:
* Degrees, diplomas, certificates
* Professional licenses
* Membership in professional organizations
* Letters from former employers (if employed)
* Business records (if self-employed)

During your TN visa interview, the consular officer will assess you and even ask for additional documents at their discretion to double-check your eligibility for the TN visa.

For example, they might ask for secondary evidence that you intend to leave the United States after employment as a USMCA professional:

  • Documents proving your connections to Mexico, such as property ownership, ongoing business interests, or family residing there.
  • Paperwork outlining the specific timeframe of your employment with the U.S. company, suggesting a temporary stay.

IMPORTANT! Proof of licensure in the U.S. is not mandatory for a TN visa, but including it with your application can further reinforce your case. However, some U.S. states might require licensure to practice upon arrival in the country, so if you have it (certified U.S. equivalent), it’s best to carry it with you and show it to all parties concerned.

You’ll also likely undergo digital fingerprint scans as part of the TN application process. These quick, ink-free scans are usually taken during your interview, but this might vary depending on the location of the embassy or consulate.

If your TN visa application is approved, congratulations! Your embassy will instruct you on receiving your passport with the visa stamped inside.

The TN Visa Processing Time

The average TN visa processing time is 2 to 6 months. As usual with U.S. visas, the processing time and timeline depend on the workload, backlog, staffing, and bureaucracy of the U.S. embassy/consulate where you apply. 

You can check the embassy website for their current visa processing times to get a general idea of how long it might take to receive your TN status after approval. It will estimate when you can expect to pick up your passport (or have it delivered by courier).

Can I Bring My Family to the U.S. with a TN Visa?

Obtaining a TN visa allows you to work in the US as a qualified professional from Canada or Mexico, but what if you want your family to join you? The good news is that your spouse and unmarried minor children might be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status under certain circumstances.

While TD status allows your dependents to reside in the U.S. with you, there are a few limitations to remember. One key restriction is that TD holders cannot work and get paid in the U.S. However, this doesn’t prevent them from pursuing educational opportunities. TD status allows your dependents to enroll full-time at accredited U.S. institutions.

Another thing you need to know is that the validity period of your family’s TD visas is typically linked to the duration of your primary TN visa. Your family can stay in the U.S. until your TN visa remains valid. Remember, TN visas are temporary, so you must factor in any potential renewals or changes in your employment status.

The application process for TD status depends on your spouse or dependent’s citizenship, so let’s see the table below for clarifications:

Spouse or Dependent Citizenship

Non-Canadian or Mexican



Visa Required?

Depends (consult the U.S. DOS)



Documentation Needed

Proof of relationship, proof of TN holder's status

Proof of Canadian citizenship, proof of relationship, TN holder's documents, proof of TN holder's status

Proof of TN holder's status

Application Location

US Department of State designated location

CBP port of entry or pre-clearance station

U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico

Port of Entry

CBP port of entry or pre-clearance station

CBP port of entry or pre-clearance station

CBP port of entry or pre-clearance station

If you need legal specialized consultation on bringing your family to the U.S. while you are there with TN status, contact our immigration experts. They will help you understand your and your family’s eligibility and guide you on the right path to obtaining the necessary visas.

Can a TN Visa Be Denied?

All visas can be denied. Here are a few common reasons why TN visa applications sometimes get denied, along with some tips to help you avoid these pitfalls:

  • Missing documentation is a big reason for TN visa denials. Ensure you have everything USCIS requires, including proof of your Canadian or Mexican citizenship, the job offer from your US employer, and any credentials that demonstrate your professional qualifications.
  • If the job you’re applying for doesn’t fall under one of the agreed USMCA professions, your application might get denied.
  • You didn’t convincingly show the immigration officer you’re not planning to permanently settle in the U.S. on a TN visa, so they deny you upfront.

The bottom line is that whether your application was rejected for missing pieces or denied for not meeting the TN status requirements, the key to success is understanding why. Carefully review the denial letter and gather all the necessary paperwork to prove your qualifications. Look for an immigration attorney specializing in TN visas to resume the application process and do better next time.

TN Visa Status Period and Stay Extension

If you want to know how long you can live and work in the United States with a TN visa, the answer is three years. The exciting part is extending your stay. The good news is you can use one of two ways to prolong your authorized stay!

Option 1: Applying for TN Status Extension from Within the U.S.

If you’re already in America, you can avoid the hassle of leaving and coming back by applying for an extension of stay. Your employer can simplify the process by filing Form I-129 with USCIS on your behalf to request an extension of your TN visa status.

Option 2: Applying for a TN Visa Extension at a U.S. Port of Entry

You can also depart the U.S. before your current TN visa expires, and once you’re outside, you can head to a designated U.S. CBP port of entry or a pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. You can re-apply for TN status at these locations using the same application and documentation procedures you followed for your initial TN visa application.

IMPORTANT! Whatever option you choose, you must initiate the TN extension process before your current TN visa expires to avoid any complications with your immigration status!

The TN Visa to Green Card Process

We’re on the last leg of our TN status guide, so it’s only fair to discuss getting a green card when you already live and work in America on a TN visa. Can you adjust your status? Can your TN help you become a permanent resident?

The good news is that having a TN visa doesn’t prevent you from pursuing a green card (although it makes it a bit difficult). You can take two different roads from TN status to permanent residency, similar to most green card applicants:

Family Sponsorship

If you have a close family member who is a U.S. citizen, such as a parent, spouse, or child, they can petition for you by submitting Form I-130 to USCIS. Once this petition is approved, you can proceed with the green card application process.

Employer Sponsorship

If your U.S. employer values your skills and contributions, they can sponsor you for a green card by filing Form I-140 with USCIS. This demonstrates their commitment to retaining you as a valuable employee in the long term.

Understanding a concept called “dual intent” regarding visas is essential. Certain U.S. visas, like the L visa or H-1B work visa, allow dual intent, meaning you can have the intention of eventually obtaining a green card right from the start. However, the TN visa doesn’t have dual intent attached to it.

What we are saying is that U.S. immigration authorities are heavily concerned with your intentions at the time you enter the U.S. with your TN visa. They don’t expect you to have your entire life plan figured out, but they will show an interest in your intent to stay in the U.S. So if you don’t intend to apply for a green card right away, that’s alright; you could do it later.

Let’s say you enter on a TN visa and focus on your new job. However, after some time, an unexpected opportunity arises that makes you seriously consider obtaining a green card. There’s no rule saying you can’t seek permanent residency as long as you are honest with the government throughout the process.

However, applying to adjust your TN to a green card too soon after entering the U.S. (within three months) might raise red flags. It is best to wait a reasonable amount of time before initiating the green card application process while on a TN visa.

Becoming Unemployed on a TN Visa: What Can You Do About It?

Unexpected job loss is stressful anytime, anywhere, but it can be even more concerning when your immigration status is tied to your employment. However, you have a helpful buffer period if you’re a TN visa holder facing this situation.

What is the TN Status 60-Day Grace Period?

The 60-day rule for TN visas kicks in when your employment ends, but your TN visa is still valid. This extended window allows you to make informed decisions about your next steps and take action to maintain your legal status in the U.S.

Here are a few possibilities:

  • Search for new employment with a U.S. company that can sponsor you for a TN visa.
  • Work with immigration service providers to explore if you qualify for a different visa category that aligns with your current situation.
  • If you decide to leave the U.S., you can use this time to make necessary arrangements for your departure.

Which Is Better, H-1B or TN Visa? And What Are the TN Advantages?

This is a question we hear a lot when it comes to U.S. work visas. TN visas come with plenty of benefits, although the restrictions are something to consider. The first limitation you can quickly figure out is that the TN visa only addresses Canadian and Mexican citizens and nobody else. So, let’s see the pros and cons of the TN status to help you decide if it fits you.

Pros and Cons of TN Visas



Processing time




Work authorization

Green card


No annual cap on visas issued

Generally faster processing compared to other work visas

Lower application fees compared to some other work visas

Can be extended indefinitely with renewals

Multiple entry visa, allowing for travel in and out of the U.S.

Limited to working for a U.S. employer

Not a dual intent visa, but a green card application is possible


Limited to professions on the USMCA list (around 60 occupations) and Canada & Mexico citizenship

It may require waiting to travel outside the U.S. until after application approval if applying at a port of entry

May require employer sponsorship for extension applications

Employer-specific - requires a new TN visa if you change jobs

Strict re-entry procedures after extended stays outside the U.S.

Does not allow self-employment or starting a business

It may not be the most direct path to permanent residency

Now it’s time to compare the TN visa with the H-1B visa and see what works best for you!


Annual limit

Processing time

Dual intent

Application fees

Extendable stay

Occupation eligibility

Job portability




Not a dual-intent visa


Yes (indefinitely with renewals)

Limited (USMCA professions)

No (requires a new visa for a job change)


Yes (subject to lottery and visa caps)


A dual-intent visa


Yes (up to 6 years with extensions possible)

A broader range of professions


In conclusion, the TN visa’s appeal lies in its ease of access, affordability, and flexibility for travel. However, the limitations on professions, employer sponsorship, and potential challenges of obtaining green cards mean it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

Consider your specific profession (does it match the NAFTA list?), priorities (ease and cost vs. job flexibility and green card path), and timeline (need a quick visa or can you wait for the H-1B lottery?). The choice is up to you. 

If you find this choice troublesome, you can always discuss your situation with immigration experts or lawyers to help you make the best decisions for you and your family.

Get Expert Help with Your TN Visa Application!

Our experienced immigration lawyers and consultants at ImmigrationDirect can assist you with your TN visa application process. We can assess your eligibility, ensure your profession aligns with the USMCA list, and address any questions you might have about travel, job changes, employer sponsorship, bringing your family, or even exploring future green card options. Don’t hesitate to contact us today!

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