Working in the US: the TN Visa

Qualified professional Canadian citizens can apply for a TN visa in order to work in the United States. If you qualify, the process is usually a quick one. The visa’s duration goes up to a maximum of three (3) years in order to be compatible with other categories of non-immigrant visas such as the H-1B (new regulations). TN visas can be renewed indefinitely and there is no limit on the number of visas that can be issued each year. Only Canadian and Mexican citizens are eligible for a TN visa (Landed immigrants are not eligible).

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Steps

Find a job with a company in the United States. You must have a job offer from a company in the United States or have a client that is an American company.

Make sure you have the required qualifications to meet visa requirements, see the NAFTA List of Occupations, which includes TN-eligible occupations.

Ask the company employing you to provide you with a letter that you’ll present to the treaty officer at the border. This letter will include company information, employee qualifications and the conditions of your employment. Most companies retain law firms to produce this document, but this is not necessary, especially if you’ve got a copy of the previous application.

Gather all the items you need in order to file your request at the border with the treaty agent. These will include evidence of your qualifications (diplomas, transcripts etc..), your resume and proof of citizenship.

See Canadian Citizen Requirements on the INS website

In addition, a 56 USD fee is payable in cash ($50 for TN status + $6 for the I-94).

Apply in person at an American Customs and Immigration checkpoint , this is usually done at the airport in the Canadian city from where you’ll depart.

When your turn to pass through customs comes, state that you wish to apply for a TN visa. You’ll generally be directed to a room where another Treaty agent will handle your request.

Hand in your documentation and politely and clearly describe your job offer and qualifications. Treaty Agents are generally trained to be tough so be prepared to answer questions honestly, even if the agent appears to be somewhat provocative. Their job is to find people that are misrepresenting. As long as you’re honest, you have nothing to fear.

If a TN visa application is denied, even if you have a canadian passport, both your hands will be fingerprinted and a mug shot of you will be taken. This data will be entered into the Homeland Security database right away. Thise data will be displayed at any checkpoint whenever you return to the United States. You will then be escorted by the Homeland Security agent to the Canadian checkpoint and delivered to the Canadian immigration officer.

Tips

If you are duly qualified, you shouldn’t have any problem getting the visa as long as you do not say anything that contradicts TN requirements.
When crossing the border, dress professionally in order to support the legitimacy of your claim.
The TN visa is a temporary visa. Although it can be renewed indefinitely, be sure to indicate your intention is to remain in the U.S. temporarily, even if it’s for a few years. If you wish to become a resident, plan to apply for an H1-B visa after receiving your TN visa.

The agent’s mood is critical: a solid job offer, qualifications, required documentation and a good attitude do not guarantee anything. Be prepared to minimize the impact on your financial situation in case your TN visa request is denied.

 Tips

  • Insure you have sufficient funds to be able to go home if your TN visa application is refused.
  • Mobile phones are not allowed in the checkpoint office, US Homeland security agents are armed and will seize your phone if you try to make a call for help.
  • Hire a good lawyer to represent you. Your application is too important to be left to chance. That being said, the process is a fairly simple one and having a lawyer with you at the border may alert the officer to your request.
  • The TN visa is supposed to be an easy to get visa in most situations. Using a TN visa Application Guide can be a viable option if your qualifications and the job meet NAFTA requirements.

For more complex situations, refer to a lawyer before proceeding.

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