The Pros and Cons of Applying For TN Status


This guide helps you understand the pros and cons of applying for the TN work visa

May 27, 2021


As part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico, and the United States, a special U.S. visa category was created: The TN NAFTA Professionals visa. TN status allows qualified Canadian and Mexican nationals to temporarily come to the United States for business activities at a professional level.

If you qualify for TN status, you can work and stay in the United States for up to three years, with the option to extend your stay. Depending on your individual circumstances, you can also sponsor your family to come live with you in the United States.

So, does it make sense to apply for the TN visa and are there any drawbacks? This guide helps you understand the pros and cons of applying for the TN visa.

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Pros of the TN visa

  • If you’re a Canadian national, there’s no need to apply for the TN visa at a consulate or embassy. You can apply for TN classification at the time you seek admission to the United States by presenting required documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at specific U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. Find more information about TN status requirements.
  • There is a broad range of professions that are covered by the TN visa. These include economists, foresters, hotel managers, and dietitians to name a few. You’ll need to show proof of education, qualification, or membership of a professional group to qualify.
  • You can choose your U.S. employer ahead of arriving in the United States, including where they are located. The only stipulation is that the full or part-time work must align with a NAFTA profession.
  • You can sponsor your spouse and children to come with you to the United States, and they can stay with you for the duration of your visa. However, there are conditions to this, which are listed in the following section.

Cons of the TN visa

  • TN status is only open to Canadian and Mexican nationals. Although Australian nationals can apply for the similar E-3 visa, it’s a different program.
  • It’s a nonimmigrant visa, which means it is temporary and does not provide a path to U.S. citizenship or a green card. In fact, the TN visa is not a “dual intent” visa. This means that you can’t use it to come and work in the United States while seeking permanent residence and could face penalties for doing so.
  • Unlike Canadian nationals, Mexican nationals cannot immediately apply for TN status at a U.S. port of entry. The first step is applying for the TN visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate and then traveling to the U.S. port of entry. For more information, see the U.S. Department of State webpage, Mexican and Canadian NAFTA Professional Worker.
  • Although the list of professions that qualify for the TN visa is broad, each profession requires a baccalaureate degree as an entry-level requirement. If a baccalaureate is required, experience cannot be substituted for that degree. In some professions, an alternative to a bachelor’s degree is listed.
  • You must also pre-arrange your employment before applying for the TN visa. You cannot apply for the visa and then choose your employer.
  • Although you can bring your family with you to the United States, this only includes your spouse and children under the age of 21. You can’t sponsor other family members and requirements and eligibility vary depending on the nationality of your spouse or dependents. For more information, see the spouse and dependent table on the TN NAFTA Professionals page of the USCIS website
  • Importantly, your spouse and children are not eligible to work and will have to leave the United States when your TN visa status expires. They can, however, study during their time in the United States.

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