TN/TD NAFTA Professionals Overview
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is a treaty between the United States, Mexico and Canada that aims to foster and encourage trade. Among other benefits, NAFTA allows Mexican and Canadian citizens to work in particular professional occupations in the United States. Most of the qualifying professions listed in NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1 minimally require the equivalent of a U.S. Bachelor's degree. Citizens of Mexico and Canada are eligible to work in TN nonimmigrant status in the U.S. if they meet the criteria set forth under NAFTA.
To work in TN status in the United States, a foreign national must satisfy the following fundamental requirements:
- Be a citizen of Mexico or Canada (permanent residents do not qualify);
- Work in a professional occupation designated under NAFTA; and
- Possess the professional and educational qualifications for the position as defined by NAFTA.
Canadian citizens are visa exempt and, therefore, can apply for TN status without a visa. Mexican citizens, however, must obtain a visa prior to applying for TN status at a U.S. port of entry.
Employment Letter Or Contract
A critical document that must accompany a foreign national when applying for TN classification is the letter of employment or contract from the U.S. employer. The employment letter or contract should be presented at the U.S. port of entry and minimally include information regarding:
- The nature of the foreign national's activity in the U.S.;
- The purpose of the foreign national's entry;
- The foreign national's length of employment/anticipated length of stay;
- The foreign national's professional qualifications and educational credentials for the position;
- An explanation of how the foreign national will be compensated; and
- Proof of licensure if a license or permit is required for the position.
TN status is a nonimmigrant classification that is initially granted for a maximum period of 3 years. Individuals in TN status are eligible for an indefinite number of renewals provided they continue to meet the requirements for the classification. Notably, TN status will not be granted for a period that exceeds the validity of the foreign national's passport or the length of employment specified in the employment letter or contract. TN professionals must work for a U.S. employer and cannot be self-employed. Part-time employment, though, is permissible in TN status.
Dependents of foreign nationals in TN status are eligible for a derivative classification called TD status. Unmarried, minor children (under the age of 21) and spouses of TN professionals may hold TD status even if they are not citizens of Mexico or Canada. Spouses and children in TD status are not eligible for work authorization, but are allowed to study while in the United States. Dependents will be admitted to the U.S. for the same duration as the primary TN applicant.