The TN visa was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to ease the path toward a visa for professional-level workers from both Mexico and Canada. It offers them a more direct way to obtain a U.S. nonimmigrant (temporary) visa than traditional work visas such as the H-1.
If you haven’t already determined whether you are eligible for a TN visa, see the article, “A TN Visa to the U.S. From Mexico or Canada: Who Qualifies?”.
Although the basic visa application requirements are the same for both Canadians and Mexicans, the procedures are distinct and separate for people from the two countries. Below we discuss the procedures specific to citizens of Mexico.
Applicants Outside the U.S. Can Go Straight to a U.S. Consulate
Here’s the great thing about the TN visa: It doesn’t require the employer to submit a visa petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services first, as a prerequisite to the applicant applying for the visa.
If the applicant is outside of the U.S., he or she can simply show up at a U.S. consular post to apply for TN status and an entry visa.
If the person is already lawfully present in the U.S., he or she can apply for a change of status. The employer makes this application on Form I-129, and mails it to the USCIS Vermont Service Center.
Applicants can also bring their spouses and children to the U.S. (in TD status) by providing proof of the family relationship, such as a birth or marriage certificate. Family members with TD status cannot legally work in the United States.
Documents to Include in Application for TN Status
The applicant will need to have a valid Mexican passport, and supply the following documents:
- a job offer letter describing the proposed employment activity and showing that he or she will be working at a professional level, including daily job duties, the job requirements (such as educational level or license), salary and benefits, and how long the services will be needed (for up to three years)
- evidence of qualifications to perform at a professional level, as demonstrated by college degrees, licenses, memberships, or other relevant credentials that establish professional status, and
- evidence that the particular profession is among those listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 to Annex 1603 of NAFTA.
If mailing these items to USCIS, be sure to send copies only. Sending originals usually results in losing them forever.
Entry to the U.S. and After
Upon entering the U.S., the Mexican TN professional will be given an I-94 card indicating an authorized stay of up to three years. This period can be extended in three-year increments without leaving the United States. As of April 2013, Customs & Border protection stopped giving paper I-94s to many U.S. visitors. If you enter after this time and do not receive an I-94 card, you can download this information from the CBP website.
To file for an extension, the employer must send Form I-129, together with the same types of documents used for the initial application, to the USCIS Vermont Service Center. Alternatively, if the applicant doesn’t mind leaving the U.S., he or she can request an extension by departing before the expiration of his or her TN status and visiting a U.S. consulate in Mexico.