TN Visa: NAFTA Professionals
The TN visa was created specifically for member countries of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and is meant to be a temporary work visa. The primary requirement is that you must be either a Canadian or Mexican citizen to be eligible. You must also possess the necessary credentials to be considered a professional in your field. This generally means having a bachelor's degree or equivalent work experience. To apply for a TN visa, you do not have to work for a US company. It is possible to be employed either by a Canadian or Mexican company, but it must be doing business with a US company.
As this is a temporary stay visa, you must intend to go back to either Canada or Mexico upon completion of the visa. The initial stay can be for up to three years, with possible extentions available for another three years in one year increments. While on a TN visa, you cannot file for an adustment of status. The adjustment application to become a legal permanent resident announces your intent to stay in the US permanently and will disqualify you for a TN extention. However, someone may apply for either an employment-based or family-based immigrant visa on your behalf, without discrupting your TN status.
Necessary documentation for both Canadians and Mexicans is:
Proof of citizenship for your respective countries,
Letter from your employer which details the position you will fill, the purpose of the position, your qualifications, and length of stay,
Proof of credentials and their evaluation, and
Approved Form I-129, submitted by employer, if applicable.
If your employer does submit Form I-129 to be approved by the USCIS, then you only need to present this form, proof of citizenship, and supporting documents used in its approval to the border patrol officer or US Consulate.
Canadian and Mexican nationals, however, have different processes for optaining a TN visa. The principle difference between them is that Canadians generally do not require a visa to enter the US, and so do not usually need a TN visa stamp from a US Consulate. Canadians simply present the required documentation to a border patrol officer at specific ports of entry on the Canadian-US border. This officer will review the documents and present the stamp. If the Canadian has non-Canadian family members who plan on coming to the US at the same time, a TN visa from a consulate would then be necessary.
Mexicans will need to apply for a TN visa stamp at a US Consulate in Mexico before arriving at the Mexican-US border. The same documentation is required as if you were Canadian, however, an appointment for document review must be scheduled to receive a visa stamp. A fee of 160 USD must be paid for this process. You are then able to go to the border to present the visa and documentation together.