Canadian citizens who are professionals can apply for a TN Visa to work in the United States, the process is usually quick if you qualify. The visa lasts up to a maximum of three years (3) to be consistent with other nonimmigrant worker categories, such as the H-1B (new regulation). It can be renewed indefinitely and there are no limits on how many of these visas are issued each year. Only Canadian and Mexican citizens are eligible for TN visa (landed immigrants are not eligible).
- Find a job offer with a company in the US. You must have an offer from a company in the US or have a client that is a US company.
- Ensure that you have the necessary qualifications that meet the requirements of the visa, see the list of “NAFTA Professional Job Series List” which includes the professions of Accountant, Economist, Engineer, Librarian, etc.
- Have the hiring company draft a petition that you will present to the Treaty Officer at the border. This letter generally includes information about the company, the qualifications of the employee and the terms of employment. Most companies pay law firms to produce this document, but it is not necessary, especially if you have a copy of previous petition.
- Gather the necessary items you need to file your petition at the border with a Treaty Officer. This set of items includes evidence of your qualifications (such as your degree and transcripts), a resume and proof of citizenship. See the “Requirements for Canadian Citizens” on the INS website below. Also, there is a $56 USD fee that should be paid in cash as well ($50 for the TN Status + $6 for the I-94).
- Apply in person at a US Customs and Immigration checkpoint, this usually will occur at the airport of your departing city in Canada.
- When your turn comes to go through customs, state that you wish you apply for a TN visa. You will generally be directed to a room where another Treaty Officer will handle your application.
- Provide the documentation to the Treaty Officer and clearly describe your offer of employment and your qualifications politely. Treaty Officers are generally trained to be somewhat abrasive, be prepared to answer questions honestly even when the officer appears to be somewhat confrontational. It is their job to find people who are misrepresenting themselves. As long as you’re honest, you have nothing to worry about.
- If you are denied of TN Visa application and even though you have a Canadian passport, you will be finger printed both hands, taken mug shot, All those data are entered into the Homeland Security database on the spot. Those data will be shown up at the entry checkpoint whenever you enter US again. Then you will be escorted by the Homeland Security officer to the Canadian checkpoint and handed over to the Canadian Immigration officer.
- If you’re properly qualified you should have no problem being awarded the visa, as long as you don’t say anything contradictory to the TN Visa requirements.
- Dress professionally when going to the border in order to support the legitmacy of your application.
- The TN visa is a temporary visa. While it can be renewed indefinitely, be sure to state that your intention is to remain in the US temporarily, even if it is for a few years. If you wish to become a resident, plan on filing for an H1-B visa after you have received your TN visa.
- The mood of the officer is critical, solid job offer, proper qualifications and documents, and good manner do not guarantee anything. Make preparation to minimize the impact on your financial well being in case your TN Visa application is denied.
- Bring enough Canadian dollars so you can go home if you are denied of TN Visa application.
- No cell phone call is allowed in the office of checkpoint, the US Homeland Security officers who are fully armed will take away your phone if you try to make cell phone call for help.
- Get a good lawyer to represent you. Your application is too important to leave to chance. That said, the process is fairly simple and having a lawyer with you at the border can red flag your application to the officer.