Canadian and Mexican citizens in specific professions who are seeking to work in the U.S on a temporary basis need to get a TN visa. They are known as “NAFTA professionals” or “TN nonimmigrants.” NAFTA, of course, is the North American Free Trade Agreement under which economic and trade relationships among the three countries operate.
Among these NAFTA professionals are scientists, engineers, pharmacists, attorneys and teachers. They must have a “prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer,” according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).
These NAFTA professionals can apply for the visa themselves through U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a point of entry to the U.S. with the appropriate documentation. However, many employers who rely on those with TN visas apply on their behalf. The initial stay can be no more than three years. These professionals typically require regular reapplication to return to the U.S. if they return to their home country.
A lawsuit against the USCIS over two Canadian citizens
A pending lawsuit shows just how much some employers rely on these professionals. The Henry Ford Health System recently filed a lawsuit against the USCIS for denying visa extensions for two radiologic technologists from Canada.
One had been with the company since 2009 and had obtained his most recent visa last year. However, when he attempted to return to the U.S., he was denied entry. The other one was denied a new visa last year by the USCIS, reportedly because he didn’t meet the qualifications. He’d been in his job since 2017.
In the suit, their employer, a nonprofit health system, said that “their absence has created critical staffing issues that have negatively impacted Plaintiff’s ability to deliver patient care.”
These TN NAFTA nonimmigrant visas can be tricky to navigate, and the rules are different for Canadian citizens than they are for Mexican citizens. If you are having difficulty obtaining a TN visa for yourself or an employee, it can help to have experienced legal guidance.