The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1992 and went into effect January 1, 1994. NAFTA contained a number of immigration provisions, including the creation of the TN NAFTA Professional nonimmigrant classification. TN Status or Visas are available for nationals of Mexico and Canada coming to the US for certain business activities. NAFTA created a list of approved occupations for TN professionals to work in the US, and set the minimum requirements a professional must meet in order to qualify. For most categories, applicant must hold at least a Bachelor’s degree or Licenciatura degree related to the occupation. Some categories such as physicians, lawyers, and veterinarians have higher degree requirements as would be expected for anyone working in those positions in the US. There are also some occupations, which applicants can qualify for with two years of post secondary education, state/provisional licensure, or years of experience in some limited categories.
If a Canadian or Mexican citizen needs to come to the US for business activities, they fall in an approved occupation category, and they meet the minimum requirements, then a TN is often an ideal visa choice. Canadian citizens can apply for TNs at a US port of entry while traveling into the US making it a very fast process. Canadians applying at the border may request up to three years of TN status. Mexican citizens must apply for a TN visa at a US Consulate or Embassy before entering the US, but that process is often still quicker than other visa choices. Mexicans are generally granted 1-year TN visas. A TN holder presently working in the US can extend his or her status by filing with USCIS, and both Mexican and Canadian nationals may request 3-year extensions this way.
NAFTA was replaced by the USMCA taking effect in July 2020 but leaves NAFTA’s immigration provisions in place.