Citizens of either Canada or Mexico can enter the United States to work in professional occupations listed under the NAFTA in two distinct situations.
First, Canadian or Mexican companies who have contracts with companies in the United States can send their employees to service those contracts. Second, individuals who have received employment offers from U.S. companies to work in a recognized professional occupation can work for those companies on a temporary basis just as in the H-1B category. An important difference with the H-1B visa is that TN visa holders must retain non-immigrant intent, meaning that they cannot enter the United States and apply for a green card. TN visas can be issued for up to three years at a time, as long as the applicant continues to prove non-immigrant intent.
An advantage of the TN visa is that unlike the H-1B visa, Canadian citizens can apply for TN status directly at a border crossing. To qualify for TN status, the applicant must intend to perform work that is listed on Schedule 2 of Chapter 16 of the NAFTA and the applicant must possess the necessary credentials to be considered a professional. Generally, a bachelor’s or higher degree is required, unless Schedule 2 lists alternative qualifications. Equivalency to a required degree through a combination of experience and education will not be accepted for TN purposes.
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