As We Celebrate Cinco de Mayo, We Reexamine Our Immigration Relationship with Mexico

The lead up to festivities surrounding Cinco de Mayo seems to grow each year, which got us thinking about the importance of a strong immigration relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. While most agree that U.S. Immigration policy often does not reflect real-world issues and concerns, and the debate over comprehensive immigration reform continues, the TN visa category provides one way for qualified Mexican citizens to enter the U.S. for work purposes.

The U.S. offers a special class of visas to Mexican citizens under the NAFTA Professional Worker Program. The North American Free Trade Agreement created special economic and trade relationships in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

As explained on the Department of State website, “The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA Professionals, to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers. Permanent residents of Canada and Mexico are not able to apply for TN visas to work as NAFTA professionals.”

Eligibility for NAFTA Professionals (TN visa status):
• Applicant must be a citizen of Mexico or Canada.
• The profession in which the applicant will work must be on the NAFTA Professions list.
• The position in the U.S. requires a professional as described on the NAFTA list.
• The applicant will work in a pre-arranged full-time or part-time job for an employer – self employment is not permitted.
• The applicant meets all qualifications related to education, licensing when required, and/or experience as defined in the NAFTA treaty.

While Canadian citizens may choose to present their applications at a port-of-entry, Mexican citizens may apply directly to a U.S. Consulate in Mexico for the TN visa. Once approved for a TN visa, you may apply for admission at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. Please refer to CBP’s website for additional information and requirements for applying for admission to the United States. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, then you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.

TN visas may be issued for an initial maximum stay period of three years. TN professionals can receive extensions of stay with no outside limit on the total period of stay. However, the purpose of the alien’s stay must continue to be demonstrably temporary throughout the duration. If you wish to remain in the United States beyond your initial period of stay without first departing from the United States, you must seek an extension of stay. If you are in the United States, your employer may file Form I-129 with the appropriate USCIS Service Center on your behalf. Alternatively, you may depart from the United States before the date your status expires, and re-apply using the same application and documentation procedures required at the time of your initial application for admission as a TN nonimmigrant.

If you have questions regarding TN visas, NAFTA or our immigration relationship with counties such as Mexico or Canada, please contact Berardi Immigration Law for a consultation.

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