What is TN Visa Status?
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN Visa non-immigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. TN Visa Status is granted to Canadian citizens (NOT Canadian permanent residents) authorizing them to work within the United States on a temporary basis under specific professions.
What are the benefits of TN Visa status?
TN status is a wonderful option for both the employer and employee. The following are some of the benefits of TN Visa status:
- Low Cost – Employers are not required to pay for the cost of obtaining TN Visa status and the processing fee for TN Visa status at the border is only $56. For qualifying employees this is a much affordable option than the H-1B Visa or L-1 visas.
- Fast Processing – With a properly prepared TN Visa application TN Visa status can be obtained immediately at a port of entry. TN Visa status is especially convenient if you need someone to begin work immediately.
- Length of Stay – TN Visa status can be issued for as short as one (1) day and up to three (3) years at a time.
- Unlimited Renewals – Unlike H-1B and L-1 visas, there is no limit to the amount of time someone can work in TN Visa status. As long as the need for the employee continues, TN Visa status can be obtained in three (3) year increments indefinitely.
- No Wage Requirement – There is no wage requirement for those who are in TN Visa status. The rule is that the wage paid is consistent with those in the profession. There is no formal regulation of wages for TN Visa professionals and wages are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
- No Recruitment Necessary – In order to hire a Canadian in TN Visa status, you only need to demonstrate that your employee will be working in a qualifying TN Visa profession, will be performing duties consistent with the profession, and that the employee qualifies for the profession. There is no requirement to advertise for the position or to hire a U.S. worker.
How long will it take for my employee to get TN Visa status?
One of the main advantages of TN Visa status is that it can be obtained very quickly. As long as the proper paperwork has been prepared, and the employee qualifies for TN Visa status, they can apply for and obtain TN Visa status all in the same day. With a properly prepared TN Visa application your employee can have their TN status and enter the United States authorized to work after a brief interview with a CBP officer. TN Visa status is a great option for employers needing to fill immediate employment needs.
What is my role as an employer in the TN Visa application process?
The employer’s role in the TN Visa application process is very limited and simple. The Canadian worker submits the TN Visa application in person at the border. The employer only needs to provide a support/offer letter detailing their need for the employee, the TN Visa profession the employee will be working in, a detailed list of duties to be performed, and the time period during which the employee’s services will be needed. There are no wage requirements, recruitment requirements, lengthy processing times or hefty filing fees.
Do I need to include a start and end date in the support/offer letter?
YES. Although an employee can work under TN Visa status indefinitely, TN Visa status can only be given for as much as three (3) years at a time. The support/offer letter must include a start and end date to meet NAFTA requirements. Failure to include an end date can be an indication of permanent employment, which is not allowed under NAFTA.
Is there a recruitment process before I can hire a Canadian?
NO. An employer can hire any qualifying Canadian to work for them in TN Visa status. There are no recruitment requirements, and no requirements to hire qualified US workers.
Is there a minimum wage or prevailing wage requirement for TN Visa status?
NO. The U.S. Department of Labor is not involved in the TN Visa application process. Wages are not verified and do not need to be certified prior to hiring a Canadian under NAFTA in TN Visa status. Although there is no wage requirement, the CBP Officer reviewing the application for TN status will verify that the wage is consistent with the industry for the profession. Wages generally do not raise issues unless they are significantly out of line with what is customary for the profession.
Is there a reporting requirement if I hire a Canadian in TN Visa status?
NO. Under NAFTA employers are not required to report to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
How do we verify that our employee has obtained TN Visa status and is authorized to work in the United States?
Upon admission in TN visa status the employee will be issued CBP Form I-94 (I-94 card). The I-94 card will indicate the work status, TN visa, date of entry, and expiration date. The I-94 card is usually stapled to the inside of the employee’s passport and is valid for the time period indicated. A new TN Visa must be obtained prior to the expiration of the I-94 card or with a change in employers.
Can we hire a Canadian that was issued TN Visa status to work for another company?
YES. Prior to having the employee begin working for your company, a new TN Visa must be obtained. TN Visa status is employer specific. This means that the TN Visa status holder can only work for the employer indicated on Form I-94 and no other employers. However, the employee can change from one employer to another by either filing for a change of employer with USCIS on Form I-129 or by returning to a U.S. port of entry to apply for a change of employer.
Does the employer support/offer letter constitute a contract?
NO. TN Visa support/offer letters are not contracts. Employment in TN Visa status is at will and according to NAFTA cannot be permanent. The employment offer must be temporary in nature and the offer/support letter must indicate the temporary nature of the employment with an anticipated start and end date. Although, TN Visa status is not permanent it can be renewed indefinitely if the employer’s need for the employee continues.
We represent both employers and employees in the TN visa application process. If you are a U.S. or Canadian employer and have questions about employing a Canadian under TN visa status, we can help. Contact us directly so that we can address any employment related questions and assist you with the employment process under NAFTA.