On November 30, 2018, the US, Mexico, and Canada finally signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), effectively replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). With this, questions abound as to whether the new agreement changes the rules of the TN visa program to the US, which was established under NAFTA.
The TN visa, which stands for Trade National or Trade NAFTA, is a non-immigrant visa granted to citizens of Mexico and Canada who will work in the US in certain occupations. The full list of NAFTA jobs can be found here. This visa program was created by NAFTA as part of its goal to create a free trade zone among the three countries.
Now that the 24-year-old NAFTA has been superseded by the USMCA, certain provisions of the agreement have been changed. Among these are improved rules of origin for automobiles and other products, modernized food and agriculture trade, new protections for US intellectual property, and new chapters covering matters such as Digital Trade.
However, there are no changes concerning TN visas. The Trump administration has stated that the new USMCA retains the existing NAFTA language on the visa program.
This comes as a relief for Canadian and Mexican citizens who are currently petitioning for the visa or already hold the visa. However, it is also a loss for those who are hoping to be included in the NAFTA occupations list.
When NAFTA was created in 1994, it did not include in its list some professions that were unfamiliar then but are high-demand now. Examples are nurse practitioners and IT professionals. In August of this year, Canada negotiated for improved labor mobility by adding new professions to the occupations list. This would have increased the flow of workers across the countries’ borders. However, this request did not succeed by the time the USMCA was signed.
As the TN visa provision remains the same, it neither reduces nor increases the Canadian and Mexican professionals allowed into the US. While some criticize this as outdated and restrictive, others welcome it as a form of ‘survival,’ as the Trump administration previously called for more limits on TN visa renewals.
TN visas as well as other trade visas are typically affected by changes in treaties and agreements. It is important for visa hopefuls to always stay abreast of such changes, and to educate themselves on how each change impacts their chances of entering the US.
If you have a question regarding your TN visa application, consult with us at Richards and Jurusik for up-to-date guidance.