How Long Does It Take to Get a TN Visa?

how long for a tn visaIf you are Mexican or Canadian citizen and you want to work in the United States, the TN visa is your best option if your occupation falls under United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) formerly known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).It does not require sponsorship as the H-1B and the Green Card. More importantly, it has a different timeline.

TN Visa Processing Times and Timelines for Canadians

Two entities that can process your TN Visa application include The Customs and Border Protection or the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Depending on which body you applied to, the timelines may vary.

TN Visa Processing Under USCIS

The USCIS issues a receipt of the notice to the attorney and the petitioner (can be the US company, too) after submitting at petition to them. TN petitions vary in complexity, and so does their decision times. If your request gets approved, then your attorney and the petitioner will receive a notice of approval. Specifically, take note of the following:

Issued Receipt Notice: Two weeks from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Issued Approval Notice: Three to six months from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Total Processing Time: Three to six months from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Note: You can also file the TN petition together with the Premium Processing Request which can push the decision time to 15 calendar days

Change of Status Processing Under USCIS

USCIS also accepts applications for a change of status. If you are a foreign worker in the United States with a TN visa and eligible to be a non-immigrant, then you can continue working in the country as soon as you get your change of status approval notice. This is provided you filed your change of status application before you TN Visa expires, and you did not leave the country while waiting for the decision.

If you leave the country following the start of your job then you have to show your approval to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry when you return. Specifically, take note of the following:

Issued Receipt Notice: Two weeks from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Issued Approval Notice: Three to six months from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Total Processing Time: Three to six months from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Note: You can also file the TN petition together with the Premium Processing Request which can push the decision time to 15 calendar days.

TN Visa Extension of Status Processing Under USCIS

You can also extend your TN Visa if you have been approved previously for it. You have to file your TN petition before your existing TN visa expires so you can start your work upon submitting your application. However, this only applies to people who will continue the same role or position in their company upon approval of the extension. If you need to leave the United States when you start working again, then you need to present your approval notice to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the entry port when you return. Specifically, the same timelines apply for an extension of status as with the original filing of the TN visa:

Issued Receipt Notice: Two weeks from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Issued Approval Notice: Three to six months from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Total Processing Time: Three to six months from the Date of Receipt of your TN application

Note: You can also file the TN petition together with the Premium Processing Request which can push the decision time to 15 calendar days.

Preparation Tips for the TN Visa

You must ensure that your occupation falls under USMCA before applying. There is a list of professions according to industry including their corresponding education and work experience qualifications. Some professions only need a degree for you to qualify while others will need a certain number of years for work experience and academic qualifications. Make sure you check all the background requirements before applying.

Also, it’s best to prepare your documents properly. Some of the things that you might need include:

  • proof that you’re a Canadian citizen
  • confirmation of the employment offer
  • proof of your work qualifications and background

Take note that having a previous conviction – depending on the gravity and the sentence carried out – can affect your chances of approval. Also, as mentioned, the TN Visa has different requirements from the H-1B and the Green Card. Sponsorship is not required so you might need to clarify this with your employer.

TN applications can vary in complexity depending on the job being applied for and the unique circumstances of the applicant. For the best chance of a successful application it’s wise to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer with extensive TN Visa experience to guide you through the process.

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