TN visas could be part of US workforce strategy


When the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented on January 1, 1994, a new visa was also introduced.

The TN visa, often referred to as the “NAFTA visa”, was specifically created to allow Mexican and Canadian citizens to work in the United States. Unlike many other visa categories, the TN visa is a nonimmigrant document granting temporary stay in the United States for work purposes. In other words, time spent working in the United States for individuals holding this visa does not count toward residency or citizenship. The visa can be issued for a maximum of four years and can be renewed indefinitely, as long as the applicant is qualified and the employer has an open position.

According to the United States Department of State’s Bureau of Cultural Affairs website, to obtain a TN visa, the applicant must be a citizen, not a permanent resident, of Canada and Mexico. He/she must also have full-time or part-time employment pre-arranged with an employer. Self-employment is not permitted. The candidate must also work in a profession that is on the NAFTA list, which includes categories such as scientists, architects, accountants, engineers, management consultants, and people in the medical field, among others. He must also present qualifications for the profession.

Mexican citizens applying for the TN visa must submit documents to a U.S. consulate office and attend two interviews. The first is to submit fingerprints. The second is an interview with a US Consulate official who will determine the applicant’s eligibility. Applicants must pay a non-refundable application fee of $160 for non-immigrants before scheduling the first interview. A reciprocal fee is also paid, which is $104 for a one-year visa and $382 for a four-year visa. This fee is only paid if the applicant is approved. Canadian applicants can bring their documents to a US port of entry, where they will receive the visa. The application fee for Canadians is $50 plus $6 for an I-94 form, which allows multiple entries into the United States, beyond a designated border area for a specific time period. Spouses of TN visa holders working in the United States receive a TD visa, or what is known as a NAFTA dependent visa.

Obtaining a TN visa used to be fairly quick, but the process now takes longer. According to attorney Carlos Maldonado of the Miranda & Maldonado law firm of El Paso, Texas, who has more than 40 years of combined experience in business and family immigration, “Before the pandemic, it took about two weeks to obtain a TN visa. Today, it takes between three and five months because in 2020 and 2021, many people who needed to renew their tourist or business visas were unable to make an appointment with a consular office. So there’s a bit of a backlog now that appointments are scheduled again.

In the past, I have known companies operating in both the United States and Mexico that have used this visa to allow their employees in Mexico to work seamlessly in the United States. However, due to the shortage of workers, companies are now using the TN visa to fill labor shortages and attract talent. According to a recent New York Times article by business journalist Ben Casselman, the US economy lost 22 million jobs in the first two months of the pandemic in 2020. It has now recovered all of those jobs and added a half. -million more, compared to the last recession during which it took five years to recover lost jobs.

He argues that long-term employment is now the lowest in 20 years, running counter to the belief that Americans don’t want to work. What has happened is that people have upgraded their jobs from being waiters to working in a warehouse or a factory.

The TN visa works especially well for U.S. businesses operating near the U.S.-Mexico border, where many Mexicans may prefer to live in their Mexican town and cross to work in the United States every day. In cities such as Juárez, Chihuahua, there are several educational institutions with degrees in engineers, entrepreneurs, chemists, scientists and teachers. All of these professions are eligible for the TN visa.

Maldonado sees more companies using the TN visa to access talent in Mexico and Canada.

“There are so many talents across the border who would jump at the chance to earn a good salary in the United States, develop a career and support their families in Mexico,” he says. -he.

As the US population ages and businesses struggle to find skilled workers, the TN visa may well be part of their overall workforce development strategy.

Jerry Pacheco is the executive director of the International Business Accelerator, a nonprofit business counseling program of the New Mexico Small Business Development Centers Network. He can be reached at 575-589-2200 or [email protected]


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