The Canadian TN-1 visa is a very unique US work visa allowing Canadian citizens to work in the US in 3 year increments, renewable indefinitely in theory. (until Oct 2008, this was in 1 year increments).
The TN-1 visa (or more commonly known as the TN visa) is very widely known among US employer in the US as has been in place since 1994 as a result of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) between Canada, Mexico and the United States. There is a similar TN-2 visa for Mexican citizens, with a slightly more thorough application procedure than applies for Canadians. Additionally there is provision for US citizen workers to work in Canada or Mexico in a similar vein.
The TN visa for Canadians bears some resemblance to the E3 visa for Australians in that it applies only to citizens of one country and is renewable indefinitely. However the TN visa related spouse visa, the TD visa, does not allow spouses to work (although they may study in the US). The E3D spouse visa does allow for spouses to work.
The TN visa has probably the easiest application process as for the primary visa holder (and for the spouse if she is a Canadian citizen), it does not require a US consular interview. This is unlike virtually any other work visa that exists for any nation. So also like the E3 visa, the cost and timing to apply is also far more straightforward than say the H-1B visa process.
Actually as there is no actual visa issued at a US consulate it is technically called TN Status rather than a TN visa.
The Application Process
Canadian citizens first need a job offer letter detailing the employment and the fact it is for no longer than 3 years. Additionally they need to bring qualifiations and experience proof which is usually a university degree and/or evidence of former employment in the occupation area. If the degree is from a US or Canadian Higher Education institution, no additional paperwork is required. However if from another country’s institution, usually as US degree equivalency certificate is needed.
Additionally proof of Canadian citizenship (and spouse citizenship) is required as well.
If the spouse is a non Canadian Citizen, the TD visa application will need to be done at a US consulate prior to entry in the
This paperwork is then brought to the border and it is usually and most easily done along the entries between the US and Canada. There is a required $50 fee. There is an additional $6 fee for a land or sea crossing that is already included in airline ticket prices if traveling via air.
The US immigration officer will then give a decision on the application on the spot and grant or deny TN status based on all the information given.
If the decision is to grant TN status, the Canadian immediately enters the US and begins TN employment.
If the decision is to deny, the immigration officer will often given details as to the missing pieces of information in the application.
Often a Canadian citizen can return in the next few days with these corrected and have their application approved under TN visa status. However is there is no procedure to appeal a TN visa denial.
To renew a TN visa or status is either via a mail in renewal or returning to the border.
To change employers on TN status, requires a completely new application, so a return to the border is required
Many people have their TN status renewed or changed without issue many times, although occasionally if an overzealous immigration officer is present, it may be denied.
The Job Category Restrictions
The TN visa has a much more restricted set of job categories than either the H-1B visa, E3 visa or even L-1 visa. For these other US work non-immigrant visa categories, the criteria is basically a specialty occupation which translated to virtually any profession requiring a bachelors degree with a few restrictions.
The TN visa has a defined set of occupations which in itself seems broad but depending on the assessing US Immigration officer may be strictly applied to a particular application. You can see the Official TN Visa page on the US State Department website for more information on the specific categories but it covers most of the common areas you would think of.
Unlike the H1B visas and L1 visa which are defined as dual intent visas meaning that foreigners are specifically allowed to simultaneously apply for Permanent Residency (or Green Card) Status, the TN visa does not have a dual intent provision.
However like the E3 visa, it is not specifically prohibited either and so many Canadian citizens do successfully apply for a Green Card while on TN visa status.
Good Luck Canucks 🙂