10 Tips for Canadian Citizens Applying for TN Visa

10 Tips for Canadian Citizens Applying for TN Visa
TN visas provide career opportunities for Canadian professionals who want to work and live in the United States.
When navigating the U.S. visa application process, having as much information and knowledge as possible proves beneficial in streamlining the TN visa journey. The TN (Trade NAFTA) visa is a non-immigrant visa for Canadian and Mexican professionals. However, the rules that govern the TN visa process are not the same for both countries. Citizens applying for a Canadian TN visa have an easier time obtaining the visa than their Mexican counterparts, especially if they follow the tips outlined in this article.

Unlike other temporary visa types, if you meet the requirements the TN visa can fast track you into the United States and straight into a professional position with a U.S. company. As a Canadian, all you’ll need is a valid U.S. job offer, the proper professional credentials, and documentation to rapidly obtain a TN visa.

A Canadian professional can live and work in the United States for up to three years on a TN visa as long as they meet the program’s required education and experience. They must work in one of NAFTA’s listed professions. The visa is extendable without a limit as long as the professional holds the position.

Don’t worry about your family when you are offered an impressive position in the U.S. A Canadian TN visa allows the spouse and children of the visa holder to enter and stay in the US. based on TD (trade dependent) status. Your spouse and children cannot work in the country, but they can attend school.

In this article, we will examine tips for Canadian citizens applying for TN visas and the benefits of utilizing the visa program if you want to live and work in the U.S.

Is it Easy to get a TN Visa for Canadians?

A skilled professional with a solid job offer with a U.S. company will typically face no difficulties obtaining a Canadian TN visa.  A potential TN visa holder must meet the following requirements:

  • Citizen of Canada 
  • Education and experience in one of the positions on the NAFTA list
  • Position must be in the United States 
  • Have either an offer of either a full time or part time prearranged position with a U.S. employer (self-employment is never permitted). 
  • Must possess the required qualities such as education and experience in one of the 62 NAFTA professions.

Virtually all of the NAFTA professions require a baccalaureate degree.  You cannot substitute a degree for real life experience. A few of the professions list an allowable alternative degree and some require experience coupled with a degree.

Benefits of a Canadian TN Visa

Professionals enjoy many benefits with a Canadian TN visa.

No Quota on TN

Unlike the H1B visa, the TN visa has no cap. Canadians seeking a TN visa never have to worry about there not being a sufficient number of visas available.

Extendable Length of Stay

If you possess a TN visa then you are allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to three years. At the end of the three years, you can then extend your stay. There is no limit on how many times you can extend the TN visa as long as you are still working in the country in your NAFTA approved profession.

Employers do not Need a Labor Certification

Employers seeking to hire a Canadian professional using the TN visa program do not need a Labor Certification. Other types of visas require that an employer obtain a Labor Certification which is a timely and costly process. As an eligible Canadian professional, all you need is a U.S. employer to offer you a position to obtain a TN visa.

No Lengthy Application Process for Canadians

Canadians do not need to undergo a lengthy visa application process to obtain a TN visa. Instead, you can apply for a TN visa at a U.S. Port of Entry.’

Can Switch Employers

The TN visa is referred to as an ‘employment-based visa”.  When your paid employment trends, then your status changes. If your employment comes to a close before your I-797 Approval Notice or I-94 Record expires then you’ll have a 60 day grace period to prepare to move back to Canada or to seek employment with another employer.

If your employment should end and your I-797 Approval Notice also expires then you’ll want to look at the expiration date on the I-94 card which will often give you a 10-day grace period before you are required to leave the U.S. and return to Canada. If you have gained employment with another employer then you can extend your TN visa for another three years.

10 Tips for Canadian Citizens Applying for a TN Visa

Below we will examine the tips that you should know as a Canadian citizen to apply for a TN visa. Having a firm understanding of TN visa procedures for Canadian citizens will prove beneficial in ensuring the process goes smoothly.

1. Know Your Eligibility for a TN Visa

If you want to live and work in the United States then you’ll need a visa. A TN visa offers the best opportunities for professionals, but the TN visa is not an easy visa to obtain. In fact, the requirements for both Canadian and Mexican applicants are extreme and unbending. Eligibility for a TN visa hinges on you having the necessary degrees and experience in one of 62 specific professions.

Prior to ever applying for a TN visa, you’ll want to confirm that no factors exist which can make you ineligible for the visa.  Some grounds for a TN denial include:

  • Medical problems
  • Affiliations with certain organizations
  • Past convictions 
  • Overstaying a prior visit to the United States
  • Previous immigration violations

A U.S. employer interested in hiring a Canadian professional on a TN visa must ensure that their position falls into the professional requirements as stated in the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). All a Canadian needs is a valid job offer from a potential U.S. employer to start the visa process.

You’ll then need to prove that you meet all educational requirements for the position to meet eligibility. How you fill out your TN visa application matters when it comes to filling in your job title. The job title on your application must match a NAFTA occupation and the job offer.

The NAFTA professions have inflexible education requirements. You must have the education requirement for the position to meet eligibility. If you are a bookkeeper and you wish to fill the position of an accountant, then you will likely not qualify.  An accountant position has set educational requirements that a bookkeeper cannot meet.

U.S. jobs hold the appeal of new opportunities and the chance to live in a different country. Best of all, employers want and need TN professions.  Following the Covid19 pandemic, the U.S.

Chamber of Commerce reported that 3.8 million job openings were filled. Since that early study, additional research has been carried out that found that an additional 4 million new businesses opened and over 10 million positions were added in 2021 and 2022.

American business owners are struggling to retain skilled professionals. In order to bring in diversity and fill positions, business owners are turning to the TN visa program to flesh out their teams. In many ways, the talent pool of foreign professionals remains untapped which provides an abundance of opportunities for employers.

One industry that has readily embraced foreign professionals in recent years is healthcare. Tara  Watson at Williams College conducted research on foreign professionals working in the United States. It was revealed that one in five nurses are foreign nationals.

With the labor shortage in the U.S. causing a crunch due to retiring baby boomers and the younger generation not seeking higher education, businesses are desperate for skilled professionals. With the TN visa program, American businesses have access to a large marketplace of professionals.    

2. What to Bring for Application and Admission

Wondering what Canadians need for TN visa application and admission? The Canadian TN visa process is carried out at either the U.S. consulate, U.S. port of entry, or by using Form I-129 through the USCIS. You’ll make your TN status and US admission applications at the same time. Upon application, you’ll be granted your TN status and allowed to enter the U.S. at the same time.

In most cases, the Canadian TN visa process is carried out at the port of entry, but if you foresee a possible problem then apply at the U.S. consulate.

When applying for the Canadian TN visa, you’ll want to bring the following documentation with you: 

  • Canadian citizenship evidence such as a photo ID, passport (must be valid for at least six months into the future), or birth certificate. 
  • Employer letter as evidence of a job promise in the U.S. 
  • Evidence showing your professional qualification to meet the TN requirement such as certificate of licensure, academic credentials, post-secondary education credentials, professional experience letters, and resume. 
  • Proof of non-immigrant intent which shows you have strong ties to your Canadian home country.      
  • Marriage license and birth certificates for TD visas for your spouse and children.

3. Focus on the TN Visa Employer Letter

One of the most important components of the TN visa application is the TN visa employer letter. The letter lets the immigration officer know that you are the right candidate for the job and that you meet all the qualifications needed to obtain a TN visa. The TN employer letter is not an employment offer. The TN employer letter is filled with facts about the position, the employer, and also outlines how you meet the criteria for the position outlined in NAFTA.

Since 2020, the number of TN visa application denials has grown. Immigration officers are now closely scrutinizing TN visa applications and actually validating the requests. Applicants who submit an employer letter which does not state and explain all of the requirements then the officer might issue a denial. 

Your TN visa employer letter should cover a few main points so that the immigration officer can quickly see that you qualify for the job. It should contain the following crucial information:

  • Show exactly how you qualify for the position under USMCA/NAFTA
  • Display how the job qualifies and fits the requirements under USMCA/NAFTA
  • Clearly state the occupation you are applying for the TN visa for. 
  • Show the time you are requesting for the visa – such as the job will start and end on certain dates. 
  • Provide remuneration information. 
  • Officer concise and clear information.
  • Formatted in an easy-to-read format.
  • Contains headings that outline each section of the letter for the Immigration officer to easily find.

When an immigration officer looks over your paperwork, the officer is looking for clear information that shows an employer meets the requirements of NAFTA. You should provide details on the company so that the officer can quickly see that the organization is legitimate.

An immigration officer must closely scrutinize all documents to ensure that you are being hired by a valid company and not a friend or relative or presenting a pseudo job. When working on your application, make sure everything is valid and easy for the officer to vet so there is no doubt about the job offer or your credentials.

Ensure that the visa employer letter specifies a time period for the length of the TN visa. It can span a day or up to three years. With a TN visa, you’ll also enjoy unlimited renewals. 

4.  Focus on Your Spouse and Children

When you apply for your Canadian TN visa at a port of entry, you’ll also be applying for a TD visa for your spouse and any children under the age of 21. When applying for a TD visa, your spouse or children can immediately accompany you into the United States or join you later.

The TN visa holder must show that they can support their dependents in the United States because a TD visa holder is not allowed to go to work.

The spouse or children of a TN professional must present a valid Form I-94 along with a letter of employment confirmation showing the TN visa holder has a valid TN visa status. There is no waiting period for Canadians entering the United States – the process is immediate at any port of entry if you have the needed documents.

If your spouse is not a Canadian citizen then they will need to schedule an interview at the U.S. consulate or embassy to start the TD process.

Required documents for the TD process include:

  • Valid passport for the spouse and children under the age of 21. 
  • Form DS-160
  • Birth certificates (translated into English) for spouse and children. 
  • Marriage certificate 
  • Copy of I-94
  • Receipt showing payment.
5. Understanding the 90 Day Rule for TN Visa Holders?

The TN visa is not a dual intent visa. You are required to declare your intent to leave the United States before your visa expires before you are granted entrance into the country.

Many Canadian TN visa holders meet a U.S. citizen and fall in love. They then apply for a green card within the first 90 days of entering the country. However, if at any time the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers believe that you entered the U.S. with the sole purpose of gaining a green card and not simply professional employment then they consider that you willfully misrepresented the true reason for coming to the U.S.

If after 90 days you apply for a green card then the CBP will assume that your life intentions changed and you did not at any time when applying for a Canadian TN visa willfully misrepresent your intentions. In such a case they will allow you to continue with the green card application. 

Prior to ever applying for a green card in the United States while in the country on a TN visa, you should check your I-94  Arrival/Departure Record to find the date when you first entered the United States. You will need to count out ninety days past that date to safely apply for a green card.

6. Possible Canadian TN Visa Denial Due to Strike

The NAFTA strike provisions can impact your TN visa petition. If the U.S. company where you intend to work is undergoing a labor dispute or a strike then your TN petition could be denied. If your entry into the United States and your acceptance of a job with the company impacts the dispute’s settlement efforts when you’ll face a denial.

If you obtain your TN visa and enter the United States and then a strike should occur at your new place of employment then you will not face having to leave the country due to the unrest.

In order for a denial to take place based on a labor dispute, the U.S. Secretary of Labor must certify that a strike or labor dispute is currently in progress and that granting a Canadian a TN visa status could impact the dispute or settlement. If such a thing takes place, then the CBP has no choice but to refuse your TN classification. 

7. U.S. Employer Applies for Employee TN Status

Yes, your potential U.S. employer can apply for a TN status for you before you ever leave Canada. In fact, some employers prefer this process.

An employer who wishes to file for a TN status for their potential Canadian worker must file a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker The form is filed with the USCIS. Upon filing, they must wait to receive a reply and approval. When the USCIS approves the petition then the Canadian professional can go to a designated port to enter the United States. You can also carry out the process at a pre-flight inspection station.

At the port of entry or preflight inspection state you’ll be asked to provide the Form I-129 Approval Notice along with proof of Canadian citizenship and all supporting documents that were used to obtain the application’s approval.

8. TN Visa Interview Process

As a Canadian citizen, you can apply at a legal port of entry for a TN visa. At the time of application, you’ll undergo an interview with an immigration officer to establish your TN visa eligibility.  The CBP officer will ask you a series of questions concerning your admissibility.

They may ask you about any previous visits that you may have taken to the United States and whether you have held any previous US visas.

If there are any incidents on your criminal record, then the immigration officer will also ask you to elaborate about any immigration arrests or violations.

During the interview, the CBP officer will ask you questions that focus on your TN application. They will want to know about the U.S. employer who has given you a job offer and the nature of the work that you will be performing.

Another area that the immigration officer will cover in their questioning is the length of your stay. Remember, the TN visa is a nonimmigrant visa and only allows you to stay up to 3 years before renewal. You must convince the officer that your ties are strong in Canada and you do not intend on immigrating to the U.S. You’ll need to reassure them that your work is only temporary.

On occasion, an immigration officer will contact the U.S. employer either during or right after your interview to validate your answers.

If after your interview, the immigration officer feels satisfied with the answer you have provided and believes that you meet all of the qualifications for a TN visa then you will receive TN status and can enter the U.S. 

When preparing for your TN interview remember to dress appropriately. You want to make a winning impression on the immigration officer so they know that you are a professional.  You’ll also want to be polite during the entire interview process and try to fully answer the officer’s questions. Remember, it is okay to be nervous during the interview but always remain polite and accommodating.

Below are a few tips on the TN visa interview process: 

  • Dress appropriately (smart business).
  • Be polite and friendly.
  • Listen closely to the officer’s questions.
  • Always wait for the officer to finish speaking before you provide a response (never interrupt). 
  • Speak in a confident manner by answering properly and in a tone of voice that is easy to hear (not too loud or too low). 
  • Answer each question honestly and in a direct fashion (do not beat around the bush).

When you enter the interview, make sure you have all of your documents organized and ready.  You don’t want to appear unsure, unprofessional, or unorganized.

Prior to interviewing with the CBP, go over your work assignment so you are prepared with all of the necessary details. Review all of the TN eligibility requirements for your profession to ensure you meet all of the needed criteria and can promptly provide the needed answers to any questions that the officer may ask.

9. Prepping for TN Visa Interview Questions  

 Immigration officers classify TN interview class into various categories. The questions typically focus on the following: 

  • Travel history 
  • TN eligibility
  • U.S employer details

Below are a few question outlines that a CBP officer might ask during the TN interview process:

  • Have you ever held a US visa and if so when and what type?
  • Have you visited the United States, and if so when and how many times?
  • Have you ever worked in, paid taxes in, or owned property within the U.S.? 
  • Have you ever violated immigration law? 
  • In the past, have you been denied a visa? 
  • Do you have a criminal past in the U.S. or in Canada? 
  • Have you ever been convicted of a crime or felony?

A CBP officer will ask you associated questions to the ones outlined above during the interview process to determine eligibility. If the questioning reveals any past immigration violations or criminal acts then you’ll be deemed ineligible. You must answer the questions truthfully because the immigration officer will review your records for any inconsistencies.

If the first round of questions goes smoothly and the immigration officer is satisfied with your response then they will move on to the next set of questions which may include the following:

  • How long do you plan to work in the U.S.? 
  • Are you qualified for the job position that you have been hired for? 
  • What are the required job duties? 
  • What will you receive for compensation for the position?

The questions will focus on the duties of the position you have been hired for by the U.S. employer. You’ll present documents that show your credentials and educational background to meet the position’s job description.

You’ll likely be questioned about the position and your U.S. employer. Present the basic information such as the name of the organization where you’ll be working, the name of the person who offered you the position, and the industry within which you’ll be functioning. You should also know the address of the organization and in which town and state you’ll work. On occasion, the CBP officer might call the U.S. employer to confirm the details outlined in the job offer.

If your answers to the questions do not match what your employer says then your TN application may be denied.  If your visa is denied, then you’ll be given a reason for the denial.

Let your U.S. employer know when you plan to interview with the immigration officer so they make sure they are available to answer the phone and address any questions the officer might have about the position. You’ll want to keep your employer current on the entire TN process and let them know when you will report for work.

Additional questions might be asked during your TN interview if you are going to be accompanied by your spouse or children. You’ll need to answer questions about each family member.

10. Receive a Fast Approval

One of the most common questions is, “How long does it take to get a TN Visa for Canadian citizens?” The answer is it depends on if you apply for your TN visa at the port of entry or through the USCIS.

If you apply for a Canadian TN visa at a port of entry then you will quickly undergo the interview process with a CBP officer. The interviews last from 15 minutes to three hours. Most of the time is spent waiting for the interview and the approval/denial. However, you will receive a quick decision on whether your TN application is approved. If approved, you can enter the U.S. If you are denied a visa by the officer then you will be told the reason why.

A Canadian citizen is granted a TN 1 status at the U.S. port of entry or at select airports with pre-clearance inspection stations. You must pay all necessary application fees. e A Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record is then issued. On I-94 a record of the data and place of entry is made. It also lists when the authorized stay expires (which cannot exceed three years).

If you opt to apply for a TN status through the USCIS then it will cost more and take much longer to receive an answer.

Bottom Line: Canadian TN Visa

When you have all your ducks in a row, the Canadian TN visa process is quick and easy. If you fit the professional criteria, experience, and educational background and have an offer of employment by a U.S. employer then you should qualify for a TN status.

You’ll want to ensure you complete all of the needed paperwork and bring the required documents to your interview to help streamline the process and reduce the possibility of problems. Typically, you should plan your TN process at least 10 days before the expected start date of your positions so you have enough time if you need to take extra steps or obtain more documentation.


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