10 Tips for Mexican Citizens Applying for TN Visa

10 Tips for Mexican Citizens Applying for TN Visa

Applying for the TN visa for Mexican citizens isn’t without its challenges. It’s a lengthy process with numerous steps involved. If you make a mistake on the forms or stumble on one of the many steps, the entire process can grind to a halt or start moving at a snail’s pace. Ideally, you should work with a skilled foreign recruitment agency who specializes in the TN visa process like AW Labor Solutions. You should also understand all of the steps involved in obtaining the TN visa and learn any tips that can help.

The TN visa was established by the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. It granted residents of both Canada and Mexico the ability to obtain temporary entry with a nonimmigrant visa for professional level work.
The goal of the NAFTA agreement is to foster sharing of professionals between Mexico and Canada to temporarily serve in positions for certain professions. The TN program was continued after NAFTA was replaced by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
Not all professions are eligible for a TN visa. NAFTA professionals from Mexico or Canada must have the education and experience needed to fill certain key positions such as the following accepted TN professions:
  • Physicians
  • Teachers
  • Accountants 
  • Dentists
  • Social workers
  • Research assistants 
  • Graphic designers
  • Management consultants 
  • Technologists 
  • Lawyers 
  • Pharmacists 
  • Mathematicians
  • Architects 
  • Computer system analysts 
  • Librarians
  • Engineers
  • Hotel managers

There are 63 qualifying professions for a TN visa for Mexican and Canadian citizens. Eligibility hinges not only on being a Mexican citizen but also on having the necessary qualifications and expertise to perform the job such as a bachelor’s or master’s degree. In addition, the position must be pre-arranged with a legitimate offer for either full time or part time employment from a U.S. employer.

In many cases, your job title might not exactly match the NAFTA job category because they do not give precise definitions. There is a wide array of professional jobs that qualify for a TN status but might not be labeled exactly like the 63 categories in NAFTA. You’ll need to show the connection and so will your employer, so you do not face a denial.

The main difference between the TN visa for Mexican citizens and the TN visa for Canadian citizens is that a Canadian can easily apply for TN status at the border. A TN visa for Mexican citizens cannot be obtained at the Mexico/U.S. border. If you are a Mexican citizen wishing to obtain a TN visa, then you must start the process at the U.S. consulate or embassy in Mexico.

As a TN visa holder, you are allowed to only work with one U.S. employer at a time. If you wish to work for more than a single U.S. employer, then you must request a separate TN visa. Also, you cannot be self-employed.

Top 10 Tips for Mexican Citizens Seeking TN Visas
Below are 10 tips to consider when obtaining a TN visa as a Mexican citizen.
1. Give Yourself Plenty of Time

Mexican citizens must first apply for a TN visa before entering the U.S. After accepting a position from a U.S. employer, you must factor in the length of time it will take to obtain the TN visa stamp prior to being able to enter the country to start the job. You’ll need to wait for your appointment with the U.S. consular and then consider the processing length along with the time it will take to make the necessary travel arrangements between the U.S. and Mexico before you can give your employer a start date.

Certain consulates tend to be busier than others with the lead time at the Ciudad Juarez often significantly more than others like the U.S. embassy in Mexico City which might have short wait times due to a higher number of government workers. Other factors that can impact the amount of time it takes to get a visa appointment includes the time of year and volume of applicants.

Even after attending the visa appointment, the consular post still requires time to complete the entire application process. It could range from two days to weeks or even months. To get an idea of the wait time, you can visit the State Department’s website. Wait times change daily. Even the projected timeline on the State Department’s website are just estimates and there is no guarantee.

Planning in advance for a TN applicant is important. You need to know the wait times to obtain an interview and then for processing so you can make plans and let your new U.S. employer know a potential start date for your new position.
Although wait times for a TN visa are not written in stone it usually takes from four to six months. You can opt to pay additional for premium processing which can reduce the wait time down to only 15 business days (approximately three weeks).
2. Prepare for Language Barriers

Virtually all U.S. consular posts have Spanish-fluent immigration officers. However, even if your immigration officer is fluent in Spanish, you should still have all application materials translated into English. As a TN applicant you’ll need to present your university transcripts and degrees so you should always ensure that they are translated into English to help facilitate the entire application process.

3. Gather All Necessary Documents
Unlike Canadians applying for a TN visa, Mexican residents must apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate ahead of time. You’ll want to gather all the required documents in advance such as the following:
  • Valid passport (it must have at least six months remaining beyond the projected stay date in the United States). 
  • Confirmation page for the DS-160 form (nonimmigrant visa application). 
  • Receipt clearly showing that the entire visa application fee was paid in full. 
  • Photo that meets all the visa standards outlined by the U.S. government. When you complete Form DS-160 online, you’ll have the opportunity to also upload a photo. If there is a problem and you are unsuccessful at uploading the photo, then you’ll need to have an actual photo to attach to the application. 
  • A letter or contract from a U.S. employer that details the job’s description, length of stay, purpose of entry for the visa holder, qualifications, and arrangements for pay. 
  • College or university transcripts that clearly show you meet all the minimum education requirements for the TN visa position.

On occasion, additional documents are required that further verify your credentials or show that you have strong ties to Mexico such as family relationships or you own real estate property in the country.

It is advised that you always bring the original documents such as your college degrees and any proof of employment. Also, make sure to bring versions that have been translated into English to help further streamline the process.

4. Obtain Evaluation of Foreign Credentials
If you are a Mexican citizen who has obtained your university or college degree from a foreign institution that is not located in either the U.S. or Mexico, then you’ll need to have all transcripts and degrees evaluated using a skilled and respected foreign credential evaluation service.

They will evaluate your degrees and then outline it compared to U.S. equivalencies. The documentation will assist consular officials with understanding your degree and how it relates to the TN profession needed to obtain the visa. You must show you have the correct education and title to obtain the TN visa.

5. Prepare for a TN Visa Extension

Guidelines established between Mexico and the US require that a TN visa’s validity will not extend past one year. This is very confusing for many Mexican visa holders because the TN allows a maximum admission of up to three years. Even though the TN visa is only valid for one year. The TN visa holder can stay up to three  years with a Letter of Employment that requests a three year stay. The USCIS can grant an extension of up to three years each time and there is no limit to the number of years that a TN visa holder can ask for extensions and remain in the U.S.

A TN visa for Mexican citizens who are already in the US can be extended by requesting that your employer file a Form I-129 Petition for non-immigrant Worker with the USCIS asking for an additional extension of three years. You can also apply at any U.S. consulate with the same application and present documentation to request an extension.

Processing time for an I-129 extension can take from two to seven months so you should start the petition for an extension at least six months before your TN visa is ready to expire. If you do not prepare for the TN visa extension before the expiration date, then you will probably need to leave the country and then reapply from Mexico.

6. TN Visa and a Green Card
A TN visa is not classified as a ‘dual intent’ visa. When you enter the U.S. with a TN visa then you agree that you will not permanently move to the country. The TN visa is only a temporary visa and not a pathway towards citizenship. However, that does not mean that you cannot obtain a green card if you have a TN visa.

Circumstances can arise which can change your status such as meeting a U.S. citizen and marrying them at which time you will be able to become a green card holder. You’ll be able to adjust your status and remain in the U.S.

If you have family members living in the United States who are green card holders or permanent residents, then you might be able to apply for a green card through a process that is often referred to as ‘direct family sponsorship.’

Dual intent visas include H-1B visa, L1 visa, E-1 visa, and E-2 visa. You can stitch your TN visa to one of these visas if your TN employer is willing to sponsor you so you can obtain the new visa and then go on to file for an employment based green card.

After your TN visa expires, you can return to Mexico and file a green card application which is a process referred to as consular processing. The USCIS will issue a priority date and then process your application. You’ll need to book an interview with a Mexico consular officer.

7. Furthering Your Education

Many TN visa holders are surprised to learn that they can further their education while in the United States. If you meet the conditions of your TN visa and remain working for your employer, you can study in the U.S. either full time or part time. If your TN visa and employment should be explored before you finish your course or degree then you can return to Mexico and petition to change your visit status to an M-1, F-1 or J-1 visa to finalize your education.

8. What if Your TN Visa is Denied?

On occasion, the USCIS will deny a TN visa application. Common reasons for a denial include certain grounds of inadmissibility into the country such as previous criminal conviction. Also, you might be denied a TN visa  if the job offer simply does not fit the list of 63 TN professions or if your degree does not fit the job description.

With a TN visa, you cannot combine experience with education. Instead, the visa requirements clearly outline the education requirements of a bachelor’s degree or other specific degree or license. If you must use a combination of experience with education, then you might need to try to apply for an H-1B visa instead of a TN visa or you will face a denial.

If your TN visa application is denied, then you can always apply again but the process might be more complex and not as straightforward as it was during your first application process. Returning TN applicants will usually have their application reviewed with far greater scrutiny. On occasion, officials simply do not want to overtime a denial if you have not shown that you have satisfactorily overcome the previous problems that caused the first denial. If you are reapplying for a TN visa after a denial, then you’ll want to make sure that you have addressed all the problems and overcome them, or you will again face denial.

9. What to Do if You Leave Your Job

Sometimes things do not work out with an employer. You might opt to leave your position, or your employer might feel that you are not the proper fit. If you should leave your job, then your TN visa will remain valid for only 60 days. During that time, you can seek employment elsewhere or you’ll need to prepare to leave the U.S. If you find another U.S. employer, then you’ll need to request another TN visa for the new employer.

Remember, it is against the law to work for a new employer without gaining an approved TN status for the new employer. You must only collaborate with the employer that is listed on your I-94 card, so it is especially important to take care of things if you change employers.

If you change your TN employers but you are still working at the same profession, then you’ll need to file Form I-129 with the USCIS. You can remain in the U.S. while processing takes place. However, remember that processing can take a long time, especially if there are backlogs at the service center managing the paperwork. You’ll be unable to work until you gain approval. You can opt for premium processing which does carry a fee but is faster and might be an ideal option if you want to speed the process up.

10. Bringing Your Spouse and Children to the U.S.
If you are taking a position in the U.S. with a TN visa, then you can bring your spouse and any unmarried children under the age of 21 with you. Your spouse and children can accompany you or join you later if they are eligible for a TD non-immigrant status. With a TD visa, your spouse and children cannot work in the United States, but they can study. Also, the TD visa’s status will not last longer than the period of your TN visa.

When applying for a TD visa, your spouse or children must prove their relationship to you by presenting documentation such as a marriage certificate or birth certificate.

The TD visa process for spouses and children of the TN visa holder must file a visa application form and then book an interview at the consulate or embassy. They will then go on to consular processing. Once the application is approved. The TD visa is stamped directly on the spouse or child’s passport.

A TN visa holder can request an extension and at the same time the spouse or children can also request an extension of their TD visa. Neither you, nor your spouse or children must return to Mexico before requesting an extension.

Mexican TD holders who wish to return to Mexico to visit family or for some other purpose must apply for a new TD at a consulate or U.S. embassy before they can again reenter the U.S.

Your parents, siblings, grandparents, or other relatives are ineligible for a TD visa.

Application Process for a TN Visa for Mexican Citizens

Now that you know the top 10 tips for the application process for a TN Visa for Mexican Citizens it’s time to examine the actual steps.

Eligibility Requirements for a TN Status

To be eligible for a TN status the following is required:

  • Proof of Mexican Citizenship (a passport is usually sufficient). 
  • Proof of a pre-arranged position with a U.S. employer for a part time or full-time job. A foreign employer that has a U.S. entity will also qualify as a TN employer. 
  • Proof of qualification for the position such as a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. 
  • A TN support letter from a U.S. employer that completely summarizes the job, outlines the profession, lists your qualifications, reveals salary, and gives a time frame for employment. 
  • Ensure that the job is listed under the 63 NAFTA professions before applying for a TN visa. 
  • Submit a Form DS-160 to the U.S. consulate or embassy. You can complete the form online. If you complete the Form DS-160 online, then be sure to print the confirmation page to take with you to the interview at the consulate or embassy as proof. 
  • Bring a suitable photo of yourself with you to the interview during the application process. 
  • Provide a receipt that shows that you have paid all the application fees in full. 
  • Schedule an interview at the consulate or embassy. 
  • Receive a TN visa number.

 On occasion, the consular may ask for additional documents before determining your TN visa eligibility. This could hold up the process. However, you should try to provide whatever the official requires in a timely manner to hurry the TN visa process along.

Comparing the H-1B Visa to the TN Visa for Mexican Citizens

The TN visa and the H-1B visa have several similarities but there are also significant differences. Mexican professionals considering which visa to apply for should compare the two before making a decision. The benefits of the TN visa usually outweigh those of the H-1B for  professionals.

The TN Visa versus the H-1B Visa
TN Visa H-1B Visa
Granted in three-year increments indefinitely.
Granted for three years increments for a maximum limit of six years.
No annual quota.
Annual quota of 65,000 visas (under certain circumstances more may be allotted).
No approved USCIS application required at the consulate or embassy.
Requires USCIS approval before applying for the TN visa.
Available only to Canadian and Mexican citizens.
Available to any foreign national.
Only for NAFTA professionals with most professions requiring at least a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Must work in a specialist occupation with at least a bachelor’s degree.
Does not allow for dual intent.
Allows for dual intent.

The TN visa for Mexican citizens allows U.S. employers to retain skilled talent. Many U.S. companies offer lucrative employment packages that make relocation to the United States attractive to professionals seeking something different, additional job challenges or an adventure. We invite you to contact AW Labor Solutions to learn more about our extensive labor assistance services.


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