How to Optimize the TN Visa Process for Your Future Employees

In 2021, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that employers hired candidates to fill a staggering 3.8 million jobs. Many of those jobs remain open in 2022 with 11.4 million job openings. In the last two years, studies revealed that 4 million new businesses were launched and 10 million new business applications were filed. Employers are struggling to find skilled professionals as they face an unparalleled nationwide labor shortage.
At this time, there are no easy solutions to the employee shortfall, but many businesses have decided to turn to foreign professionals to flesh out their organization’s skilled teams and bring in new talent. Many are terming this decade the time of the ‘great talent recession.’ However, the often-untapped talent pool of TN professionals does hold promise for U.S. employers in a variety of industries.
In recent years, foreign workers have become essential in many professional industries such as healthcare. Research carried out by economic professor Tara Watson at Williams College found that one in five nurses in the U.S. are now foreign nationals. TN professionals have become crucial to many healthcare organizations.
Research shows many factors have fueled the labor shortage in the U.S. such as the COVID-19 pandemic, the baby boomer generation reaching retirement age, declining birth rate and the younger generation not actively pursuing higher education. The talent crunch will likely persist into 2030 with a shift in world global balance becoming imminent if employers do not start to fill their positions with skilled workers. The TN visa provides options to American businesses to tap into a wider marketplace for professionals.

The TN visa process lets skilled Canadian and Mexican foreign nationals work for a U.S. employer in one of 60 professions. Unlike other visa types, the TN visa program has no annual quota limits. It also does not require any company or employer sponsorship requirements.

A U.S. employer seeking to hire a Canadian or Mexican on a TN visa must make sure that the vacant position meets the professional requirements outlined by the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). After finding a serious candidate, the employer must make a job offer to the potential foreign worker to start the TN visa process. The visa applicant must then prove that they have the educational background and experience needed to successfully meet the job’s requirements to qualify for the TN visa.
Optimizing the TN Visa Process
If you are a U.S. employer with a professional job vacancy and you have had little luck filling it with a domestic candidate, then you might want to consider hiring a foreign national. The TN nonimmigrant visa was launched under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in order to aid U.S. businesses with filling temporary job openings using skilled Mexican or Canadian professionals.
The NAFTA treaty was developed to foster strong business relations and robust trade between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Two visa types were set up, the TN-1 visa is for Canadian professionals and the TN-2 visa is for Mexican professionals.
Employers looking to fill job vacancies with TN visa applicants must first make sure that the job opening aligns with the required skill of one of the 60 approved professional occupations. In addition, the job cannot be considered ‘permanent’ because TN visa holders must display nonimmigrant intent. Also, TN visa holders may not work as self-employed professionals.
When working with a foreign national, you can help streamline the TN visa process by adhering to the following:
  • Ensure that the foreign national is either a Canadian or Mexican citizen.
  • Double check to make sure that the professional position being offered is listed on the Appendix 1603.D.1 to Annex 1603 of NAFTA. The list outlines the acceptable professions such as medical professionals, graphic designers, engineers, scientists, veterinarians, computer systems analysts, lawyers, architects, and more. All of the professions have stringent educational and experience requirements. 
  • Ensure that the job candidate has at least a baccalaureate degree or proper credentials to meet the professional requirements of the TN visa process. Experience and education are not considered equivalent if a degree is needed for the profession. 
  • An employer must show that they require someone from the TN visa’s specific professional category to fill the job opening. 
  • A TN visa holder is not allowed to be self-employed in the United States, but they can own an interest in a foreign company that is contracted for consulting services within the country. 
  • The TN visa holder is allowed to work for many U.S. employers as long as the TN status has approval for employment. 
  • Part time employment is allowed for a TN visa holder
  • The foreign national seeking to work as a TN visa holder must have only non-immigrant intent. In such a situation, the doctor of dual intent is not applicable.
Duration of Stay
A TN visa holder can stay in the United States for up to three years. The length of stay is extendable every three years in three-year increments. When hiring a TN professional, you’ll want to ensure the job will last at least three years and possibly longer to provide a sense of security to the foreign worker.
In order to extend the TN visa past the initial first three years, certain key factors must be met. U.S. immigrant officials will look at how long the TN position will last. It is important that the position last at least three years because if the immigration official suspects that the job position is only short term then they will likely deny the visa petition and the entire TN visa process will grind to a halt.
If you are hiring a web designer to create your brand’s new website, then the position will likely not last the full three years so a foreign national might face denial during the TN visa process. Another example is if you are hiring a top-notch foreign management consultant to oversee a major acquisition or merger, the deal will likely also not last three years so the odds of a foreign national gaining a TN visa for the position becomes problematic. As an employer, you’ll need to evaluate exactly how long you’ll honestly need the skilled professional or the entire TN visa process can prove to be a waste of time.
Typically, decisions are up to the discretion of immigration officials who will try to determine if the TN visa position will truly last three years when creating the applicant’s Form I-94. At the various U.S. ports of entry, the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency handles the adjudication.
In order to help the foreign national, obtain the TN visa, you’ll need to draft a job offer letter that outlines the following:
  • Job requirements
  • Start time
  • Length of time the position will last (at least three years).
Show Nonimmigrant Intent

A TN visa is classified as nonimmigrant. The TN visa holder must show nonimmigrant intent by demonstrating that they intend to return to their home country and have no intention of remaining in the U.S. indefinitely. The situation is often a catch-22 because of the nature of the TN visa.

There is no limit on the number of times that the foreign national can extend their TN visa status. However, if they fail to extend their visa after three years then they face significant legal repercussions. While in the United States and working on a TN visa, the visa holder also cannot show any intent to make the country their permanent residence, such as marrying a U.S. citizen, which would put them in violation of the TN visa’s non-immigrant intent.

Strike Provisions Per NAFTA
As an employer, you cannot hire a foreign worker to fill a position if your business is experiencing any sort of a labor dispute or a strike. If the employer is having some sort of unrest, then the TN visa petition might end up being denied quickly. You must ensure that hiring the applicant at your company would not impact the dispute settlement efforts. Also, if you foresee unrest or a strike at your company then you should put off hiring a TN visa holder because they must leave the United States if a strike should arise.
Of course, no one employer has a crystal ball to foresee exactly what is going to happen, but you do know if there is unrest in your organization. You should definitely take into consideration the climate at your business before enlisting the assistance of a foreign recruitment agency to hire a TN visa professional.
TN Visa Application and Requirements
If you want to optimize the TN visa process for your candidate, then you’ll want to take the time to familiarize yourself with the eligibility criteria outlined by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). They are fairly straightforward:
  • TN visa applicant must be a citizen of either Mexico or Canada
  • Must qualify as one of the listed NAFTA professions
  • The job position must be one of the careers stated on the NAFTA professional occupations list. 
  • Visa applicants must have a part time or full-time job offer from a United States employer.
The NAFTA professions require that the applicant have a baccalaureate degree. Experience is usually not considered a substitute to the required degree. If the visa applicant has a degree that was obtained outside of the United States, Mexico, or Canada then they must also submit an evaluation. On occasion, several years of experience might also be required in addition to the baccalaureate degree.
The USCIS also has rules for applicants from Mexico or Canada. Canadian citizens can usually enter the United States without a visa as nonimmigrants. However, the TN visa classification helps ensure their nonimmigrant status during their stay. Mexican applicants cannot enter the US without a visa, so the TN visa process differs between applicants of Mexico and Canada.

TN Visa Application for Canadian Citizen

During the TN visa process, the applicant does not have to apply for the visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Instead, they can apply at a U.S. port of entry or a pre-flight inspection station that has been designated. The TN visa applicant must provide proof of Canadian citizenship to the Canadian Border Patrol (CBP) officer.

Required documents include:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship such as a birth certificate or passport.
  • Detailed letter issued from a U.S employer that explains the job position, required professional capacity, length of stay, and educational qualifications.  
  • Credentials that compare Canada to U.S. equivalents. 
  • Receipts showing that any fees have been paid.
A CBP officer has the authority to determine eligibility for the TN visa and whether or not to grant admittance to the U.S.
As an employer, you can help optimize the TN visa process by filing a Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to USCIS. Upon approval, the visa applicant can submit the approval notice to the USCIS using Form I-129. They must also show proof of Canadian citizenship along with any supporting documents at the U.S port of entry to the CBP officer. The CBP officer will also ask the visa applicant a variety of questions to determine eligibility.
TN Visa Application for a Mexican Citizen
Mexican nationals who wish to petition for a TN visa must submit a visa request at the consulate or U.S. embassy in Mexico. They are required to gain full approval prior to visiting the U.S. port of entry.

The TN visa process for a Mexican citizen is as follows:

  • Complete form DS-160. Applicants can complete the Department of State’s Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application online. After completion, they should print up the confirmation page which they will need to present at the time of interview. 
  • Submit a suitable photo to the U.S. embassy or consulate at the time of application processing. 
  • Schedule an interview at the consulate or U.S. embassy in Mexico. 
  • Attend the in-person interview.

The TN visa applicant should gather all of the needed documents prior to showing up for the in-person interview.

The documents include:

  • Mexican passport.
  • DS-160 confirmation.
  • Receipt showing the payment of application fees. 
  • Photograph. 
  • Letter from U.S. employer that outlines the details of the TN professional job along with job responsibilities and expected duration of the job.
  • Educational qualifications and any supporting credentials. 
  • Documentation showing that the visa applicant meets the NAFTA profession requirements for the TN position. On occasion, the consular officer will ask for additional documents to prove TN visa eligibility.
Upon approval of the visa application, the TN visa holder will gain admission into the United States.
Hire a Foreign Recruitment Agency
Is your company in need of a skilled professional? Have you been trying unsuccessfully to find a skilled American worker to fill your job opening but failed? Maybe it’s time to hire a foreign recruitment agency to tap into the pool of foreign professionals seeking work outside their home countries? Hiring foreign labor professionals can help streamline the entire TN visa process.

The benefits of hiring a foreign recruitment agency include:

  • Partner with a labor assistance agency who knows the ins and outs of the TN visa process. 
  • Provide job hunting advice focused on obtaining skilled Canadian or Mexican professionals to fit your needs. 
  • Ability to successfully navigate all local, state, regional and federal compliance requirements, and regulations. 
  • Gives you access to a pool of skilled foreign professionals.
  • Faster hiring with a foreign recruitment agency. 
  • Can locate candidates with the skills, professional experience, and educational background needed to fill the position. 
  • All job candidates are pre-screened, interviewed, and assessed. 
  • Saves your organization time by letting the recruitment agency handle the TN visa process for hiring a foreign national. 
  • Gain access to recruitment support services.
  • Work with skilled recruitment specialists who can ensure the hiring process runs smoothly. 
  • Vast knowledge of the market in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. 
  • Possesses an extended reach to tap passive candidates. 
  • Reach skilled professionals with compelling ads and job listings. 
  • Provides you with the best possible TN candidate to meet your business needs. 
  • Well-versed in what it takes to navigate the TN visa process
One of the main perks of the TN visa program is flexibility for employers. As an employer, you don’t have to worry about visa caps, fiscal year limits or extensive, time-consuming advance petitions.

Once you pick a foreign professional for your job opening, you can rest assured that the TN visa holder can immediately start work once they enter the U.S. You don’t have to worry about waiting an excessive amount of time to welcome your foreign candidate to the team.

Upon entrance into the U.S., the TN worker must continue to work for the sponsoring employer to maintain their visa status. Yes, the visa holder can change employers, but the new employer must file a TN petition extension. A Mexican National must leave the US and then reapply for a new TN visa to go to work for a new employer.

If you wish to hire a TN visa holder who is already working in the United States, then you might want to consider working with a foreign labor professional agency to ensure the TN visa process is not too complicated.

Things to Consider When Hiring a Foreign Recruitment Agency
With the U.S. job market becoming extremely competitive and a nationwide shortage of skilled professionals to fill positions, many employers have turned to the foreign job market in an attempt to bring in fresh talent.
Challenge of Finding Skilled Foreign Nationals

Reaching out to professionals in Mexico and Canada can prove challenging and many HR departments don’t understand or specialize in the TN visa process, or the regulations involved. Simply finding professionals who want to relocate to the United States can also prove challenging. These are all major considerations and reasons why you should consider hiring a foreign recruitment agency.

Providing Proof, You Need a TN Visa Holder

If you are an employer considering hiring a foreign recruitment agency for assistance finding a TN professional applicant, then you’ll need to show why you need a professional to fill your position versus a U.S. job candidate. 

A foreign recruitment agency, such as AW Labor Solutions, will help you every step of the way in hiring a skilled foreign national professional to fill the vacancy. Our skilled team will help you find the ideal TN professional candidate.

Can a TN Visa Holder Bring Their Spouse and Children?

TN visa holders are allowed to bring their spouse and children (unmarried minors) into the U.S.. The immediate family members require no special visa if they are Canadian citizens. Mexican family members must apply for a TD nonimmigrant visa before admittance into the U.S.

Extending the TN Visa
Many employers who are new to the TN visa process might worry about hiring a Canadian or Mexican professional with a nonimmigrant visa. They fear investing time and money into training only to have the individual return to their home country when their visa expires. However, as mentioned above, a TN visa is extendable indefinitely. The professional that you hire can continue working past the three-year deadline on their TN visa if they continue to request an extension and you continue to have the position available to them. If you decide that you no longer need the services of the TN visa holder then upon termination of employment, they can remain in the U.S. only 60 days. You are not required to pay for any transportation fees when the TN worker returns to their home country. If the TN visa holder finds a new employer, then they must recommence the TN visa process.

The TN visa process allows U.S. employers to expand their talent search into Mexico and Canada. If you are unsure where to begin seeking the professionals that you need to join your team, AW Labor Solutions can help. We partner with businesses to assist your team by helping provide the professionals to fill your positions. Contact us today to learn more about our labor assistance services. 


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