Is there a visa for Mexican professionals?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column I answer the question of a reader who wants to know if Mexican professionals can work temporarily in the United States.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

This is the column:

I am Mexican and have always wanted to get to know the United States. I recently graduated from college with a degree in economics and I want to travel and work temporarily in the U.S. I have heard that there is a TN visa that can help Mexican professionals work legally in the U.S. Is this true? I have heard that there is a TN visa that can help Mexican professionals to work legally in the U.S. Is this true - Norma C.

Norma, that's right. There is a visa called TN that allows certain Mexican professionals, including economists, to work temporarily in the United States if they meet a series of requirements.

The U.S. government created the TN visa as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA, which established economic and trade relations between the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The TN visa is a special visa that allows certain specialized professionals, such as economists, accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists and professors from Mexico and Canada, temporary entry to work in the US.

In this column I will discuss only the eligibility requirements for Mexican citizens.

The TN visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows you to live and work temporarily in the U.S. The maximum period you are allowed to stay on a TN visa is up to three years, but it can be extended by applying for an extension of stay.

In addition to being a Mexican citizen and the applicant's profession must be considered one of those recognized by NAFTA, the person must have a job offer from an employer in the U.S. The employment agreement can only be of a temporary nature.

Mexican citizens abroad may file the TN visa petition directly with the U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico.

If approved for a TN visa, the individual may apply for admission to the U.S. at a U.S. port of entry. Before you can enter the country, you will have to pass inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If the CPB agents deem you eligible, they will authorize you to enter the country as a TN nonimmigrant, giving you Form I-94, Record of Entry and Departure, as proof of admission.

Fortunately, the TN visa benefit is extended to certain family members of applicants.

Spouses and unmarried children under 21 years of age of persons who are approved for a TN visa may be eligible to enter the U.S. However, these family members do not fall under the TN visa application, but must apply for a TD visa.

The TD visa, which is issued to eligible family members of a person who qualifies for a TN visa, allows them to live and study in the U.S., but not to work during their temporary stay in the country.

Eligible family members of the person applying for the TN visa do not have to be Mexican citizens, but they will need to contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country to find out how to apply for the TD visa.

Under certain circumstances, Mexicans who entered the U.S. legally and who remain authorized to be in the country on a temporary basis may apply for a change of status to a TN visa with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Please consult with an immigration attorney before applying for a TN or TD visa.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog

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Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of The Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residency in the United States. He is a former President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current President of the Westlake South Neighborhood Council of Los Angeles. To contact Mr. Castillo's office, please call (213) 537-VISA (8472).