How to obtain a TN visa

In my column This week's "Consulta Migratoria" published online by several impreMedia publications including LaOpinió, explains how to obtain a TN visa.

Here is my column:

I am often asked by Mexican citizens if there is a way to work legally in the United States. The answer is yes, but it depends on a number of conditions. For example, certain Mexican professionals may qualify for a TN visa.

This non-immigrant visa was created as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement, known as NAFTA. The treaty, whose purpose is to expand economic and commercial relations between the United States, Canada and Mexico, authorizes the issuance of a special visa for professionals from those countries to temporarily enter the U.S. to work.

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

The TN visa is a non-immigrant visa. This means that the person applying for it will be in the country temporarily. Specialized professionals such as accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists and professors are eligible to apply for the TN visa.

This visa requires that in addition to being a Mexican citizen, your profession must be considered one of those recognized by NAFTA. In addition, you must have a job offer from an employer in the United States. The employment agreement can only be of a temporary nature. The maximum period of stay allowed under this visa is up to three years, but may be extended by requesting an extension of stay.

Mexican citizens are not required to file the TN visa petition with the USCIS. They may apply for this visa directly at the U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico.

Once you are approved for a TN visa, you may apply for admission to the U.S. at a U.S. port of entry. If you pass inspection by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and are found eligible, you will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant. Your proof of admission will be the Form I-94 Entry/Exit Form.

An advantage of the TN visa is that it allows family members of applicants to also obtain the benefit of admission to the country. Spouses and children under 21 years of age may be eligible for nonimmigrant status. Dependents of the person applying for the TN visa do not have to be citizens of Mexico, but should contact the U.S. embassy or consulate serving their home country for information on how to apply for the visa. Spouses and children cannot work during their stay in the U.S., but are allowed to study.

Mexicans who are already in the country legally on a temporary basis may apply for a change of status to a TN visa under certain circumstances. Please consult with an immigration attorney before initiating the process.