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TN Visa Checklist The Essential List

The TN Visa is one of the simplest work visas to apply for Canadians and Mexicans planning to go to the US to work temporarily. However, navigating the TN Visa application process can be complex, as it requires adherence to specific requirements. 

This is where a TN Visa Checklist comes in! A TN checklist helps candidates understand exactly what is required for a TN Visa application. This helps them avoid common errors and increases their likelihood of success. 

You can find many TN Visa Checklists on the Internet, but most of them are incomplete and do not cover all the TN Visa Requirements and NAFTA situations for Canadians and Mexicans. This is why we created this Ultimate TN Visa Checklist to help you find a complete list of the TN Visa requirements you need in one place.

TN Visa Requirements

Here’s a quick roundup of the TN Visa document requirements:

  • Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship (usually a valid passport)
  • TN Support letter (also called TN Employment letter) from the US employer
  • The Employment Contract 
  • Work Experience Letter
  • Employer’s materials regarding the Company’s business 
  • Proof of your educational and professional qualifications for the position
  • Proof of paying the application fee.
  • Proof of the applicant’s strong ties to his or her country of origin. 

For a more detailed explanation of each requirement in the checklist, please read below.

1. Show Your Canadian or Mexican Citizenship

The first and most important criterion for the TN Visa is proof of citizenship. 

The TN Visa was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to facilitate the movement of certain professionals between the US, Canada, and Mexico. NAFTA has been replaced by USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), but the purpose of the TN Visa remains the same.

To apply for a TN Visa to enter the US, you must be a Canadian or Mexican citizen.

A valid passport is accepted as proof of nationality. So, you will need to show your passport upon entry as well as provide a copy of it with your TN Visa Application.

2. Does your Job Qualify as a NAFTA Occupation? 

The next important aspect is knowing whether your occupation qualifies for a TN visa under the NAFTA regulations.

Unfortunately, not every occupation qualifies for a TN Visa to enter the US. This is because the TN Visa is available only to individuals who work in professions listed in the NAFTA Appendix 1603D.1.

This list includes 62 professions, including engineers, scientists, teachers, hotel managers, and agriculturalists. Most of the NAFTA Occupations require proof of secondary education such as a degree, diploma or professional certificate. There are a few occupations which only require you to show proof of work experience. These are more scrutinized but you can qualify if you prepare your TN Visa Application correctly.

Here is the complete NAFTA Job List to help you identify whether your occupation qualifies for a TN visa. 

TN Visa Expert Tip – Pro Tip – Mistake to Avoid: NAFTA Occupation vs Job Title

Many people make the mistake of thinking the job title is important for the TN visa process. Do not make this mistake. There is a difference between your Job Title and the NAFTA Occupation

What is important is to assess your academic experience and the speciifc job description/duties of the position being offered to you. Thereafter, you can determine the appropriate occupation based on these factors. 

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) is the comprehensive guide used to match the applicant’s job duties with the appropriate occupation for the TN visa application. The job duties are the foundation that sets out the blueprint for applicants to align their proposed job duties in the U.S. with the appropriate occupation listed on the OOH. 

Furthermore, it is very important to provide proof of your educational and professional qualifications for the position. This includes preparing a professional resume that is polished and highlights your specific experience in the occupation you are applying for. 

3. Non-Immigrant Intent – Why Are You Applying for Your TN Visa?

This may sound strange or confusing, but it is a very important aspect you should be aware of when applying for your TN Visa under NAFTA. 

The TN Visa is a temporary visa that requires a non-immigrant intent. This means that at the time of your application, you must have the intention to remain in the U.S. only for a temporary specified period of time, and you must be prepared to return to your home country at the conclusion of your employment. 

If the officer reviewing your application at your border interview is not convinced that you maintain a bona fide non-immigrant intent to depart the U.S. at the end of your stay, you will be denied the TN Visa, and your entry will be refused. 

Although TN Visa application checklists generally do not mention the importance of maintaining a non-immigrant intent, it’s essential because it impacts the outcome of TN visa applications.

4. Do You Have Your TN Support Letter or Employer letter? 

Whether you submit your application at a port of entry or Consulate, you will need to prepare and submit a TN Visa support letter, also known as a TN employment letter from the U.S. employer.

TN Visa Expert Tip: Know the difference between the Employer Letter and Your Job Contract

An employment contract is a legally binding agreement between an employer and an employee that defines the terms and conditions of their employment.

This is different from the TN support letter or employer letter, which is required for the TN visa. The Immigration Officer reviewing your application is not simply looking to see that you have a job offer from a US employer.  Instead, they want to see how you and the job meet the NAFTA TN Visa Requirements. The TN Visa support or employer letter addresses each of the items the Officer is looking for. 

The better you address these items in your support letter, the easier it is for the Immigration Officer to see how you meet the TN requirements, and the more likely they will approve your application.

5. Provide Complete Details of the Job

There are thousands of jobs that you can apply for, but not all of them qualify under the NAFTA regulations. In your application, you must provide sufficient details of the job duties to show the Officer how your job qualifies for the TN Visa.

You must be careful when providing the details of your job, as this is one area of the TN visa application where candidates make mistakes that can lead to their TN visas being denied.

Understand that even when your job qualifies under NAFTA, the specific tasks you will perform in the job must match the generally accepted duties of people in the profession. That is why reviewing the job duties of the occupation on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) webpage is so important.  

For example, if you apply for a Software Engineer TN Visa, you must understand what the typical job duties are for this position. If you include programming as part of your job duties as a Software Engineer this can lead to a denial, because the adjudicating officer can point out that your job duties describe a Computer Programmer job and not a Software Engineer job.

To increase your chances of being approved for a TN visa in a particular occupational category, you must review and understand the job duties of your position and ensure they align with what people in that profession normally do.   

6. Does Your Job Title Match a NAFTA Occupation?

There are only 62 NAFTA Occupations that qualify for the TN Visa. However, as you know, there are thousands of job titles. Interestingly, each of these 62 occupations can have numerous similar titles.

For example, “Accountant” is listed in the NAFTA job list, but professional accountants usually find themselves in job titles such as Bookkeeper, Internal Auditor, Financial Analyst, Financial Manager, and Chief Financial Officer. 

Your application is more likely to be successful if your job title matches the NAFTA occupation (e.g., your title is “Accountant,” and you’re applying for the Accountant TN Visa).  However, this does not mean that you will be denied if your job title does not exactly match the NAFTA occupation (e.g., your job title is “Internal Auditor,” and you’re applying for the Accountant TN Visa).

What is important is how you’ve written your TN Visa support letter or employer letter. You want to show the Officer how your job duties align with those of the NAFTA Occupation. If you can do this, you can get a TN visa even if your “job title” does not exactly match the NAFTA occupation.

If your job title is not listed on the NAFTA job list, contact us for help with our lawyer services to help you prepare a successful case. 

Don’t Risk Delays or Denials: Get Expert Legal Review of Your TN Visa Application.

7. Provide Complete Details of the Employer

The Immigration Officer is looking to see if you are going to be working for an employer that meets the NAFTA requirements. Provide complete details of the company so the Officer can see it is a legitimate business.

The Officer will verify whether you have a legitimate job offer, or if you are merely being hired by a friend or relative so you can live in the country. Prepare your application so that nothing is called into question and the officer has no doubts about the authenticity of your application. 

8. Make Sure to Specify the Length of Your TN Visa

TN visas are granted for an initial period of up to three years. However, they can be renewed indefinitely as long as the TN worker continues to meet the requirements for TN status. Your application should specify how much time you are requesting, whether it is a TN visa for 1 day up to 3 years. Once issued, you can work in the U.S. for as long as your duration of stay. 

9. Do You Have Your TN Visa Fee – Cash, Credit Card or Check?

Another important element of the TN visa application checklist is providing proof of paying your TN visa fee.

Whether you apply for your TN Visa at a U.S. port of entry or with USCIS for Canadians, or at the Consulate for Mexicans, you must show proof of payment and other supporting documents as part of the application process. 

Applying at the Port of Entry/U.S. Border – Canadians

After organizing their documents, Canadians can apply for the TN visa at a U.S. Port of Entry by simply presenting their documents to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.

If the TN Petition is submitted at the border with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the filing fee of $56 is required (this includes a $50 TN processing fee and a $6 fee for the issuance of the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Card).

Do not make the mistake many people do—not having cash available. Do not assume you can pay by check or credit card. Some immigration border crossings or pre-clearance centers may accept debit cards, but it is best to always have cash available to make your payment. This avoids any hassles and keeps things moving smoothly.

Applying with USCIS – Canadians

Canadians who reside outside of the United States also have the option of applying for the TN visa by filing Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS. 

The I-129 filing fee for small employers is currently $510 (25 or fewer full-time employees), and $1,015 for large employers (more than 25 employees). 

Additionally, USCIS applicants must pay a new asylum program fee of $600 for large employers and $300 for small employers. Premium processing service is optional at $2,805. 

Applying at the Consulate – Mexicans

After organizing their documents, Mexican TN applicants must complete the DS-160 online nonimmigrant visa application and pay the MRV TN visa application fee of $185.

TN Visa Expert Tip: Make it Your Job to Make It Easy for the Officer to Approve You

Have you ever thought of your application in this way? If you think about all the ways you can make your TN Visa application easy for the Immigration Officer, it will allow him to approve your application quickly because he has everything he needs, and you have presented your application in a clear way to show how you qualify for the TN Visa! What a great idea!

Schedule a Consultation with a TN Visa Expert.

10. Does Your Job Have an Education Requirement?

This is another element in our TN checklist that you will not find in other checklists online. However, it’s important to understand that the educational requirements of your job should match those of the NAFTA occupational category.

Remember that most of the NAFTA Occupations have an education requirement. It is very important to ensure that your position has a similar educational requirement. If it does not, you will most likely not qualify for the TN Visa.

An example is the bookkeeper job title, which some people use to apply for “accountant” TN Visas. Although some companies prefer to hire candidates who have completed college, bookkeepers are not required to hold college degrees.

A bookkeeping job will not qualify under NAFTA for the “Accountant” TN Visa if the candidate secures a job offer that does not require a degree. The reason is that the TN visa requirements say “TN Accountants” require a degree. 

When completing your TN application, ensure your job educational requirement is similar to that required by the TN visa occupation. If your job doesn’t require a degree, you cannot apply for a TN visa under an occupational category that requires a degree.

11. Do You Have Proof of Your Educational Qualifications?

The TN visa requires applicants to provide proof that they have the educational and professional qualifications for the position. 

If the NAFTA occupation you are applying for has an education requirement, make sure you are able to prove you have met this requirement by providing your academic degree, academic evaluation, or other professional qualifications as applicable to the position.

12. Know the Special Requirements for Licensed Professionals

TN occupations are not equal. While a few do not require a degree, many do. Others require that you have a degree and a professional license. If your profession is a licensed profession, make sure to provide proof of your license to show you are licensed in your field (example: social worker who seeks employment in a clinical position). 

13. Know the Special Requirements for Management Consultants

The Management Consultant is one of the few NAFTA Occupations that does not require a degree. Many TN applicants think this allows them to apply for any job as a Management Consultant. But that is not the case.

First, the “TN Management Consultant” is one of the most scrutinized occupations. When an Officer sees a TN Visa Application for a Management Consultant, he will review it more closely to verify the individual is a Management Consultant and that the position really requires a Management Consultant. There are numerous requirements that must be met for this Occupation. You must make sure you meet them all.

Many applicants think that showing just their work contract will be sufficient. Do not be fooled. The work contract should be just one of the many items in your TN visa document checklist that you need to support your TN Visa application.

Additionally, if your job is a full-time position disguised as a Management Consultant position, the Officer is likely to discover this and deny you.

Make sure you have prepared your application correctly and have gathered the documents necessary to show you are qualified to be a Management Consultant. Contact us if you are not sure what must be provided so we can help.

    14. Know the Special Requirements for Systems Analyst / Programmer

    The Systems Analyst NAFTA Occupation allows for a broad range of computing-related jobs to qualify for the TN Visa. By definition, a Systems Analyst analyzes computer systems and designs ways to improve them to be more efficient.

    One of the biggest challenges for candidates applying for TN visas as Computer System Analysts are describing their job details correctly. 

    Remember that the job details must align with the generally accepted duties of people in that profession. The problem is that many System Analysts include programming as part of their job duties, but TN officers do not recognize programming as an acceptable job duty for System Analysts. As a result, including programming in your job duties as a Systems Analyst will likely lead to a denial.

    Keeping this in mind, please prepare your TN Visa Application carefully when applying under the Systems Analyst occupational category.

    15. Know the Special Requirements for Engineers

    If you are applying under the Engineering NAFTA Occupation, there are a few things you should be aware of.

    Recently, Immigration Officers have been requesting applicants to provide proof of a professional engineer license for this occupation. Make sure to provide proof of your professional license at the time of your application. It is also important to prepare your TN Visa support letter to include details of your professional licensure as well.

    The “Engineer” occupational category covers various engineering specializations, including Mechanical Engineers, Civil Engineers, Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and more. However, challenges can arise for Software Engineers.

    Many software engineers who apply for the TN Visa under the Engineers occupation category are denied their TN Visa. One reason for this is that NAFTA requires engineers to have a degree in engineering, but most Software Engineers typically have degrees in Computer Science. 

    The  Cronin memo issued in 2000 clarifies that Software Engineers are “Engineers” under the law, meaning that Software Engineers can now apply for the TN Visa under the Engineer occupational category. 

    Software Engineers who do not have engineering degrees must prove to the adjudicating officer that their degree is closely related to software engineering.

    In such cases, the final decision rests with the immigration officer. Such applications may still be denied based on officer discretion. For this reason, Software Engineers may be better served applying for a different visa type, such as the H-1B visa, or under a different occupation.

    16. Documents for Your Dependents

    One of the greatest advantages of the TN Visa is the ease with which your family can accompany you to live in the United States as your dependents once you obtain your TN Visa.

    If your dependents are citizens of Canada or Mexico,  it is easy to have them accompany you or follow you at a later date. If they will accompany you, make sure to have their passports and proof of your TN Visa. Dependents of Mexican nationality must apply at the Consulate.

    17. Have Additional Supporting Documentation to Help You

    It is always good to include additional supporting documents with your application. However, you don’t want to provide too much information, as this can cause you problems.

    Be sure to review the TN visa documents checklist thoroughly to understand the required set of documents and determine what additional items can help support your application. These can include transcripts, academic evaluations, certifications, resumes, proof of licensure, and home ownership documents to show strong ties to your home country.

    Be careful about including your employment contract. Many times, this can hurt your application as it could raise questions and open your application to increased scrutiny. The Officer may not be qualified to understand your employment contract, causing confusion. Take heed and be smart about what you include.

    18. What to Do If Your TN Visa is Denied

    While it is unpleasant to consider a potential denial, it is important for you to be prepared for all situations. If you realize you are going to be denied the TN Visa (due to intense questioning from the officer, an unfriendly attitude, or hinting at problems with your application), then you should do the following: Stay Calm!

    Do not volunteer information. Listen carefully to what the officer is asking and saying. It is very important to understand why you are being denied. If you do not understand the reason for the denial, ask the officer to explain it in a simple way. Withdraw your application, collect your things, and walk away.

    Once you understand the reason for the denial, you may be able to modify your application and try again. Email us immediately and we will attempt to assist you.

    Final Thoughts

    The TN Visa is meant to be a quick and simple way to start working in the U.S. And it usually is!

    The Officer will approve your application if you qualify and have prepared your application correctly. The TN Visa checklist above will help you understand what is required for your application.

    If you are unsure how to prepare your application or have doubts about how to be successful at the border interview, we can help, please reach out to us

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