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How to Obtain Your TN Visa for Canadians in 5 Steps and Processing Time

Have you heard stories about how difficult it is to get a US visa? While it is true that getting some US visas can be really difficult, not all US visas are difficult to obtain. This is especially true for Canadians pursuing the TN Visa.

There are many myths about the difficulty of obtaining a TN Visa for Canadians. Like all myths, this may be a widely held belief, but in reality is false. In fact, you can easily create your TN Visa Application and obtain your TN Visa upon entry into the US.

This guide will discuss how to get a TN Visa as a Canadian. It will also answer the question “What is the processing time for a TN Visa?”

The 5 steps for to get TN Visas for Canadians are:

Step 1: Do you have a Job Offer?

Job Offer Letter

One of the most important TN Visa requirements is that the candidate must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in an occupation approved by the NAFTA regulations. Therefore, one of the biggest hurdles Canadians often face when trying to get a TN Visa is getting a U.S. employer to hire them.

Unfortunately, many employers do not understand how the TN Visa process works. They erroneously fear that employing a TN visa worker comes with rigorous immigration compliance requirements that do not actually apply to the TN visa, but are common with other work visa types. 

Contrary to popular belief, TN visas do not require “sponsorship” in the traditional sense. In fact, for Canadians seeking TN visas, the employer’s role can be as simple as providing a support letter outlining the details of the job along with a copy of the employment contract. There’s no need to file a petition with the USCIS, pay fees, or obtain LCAs, among other things. 

No matter where you are in the process, our lawyer TN Visa services can help you address your employer’s concerns so they are more likely to hire you and feel more at ease during the application process.

Streamline Your TN Visa Process with Experienced Immigration Lawyers.

Step 2: Do you Qualify for the TN Visa?

The most fundamental question is whether you qualify for the TN Visa. For example, as indicated by the first step above, it is not enough to have a U.S. job offer. That is because not just any job will qualify. For TN visa purposes, you must have a job offer from a U.S. employer in an occupation approved by the NAFTA regulations (this is explained further in the TN Visa requirements page).

What are the TN Visa Requirements for Canadians?

The essential TN Visa requirements for Canadians are as follows:

  • You must be a Canadian citizen.
  • The job or business activity you will be performing must be listed as part of the Official NAFTA Job List (Appendix 1603.D).
  • You must be qualified to work in the job or business activity.
  • The job offer must be made by a U.S. employer 
  • Applicants must understand that the TN Visa is temporary, lasting only up to 3 years (although applicants may renew their stay indefinitely, so long as the TN worker continues to meet the requirements for TN status).

Step 3: Are You Applying by Mail or at the Border?


The TN Visa for Canadians now allows you to apply via mail or at a border crossing in person with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Applying by mail requires filing Form I-129 Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). TN applications submitted by mail take longer to receive a decision and cost substantially more.

If you apply by mail, it can take 2 to 3 months for USCIS to process your application. With the recent USCIS fee structure, Form I-129 will cost you $1,015 if your employer has more than 25 employees (large employers), and $510 if your employer has 25 or fewer employees (small employers). Additionally, an Asylum Program Fee of $600 applies to large employers, or $300 for small employers. Finally, those who wish to request optional premium processing service to receive a decision within 15 business days, must also pay a fee of $2,805. 

Given the long processing time and high cost of TN applications submitted by mail, more Canadians are choosing the other alternative – applying at a U.S. border crossing with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This process simply requires presenting your TN visa documents to CBP officers at the port of entry when seeking admission to the U.S. 

When applying at the border, adjudication is instant, and you will obtain the TN Visa immediately. That is, assuming you prepared your application correctly according to the TN visa requirements.

You can read about the complete TN Visa Application process here.

TN Visa Fee at the Border

However, obtaining a TN Visa on the spot is not the only reason port-of-entry applications for TN Visas are popular. Another reason is the low $56 cost of applying for a TN Visa at the border.

The $56 filing fee when applying at the border, consists of a $50 TN processing fee and a $6 fee for the issuance of the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record Card.

Step 4: Create Your TN Visa Letter

The TN Visa is unlike most U.S. immigration visas. Whether you apply by mail or in person, the application process is relatively simple. In both cases, you will need to work with your employer to prepare a TN support letter signed by them, which explains the job duties of your position and your qualifications. 

Along with the TN Visa Application Letter, you must provide supporting documentation proving that you are qualified for the job and that your proposed position meets the NAFTA requirements

If you are applying at a U.S. port of entry, you will present your supporting documents to the CBP officer. 

If you are applying with USCIS, your employer will need to wait for the approval of Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker. Once approved, you will need to provide proof of your Canadian citizenship to the CBP Officer at the port of entry and present the I-129 approval notice from USCIS.

It is important to know that the TN Visa Application Letter is not the same as a contractual offer letter most employers provide to you. If you go to the border with an offer letter, you will most likely be denied.

The TN Visa Application Letter is also known as the TN Visa Employer Letter. Unlike a contract, it explains to immigration how you and the job offer satisfy the NAFTA TN Visa requirements. By contrast, an offer letter is a contract between you and your employer for work to be performed.

For more information, Contact TN Visa Expert for step-by-step instructions to create your TN Visa Application Letter. You will also receive sample TN Visa Application Letters to help you create your TN Visa Application case.

Step 5: Prepare for the Border Interview

Prepare for the Border Interview

Most TN visa applicants do not adequately prepare for their border interview. They assume that simply presenting the TN Visa Application and supporting documents at the border will lead to the issuance of the TN Visa. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

The CBP Officer will review your application and then conduct an informal interview by asking you questions to determine if you are being truthful about coming to the U.S. for work, and whether you and the job qualify for the TN Visa under NAFTA.

If there are any inconsistencies in your story or you cannot convince the CBP officers, your TN visa will be denied. Remember, the officers’ primary concern is to ensure your compliance with the law. Whether or not you obtain the TN Visa is inconsequential to the officer.

That is why it is important for you to be well prepared for your interview to know ahead of time how to respond to the interview questions in the proper manner and fulfill your duties under the TN visa regulations. If you are prepared for the border interview and present your case properly, you will increase your chances of obtaining your TN Visa. TN Visa Expert can help you prepare for the border interview and present your case in the best possible light.

Contact us today so we can help you with your case

    TN Visa Processing Time

    The processing time for TN Visa depends on whether you apply at the border or by mail.

    Applications at the border are adjudicated on the spot, and you get your TN visa instantly. When you apply by mail with USCIS, the processing time can range from 2 to 6 months, depending on USCIS backlogs and whether you choose to pay for premium processing service. In general, TN Visa cases are not very time-consuming, and after a few months, you should receive your decision. 

    Thankfully, when applying by mail with USCIS, you can reduce your TN Visa wait times by filing Form I-907 (Request for Premium Processing Service) along with your Form I-129 petition for the TN visa.

    If you opt for premium processing service, you can have your case resolved within 15 business days of submitting your application. However, the premium processing fee is very high at $2,805.

    Please note that the amount of time it can take for you to obtain your TN Visa as a Canadian can vary widely, depending on how long it takes you to gather all the necessary documents and prepare your case. At TNVisa Expert, we can help you with the process from beginning to end, so you can have a greater chance of success and peace of mind.