Going from a TN Visa to a Green Card

If you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen and you want to work in the U.S. temporarily, there are several visa programs available, one of which is the TN visa. The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, created the TN visa to make temporary employment in the U.S. easier for approved Canadian and Mexican citizens. The purpose of the TN visa was to strengthen business and trade relationships between these countries. Note that the revised 2020 treaty, the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA) did not change the TN visa.

TN Visa Requirements

To obtain a TN visa, you must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico. You must also:

  • Qualify under one of the accepted NAFTA professions – there are 60;
  • Show evidence that your position in the U.S. requires a NAFTA professional;
  • Have a pre-arranged part-time or full-time job with a U.S. employer – you cannot be self-employed for the TN visa;
  • Show that you match the education and credential requirements for the U.S. position.

Additionally, Mexicans and Canadians have are different application  options. . Canadians can apply at a US embassy, US consulate and/or at the certain US airports and land entry points.

Can I Apply for a Green Card While on a TN Visa? 

If a nonimmigrant visa has “dual intent,” that means you can apply for lawful permanent resident status without jeopardizing your visa. Unfortunately, a TN visa does not have dual intent. If you apply for a green card while on a TN visa, you may not be able to re-enter the US on the TN visa. If you are in the US on a TN visa and want to apply for a green card, you should consult with an attorney about the process. Also, if you are outside the US, plan to enter the US on a TN visa and then plan to apply for a green card at a later date, you should consult with an immigration attorney to talk about the feasibility of such a plan, especially in light of issues relating to misuse, mispresentation and fraud.

Other Employment Visa Options

There are other visa options for foreign workers in the U.S., including the H-1B visa and the L-1 visa.

  1. H-1B Visas

The H-1B visa is one of the most popular visa options for nonimmigrant workers in the United States. An H-1B visa allows a highly educated foreign worker to work in the U.S. in a statutorily “special occupation.” There are both advantages and disadvantaged to the H-1B visa program, including:

  • Caps on Visas: The U.S. issues about 85,000 H-1B visas a year, and demand for the visa typically outstrips need. The TN visa, however, doesn’t have the same limited numbers as an H-1B visa.
  • Types of Professions: While the TN visa has only 60 specific eligible professions, the H-1B visa applies to a broader range of occupations.
  • The H1B visa allows dual intent, which opens the possibility of applying for a green card while on an H1B.
  1. L-1 Visas

The L-1 visa allows multinational companies to send their executives, managers, and those in positions requiring specialized knowledge to the U.S. Under the L-1 visa requirements, the company must have or open a new office that will support an executive, managerial, or specialized position within one year. As with the H-1B visa, there are advantages and disadvantages:

  • No Caps on Visas: The L-1 visa program does not have a cap on the number of visas the USCIS may grant each year.
  • No Education Requirement: H-1B visa applicants must have at least a bachelor’s degree. The L-1 visa does not have an education requirement.
  • Employee Transfer: The L-1 visa is an employee transfer visa. As a result, you must work for a multinational company to take advantage of the visa.
  • The L-visa allows dual intent, which opens the possibility of applying for a green card while on an H1B.

There are other visas for investors and specialized workers in foreign governments, the media, religious professions, the arts, sciences and education including the A, C, D, E, G, I, J, O, P, and R visas.  There are visas for students, such as the F, J, M and Q visas, that allow limited employment related to the educational program.

If you are beginning your green card process, especially with a TN visa, you should discuss your situation with an experienced immigration attorney. I’ve helped hundreds of individuals, couples, and corporate employees worldwide navigate the path to U.S. residency and citizenship. I’d love to help you too.