On October 16, 2008, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") increased the term that Trade-NAFTA, or "TN Visa" non-immigrant workers can work in the United States from a one-year term to a three year term. This significant policy change has created greater certainty for Canadian companies and professionals seeking to perform work or do business in the United States. All other conditions of TN Visa status remain the same.
TN Visa holders are either Canadian or Mexican citizens who possess either a bachelors degree or a professional designation included in the NAFTA Professionals list of 66 identified professions, including lawyers, engineers, accountants, and management consultants.
Before this US policy change, TN non-immigrant status was granted for a one year term and could only be renewed for additional one year terms at the discretion of USCIS officials. Though this gave Canadian professionals the potential to work in the United States, there was the constant threat that TN Visa renewal applications would be rejected and that they would have to leave the United States immediately following a negative determination.
The increase of the TN Visa term from one year to three years provides greater certainty for Canadian professionals and businesses and allows them make longer-term business decisions. It also decreases the administration and legal costs involved in obtaining annual TN Visas.
Neither Canada nor Mexico have mirrored this US policy change at this time, which means that Canadian work permits issued to American and Mexican applicants under NAFTA's professional category will continue to be valid for one year.