Special Circumstances for Certain Immigrants

There are some special opportunities for Mexican and Canadian non-immigrants which make it possible for them to come to the United States with less paperwork and with no limit for business purposes. The 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) makes temporary employment in the U.S. easier for certain Canadian and Mexican workers. NAFTA created a new classification, “TN,” for eligible Canadian and Mexican professional workers and also affected terms of admission for Canadians admitted to the U.S. under other nonimmigrant classifications.

TN employment must be in a profession listed in Appendix 1603.0.1 to NAFTA and the TN employee must possess the credentials required for the position. Some of the occupations on the extensive list are: Economist; Lawyer; Librarian; Management Consultant; Research Assistant; Social Worker; College/University Teacher; Vocational Counselor; Nutritionist; Occupational Therapist; Physiotherapist; Psychologist; Registered Nurse; Biochemist; Biologist; and Chemist.

As with all business visitor visas, the visa holder must be compensated from a source outside the US, must be engaged in activities that are international in scope, and must not seek to enter the US labor market.

The TN Visa Requirements

The TN visa is similar in requirements to the H-1B visa except the following are advantages to the TN visa over the H-1B visa:

  • TN visas are not subject to an annual cap
  • TN visas can be renewed indefinitely
  • TN visas cover a broader range of job descriptions. A list of all jobs is available through the USCIS website.
  • There is no prevailing wage requirement for TN visas
  • Canadian citizens can obtain a TN visa at the border, meaning there is no wait for the visa
  • A TN visa can be obtained by a person who has held H-1B status for the full six years without fulfilling the requirement of spending one year outside the US, a requirement that must be complied with before obtaining other nonimmigrant work visas

Unlike H-1B visas, the TN visa is not a “dual intent” visa. That is, where a person on an H-1B visa may pursue permanent residency without having their visa revoked because they have immigrant intent, a person on a TN visa cannot pursue permanent residency without risking losing their TN status. In the event of a work stoppage or strike, a TN visa may be denied for someone who works in the same field as the stoppage.

This status may be extended in yearly increments with no maximum number of years of eligibility. This visa is limited to the occupations identified by the USCIS, with most requiring at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.

Canadian TN status applicants need not apply at a US consulate abroad. Instead, they may seek such classification with a USCIS officer at a US port of entry, a US airport handling international traffic, or a pre-flight inspection station. However, Mexican TN visa applicants are required to apply directly at a US consulate for this status.

Requirements Differ for Canadian and Mexican Citizens Coming to the U.S. on a TN Visa

For a Canadian citizen:

  • Does not require a petition for employment if outside of the U.S.
  • Does not need to obtain TN-1 consular visas, and may apply directly at Class A U.S. ports of entry. They must provide:
    1. A statement from the employer with a full description of the nature of the duties the employee will be performing, the anticipated length of stay, and the wages;
    2. Evidence that the employee meets the education and/or alternative qualifications for the job;
    3. Evidence that all licensure requirements have been satisfied;
    4. Evidence of Canadian citizenship.

For a Mexican citizen:

  • Does not require a petition for employment if the alien is outside the U.S.
  • However, Mexican citizens are still required to obtain TN visas at the U.S. consulate abroad. They must provide:
    1. A statement from the employer with a full description of the nature of the duties the employee will be performing,
    2. The anticipated length of stay, and the wages;
    3. Evidence that the employee meets the education and/or alternative qualifications for the job;
    4. Evidence that all licensure requirements have been satisfied;
    5. Evidence of Mexican citizenship;

Dependents of TN visa holders may apply for a TD visa to accompany the TN visa holder. TD visa holders may go to school while in the United States but may not work.

Citizenship through your Family Relatives

Acquiring citizenship can be a long and frustrating process involving waiting for an immigrant visa number, spending time in the United States and going through the citizenship and naturalization process. Some immigrants are lucky enough to find that they have a parent, or even a child, who was/is a U.S. citizen and can become U.S. citizens simply by proving that relationship.

Citizenship at Time of Birth

At least one parent must have been a U.S. citizen at the time of the child’s birth. The law regarding the citizenship in this circumstance has changed several times over the years. The law that was in effect at the time of an individual’s birth will be the law that the United States will now apply to that individual. Before applying for a visa, you should do a background check of your own family heritage to see if you could possible already be qualified for U.S. citizenship.

Changes in Immigration Law Depending on Birth Date

Below is a chart detailing the date of the birth of the applicant and the law at that time. For more years and corresponding laws, consult the USCIS website:

Prior to May 24, 1934

If either parent was a U.S. citizen, that citizenship may have been passed to you. If either of their parents were born prior to May 24, 1934 to a U.S. citizen, that citizenship may have been passed to them (thus to you).

May 25, 1934 to January 12, 1941

Either both parents were U.S. citizens you have citizenship with no conditions OR if only one parent was a citizen, that parent had to reside in the U.S. prior to the birth and you had to reside in the U.S. for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 28 OR your noncitizen parent had to naturalize before you were 18 and you began living in the U.S. before your 18th birthday

January 13, 1941 to December 23, 1952

Either both parents were U.S. citizens and one had a prior residence in the U.S. OR one parent was a U.S. citizen and had a U.S. residence for at least 10 years before your birth and at least 5 years of those years after the parent was age 16 you have citizenship. To keep your citizenship after birth, you must have resided in the U.S. for at least two years between the ages of 14 and 28.

December 24, 1952 to November 13, 1986

Both had U.S. citizenship and one had a prior residence in the U.S. you have citizenship with no conditions. If only one parent was a U.S. citizen, that parent must have resided in the U.S. for at least 10 years, with 5 of those years being after parent was age 14.

November 14, 1986 to Present

If both parents were U.S. citizens, and one had a prior residence in the U.S., you have citizenship with no conditions. If only one was a U.S. citizen, that parent must have resided in the U.S. for at least 5 years, with at least 2 of those years after parent reached age 14.

For the birthdates listed above, there are additional rules regarding illegitimate children. In order for a child to claim citizenship, the father must have acknowledged his paternal responsibility by the child’s birthday. If born prior to May 25, 1934 there was no designated birthday. The birth date was age 18 for those born May 25, 1934 to Jan. 12, 1941 and from Nov. 14, 1986 to the present. The birth date was age 21 for those born between January 13, 1941 to November 13, 1986.


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