Depending upon whether you are a Canadian or Mexican citizen, getting your TN visa is accomplished through a different process. The process is somewhat more complex for citizens of Mexico than it is for citizens of Canada. The focus of this article is on the Mexican process.
TN visa application process for Mexican citizens
The Mexican route is harder than the Canadian one. Canadian citizens can apply for TN status at the US border without needing a visa. However, Mexican citizens must first obtain a TN visa outside the United States at a US consular office or embassy, and then they may apply for TN status at the US border, meaning at a US class A port of entry, a US airport handling international traffic, or at a US pre-clearance/pre-flight station.
There is a difference between having a TN visa and having TN status
Having a TN visa and having TN status are not necessarily the same thing. Your visa allows you to enter the United States, and your status allows you to remain in the United States. Due to the US Department of State’s reciprocity schedule, TN visas for citizens of Mexico are limited to a maximum one-year period of validity. This means that the TN Mexican national would be allowed to enter the US during the one year period that the visa is valid. Then, when the person enters the US, he or she should be given TN status at that time for a validity period of up to three years.
Determining the length of your TN status
The reciprocity schedule determines the length of your TN visa, but it does not determine the length of your TN status. Rather, your TN status validity date is determined by other factors. The maximum length of TN status is three years. This status is limited by the length of your intended employment, as determined by a signed letter or similar statement from your employer. For example, if you will be employed for two years, your TN visa status should be limited to two years. If you will be employed for three years or longer, your status should be limited to three years.
Mexican passport must be valid during TN status
Your passport expiration date may also have an effect on your TN status validity date. Your TN status cannot be valid beyond the date your passport expires. For example, even if you are otherwise eligible to receive a three-year TN status, if your passport is valid for only two years, then your TN status will be limited to two years.
It is important to note that the length of your TN status is not an absolute limit to your TN employment in the United States. As a TN NAFTA professional, you may apply for an extension of your TN status while in the United States, or you may apply for another visa at the US Consulate and apply for TN status when you reenter the United States.