“NAFTA is a disaster.”
“It’s a bad deal.”
Sound familiar? On the campaign trail, President-elect Trump constantly denounced the North American Free Trade Agreement between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico as a terrible move, a bad deal gone wrong.
While there are of course issues with NAFTA, it has benefited the immigration system with the quick and ease of the TN Visa (Trade National Visa). One area where Trump may be able to do something – and rather quickly - would be to re-negotiate or completely back out of NAFTA, which would affect thousands of TN Visa holders in the U.S.
Let’s take a look at the TN Visa and its uncertain future under the new Trump Administration.
TN NAFTA Visa
So what is the TN Visa exactly? This visa is specifically for qualified Mexican or Canadian citizens who wish to temporarily engage in professional employment in the U.S. and have a job offer from a U.S. company. Such positions must qualify under the regulations and fall within a specific category, such as Engineer, Accountant or Computer Systems Analysts, among other professional positions.
The Good: Many companies in the U.S. especially Silicon Valley utilize the TN Visa to quickly bring in highly skilled workers for temporary positions and any changes to the TN would directly impact the IT industry. Trump’s attacks on NAFTA have created a panic for many current and would-be TN employers moving into the New Year.
The Bad: Since the TN is such a viable option as a temporary work visa, Trump’s scathing declarations such as, “NAFTA is the worst trade deal maybe ever signed" and tweeting that he would “terminate NAFTA” has rightfully jolted the business community.
Remember, not all positions or anyone from Mexico or Canada qualifies for the TN. In fact, there must be a valid job offer from a U.S. company for a professional position that falls under a pre-designated job category.
NAFTA & TN Visa Regulations
From an immigration standpoint, the TN is seen by some as an alternative to the highly in-demand H-1B Visa and for good reason, as both visas require that the position be a “professional” one – basically a position that requires a Bachelor’s degree. A qualified individual must have a valid job offer from a company in the U.S. and cannot simply obtain a TN in order to seek employment in the U.S.
For most TN professions a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement. There are exceptions however, as the TN category for Management Consultant positions can alternatively require five years of related experience in lieu of a bachelor’s degree. Other positions including Occupational Therapists and Technical Publications Writer may only require a valid state or provincial license.
In addition, the individual’s intent must be to temporarily enter the U.S. and not be seeking permanent residence. However, individuals may pursue employment or family-based green card applications while on the TN Visa.
The TN Visa Vs. the H-1B Visa
Many professionals in the U.S. hold TN Visas in a variety of different industries. Due to the temporary nature of the visa, it allows many companies in the U.S. to quickly bring in qualified Mexican or Canadian workers without the need to file a Labor Condition Application with the Department of Labor or expensive filing fees like the H-1B petition.
Also, unlike the H-1B Visa which has a yearly quota or “cap," there is no cap and employers are able to avoid some of the hassles of filing with a USCIS service center.
What will happen to the TN Visa Program in 2017?
With the election behind us, there is now a huge uncertainty regarding what may just happen after the inauguration on January 20, 2017th. With NAFTA in his sights, President-elect Trump’s rhetoric has spooked many companies and individuals and has left them scratching their heads on pursuing TN Visas moving forward.
The uncertainty lies within the fact that technically Mr. Trump could move swiftly via Executive Order to harshly amend, cap or remove altogether the TN Visa. Unlike the H-1B cap, which is Congressionally-mandated, Trump could act quickly on his own to alter or completely back out of NAFTA, thereby throwing into doubt the very existence of the TN Visa program.
Like everybody, it is important to take a “wait and see” approach to assess if Trump’s words materialize beyond campaign stump speeches. Retaining experienced immigration counsel is as important as ever as we move into 2017 with a new President.
Hopefully common sense prevails.
Additional questions about the TN visa? If interested, check out the Dept. of State’s website. For a full list of all TN visa categories see NAFSA.
If you have a question about your immigration status or would like to schedule a consultation with the Law Office of Kathryn N. Karam, P.C., an immigration lawyer in Houston, please write us a message here: