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Navigating the TN Visa: Common Challenges and Solutions for Canadian and Mexican Professionals


The TN visa is a popular work visa that allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to work in the United States in specific professional occupations. It is a valuable tool for employers seeking skilled foreign workers and offers numerous benefits for both the individuals and the American economy. However, like any visa program, the TN visa comes with its set of challenges and issues that applicants and employers should be aware of. In this article, we will explore the most common problems faced by TN visa holders and potential solutions to overcome them.

Limited Occupations Covered

The TN visa program is limited to certain professional occupations outlined in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and now the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). While the list is quite extensive, it might not include some job titles or emerging industries. This can be a significant challenge for individuals working in non-listed professions, making them ineligible for the TN visa.


If your profession is not explicitly listed in the TN visa category, consider exploring alternative visa options, such as the H-1B visa or the O-1 visa, which cater to a broader range of occupations.

Limited Duration of Stay

One of the major drawbacks of the TN visa is its relatively short validity period. Initially granted for up to three years, it can be renewed indefinitely in three-year increments. However, this continuous renewal process can be cumbersome and might create uncertainty for long-term employment.


To overcome this issue, TN visa holders need to be sure to timely extend their visa before each three year increment expires. Additionally, A TN visa holder can potentially apply for permanent residency (green card) if they plan to stay and work in the United States indefinitely. The green card provides more stability and opens doors to a broader range of job opportunities. However, the TN visa is not inherently a dual-intent visa meaning that at all times the TN visa holder must have the intent to return to their home country. That being said, the timing of when the green card is applied must be strategized with an experienced immigration attorney to lawfully apply for the green card without violating the visa holder’s immigrant intent.

Visa Denials and Rejections

Visa denials and rejections are common challenges faced by TN visa applicants. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may deny applications for various reasons, such as insufficient documentation, ineligibility, or failure to meet specific requirements.


To increase the chances of approval, applicants must ensure that they thoroughly review the application requirements and provide all necessary documents. Seeking legal advice from an immigration attorney experienced in TN visas can also be beneficial in navigating the process successfully. Alternatively, the TN applicant can request their TN visa directly at the home country’s consulate or at the port of entry for Canadian nationals. This will alleviate the processing times of filing in the United States directly to USCIS, but applying at the consulate will require the TN applicant to travel outside the United States.

Dependents’ Work Authorization

While TN visa holders can bring their dependents (spouse and children) to the United States, dependents are not automatically authorized to work. This can be a significant concern for spouses who may also be skilled professionals seeking employment opportunities. Although, a TN dependent cannot work, they are able to study in the United States while in dependent status.


Spouses can explore other work visa options like the H-1B visa, L-1 visa, or O-1 visa to gain work authorization. Alternatively, if the TN visa holder applies for permanent residency (green card), their dependents can obtain work authorization through the associated family-based visa application.

Lack of Portability

Unlike some other visa categories, the TN visa is tied to the specific employer listed on the visa petition. Changing employers can be a challenging process, as it requires filing a new TN visa application with the new employer.


To tackle this issue, TN visa holders should carefully consider their long-term career plans before accepting a job offer. Those seeking more employment flexibility can explore other visa categories like the H-1B visa, which allows for portability and job changes under certain conditions. In some instances, the TN holder may be able to request employment with a new TN employer at the port of entry if they still have remaining visa validity. This will require careful assistance from an employment-based immigration attorney.

Limited Self-Employment Opportunities

TN visa holders are generally not allowed to be self-employed or start their own businesses in the United States. This limitation can be frustrating for entrepreneurial-minded individuals with innovative ideas.


If you have a groundbreaking business idea, consider partnering with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who can be the primary owner of the business. By setting up the company this way, you can still actively participate in running the business without violating the TN visa restrictions.


The TN visa is a valuable option for Canadian and Mexican professionals seeking to work in the

United States. Despite its benefits, it comes with certain challenges, including limited occupation coverage, short duration of stay, and restrictions on self-employment. To address these issues, it is essential for visa applicants and employers to understand the program thoroughly and explore alternative visa options when necessary. Seeking guidance from immigration experts and attorneys can significantly enhance the chances of a successful TN visa application, allowing skilled professionals to contribute to the U.S. workforce and economy effectively.

Reddy & Neumann has been serving the business community for over 20 years and is Houston’s largest immigration law firm focused solely on U.S. Employment-based immigration. We work with both employers and their employees, helping them navigate the immigration process quickly and cost-effectively.

By: Jeanetly Garcia

Jeanetly Garcia advises employers and individuals through all phases of the non-immigrant visa process. As an attorney in the H-1B Department at Reddy Neumann Brown PC she is experienced in filing nonimmigrant petitions and applications for immigrant benefits, as well as, responding to USCIS issued requests for evidence concerning an array of legal issues.