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NAFTA Nonimmigrant Visas (TN and L-1): A Comparison

NAFTA Visas: A Comparison

L-1 Status TN Status
Summary Available to individuals who have been employed on a full-time basis by a foreign corporation outside of the U.S. for at least one year during the preceding three-year period in either a managerial, executive (L-1A), or specialized knowledge (L-1B) capacity.  Individual “transfers” to affiliated U.S. entity. Available to individuals engaged in business activities at a professional level to be performed for a U.S. corporation.  Position must be on list of approved TN professions and individual must hold baccalaureate or licenciatura degree in that profession or have required experience in the field.
Eligibility Available to all nationalities. Available to nationals of Canada and Mexico.
Procedure Canadian citizens can apply for status at border for immediate decision.  All other nationalities must file at a Service Center within the U.S. and apply for nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Consulate abroad upon approval. Canadian citizens can apply for status at border for immediate decision.  Canadians may apply to renew TN status from within the U.S. at a Service Center.  Mexican nationals must file at a Service Center.
Government Fees $320 petition$500 one-time anti-fraud$6  I-94 card issuance $50 application$6  I-94 card issuance$320 if filing at Service Center
Duration One to three years initially, L-1As may obtain seven years total and L-1Bs five years total.  After maximum time limits have been reached, status may be renewable in one year increments indefinitely provided individual maintains required foreign residence abroad and is in the U.S. less than 183 days. TN status is issued in one year increments.  The number of renewals permitted is currently unlimited; however, temporary intent must be demonstrated.
Dependents Spouse and children under age 21 may be admitted to the U.S. in L-2 status.  Spouses holding L-2 status may apply for employment authorization from CIS to work within the U.S. Spouses and children under age 21 may be admitted to the U.S. in TD status.  Spouses are not eligible to apply for employment authorization and if they wish to work in the U.S., they must qualify under their own employment-authorized nonimmigrant status.
Can I obtain a green card? Category allows for “dual intent” meaning individual may apply for permanent residency and hold nonimmigrant status simultaneously.  Managers and executives may be eligible to file immigrant petition without first obtaining labor certification which streamlines green card process. Category does now allow for “dual intent” so potential issues may arise from applying for permanent residency while holding temporary status.  Individual must first obtain labor certification before applying for green card status which requires “testing” the job market for qualified U.S. workers.
Required documentation Generally requires extensive corporate documentation and detailed personal information to prepare petition for filing. Generally requires less corporate documentation and less detailed personal information to prepare application for filing.

Page Summary: A comparison of the TN and L-1 Visas available under the NAFTA treaty