TN vs. H-1B Visas

Canadian and Mexican professionals who are looking to move temporarily to the U.S. for work have several promising visa options. Individuals in this situation may be eligible for either a TN visa or an H-1B visa. At first glance, distinguishing a TN visa and an H-1B visa may be difficult. These two visas, however, have key differences.

What are the Differences Between a TN and an H-1B Visa?

An H-1B visa allows U.S. companies to employ professional workers in specialty occupations from across the globe. These workers come from fields including math and sciences and include specialty occupations like accountants, doctors, engineers, and IT professionals. The TN visa was modeled after the H-1B, which may be why the two are sometimes difficult to distinguish. The TN visa was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). 

The nonimmigrant NAFTA professionals allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to work on a TN visa in the United States, in a prearranged business activity for a U.S. or a foreign employer. The professionals eligible to work are well defined in the list of NAFTA professionals, which includes about 63 approved occupations. 

There are several benefits of the TN visa that distinguish it from the H-1B visa. For instance, there is a limited number of H-1B visas granted each year. In fact, only 85,000 H-1B visas are allotted annually. The USCIS randomly selects by lottery which petitions will be processed every year. There are usually great numbers of petitions submitted each year which can make for bad odds at being selected. Additionally, the H-1B visa is only valid for three years with the option to apply for an extension for up to 6 years. In contrast, the TN visa is approved for a maximum period of three years. There is no specific limit on total period of time a foreign national may be on TN visa, as long as he/she continues to be engaged in TN business activities for a U.S. employer or an entity at a professional level and continues to maintain a TN nonimmigrant status. 

Something that you must consider, however, is the fact that the H-1B visa accepts a broader range of qualifying occupations. TN visa applicants must fall into one of the 63 approved occupations. Also, an H-1B visa holder has the ability to seek legal permanent residency since H-1B is considered to be a dual intent visa. This means that applicants can apply for a green card while in the U.S. on an H-1B visa. There is no pathway to a green card for a TN visa holder. In fact, a foreign national must intend to return to the country of origin if holding TN visa. Pursuing legal permanent residency in the U.S. could be a violation of a visa status.

Immigration Attorneys for Canadian and Mexican Professionals

Sifting through visa options can be overwhelming and confusing. The dedicated immigration attorneys at Nachman, Phulwani, Zimovcak Law Group, P.C. are here to answer your questions and counsel you regarding your immigration options. We will also work to ensure your visa application is properly drafted and filed. Contact us today.