Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 10/29/2018

United States, Canada, Mexico Reach Agreement on New Trade Pact: Effect on the NAFTA Visa Front

On Sept. 30, 2018, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. reached agreement on a trilateral trade pact to replace the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The new agreement, which is largely focused on cross-border trade and tariffs, will be known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. Ratification is expected in early 2019.

To the relief of many, the labor mobility provisions of USMCA maintain key provisions and standards for the temporary entry of foreign nationals (“nonimmigrants”) under NAFTA’s existing visa program – including the TN visa category, which has allowed Canadian and Mexican nationals to work in the U.S. for a renewable term of three years. While keeping the TN’s list of more than 60 eligible visa professions largely the same, the USMCA fails to incorporate new high-tech professional occupations to address current business needs. Still, the flexible TN visa will continue to serve as an important alternative to the oversubscribed H-1B visa which subjects U.S. businesses to the unpredictability of a lottery system to fill their high-skilled labor needs.

TN entry and status require that the job candidate be:

  • A citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  • A TN eligible professional.
  • Employed in the U.S. full- or part-time in an occupation requiring such a professional.
  • Qualified to practice in the profession in question.

Other temporary visa categories continuing under the USMCA and available to Canadian and Mexican citizens include business visitors (B-1), intra-company transferees (L-1 visa), and traders/investors (E-1/ E-2 visas). Although the visa provisions of the USMCA are expected to be implemented consistent with existing NAFTA practices, visa application (Mexico) and/or port of entry (Canada) procedures and visa eligibility interpretations may undergo changes. To minimize complications, applicants for admission to the U.S. under the USMCA visa program must be prepared to address up-to-date evidentiary and procedural requirements at the time of entry.

Taft immigration attorneys can assist with determining whether a business professional is admissible under the NAFTA/USMCA visa program. Please contact Antonia Mitroussia or a member of Taft’s Immigration and Citizenship team to learn more.

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