The TN Visa under USMCA (NAFTA) makes it easier for Canadian and Mexican citizens to legally work and live in the United States. The TN Visa is a nonimmigrant visa that is valid for up to three (3) years at a time and can be renewed indefinitely. Technically, anyone with a nonimmigrant visa that meets the permanent residency requirements may apply for a green card. However, the “intent to stay,” can create problems for a TN Visa holder.
Intent to Stay: “Single Intent” vs. “Dual Intent”
The TN Visa is “single intent,” which means that a TN Visa holder who enters the US must declare that they intend to leave before the visa expires. Other persons who hold a “dual intent” visa (such as an H-1B Visa or L-1 Visa) are allowed to seek permanent residence even if this was not the intention they originally declared upon entry.
TN Visa to Green Card & Timing
If you are on a TN Visa and plan on adjusting status to a green card, there are timing considerations that must be considered. If not done correctly, an improperly handled green card application can raise immigrant intent issues that could prevent you from renewing or extending your TN Visa. However, if timed properly, you will be able to continue to work in the US on a TN Visa while your green card processes.
- In some cases, this means choosing consular processing over adjustment of status with USCIS
- Some decide to switch to H-1B Visa or L-1 Visa status first before pursuing a green card
- For others, it’s all about timing—not so soon after entry that it may arouse suspicion, but not so late that they may run out of time for green card processing
How do I convert my TN Visa to a green card?
The TN Visa does not have a direct path to a green card like L-1A Visas do. However, a TN Visa holder can transition to a green card through employment through the same process as an H-1B Visa holder—the Permanent Labor Certification Process known as Program Electronic Review Management (PERM).
The following categories apply to the PERM process:
- Employment-based immigration: First Preference EB-1. The EB-1 category is reserved for aliens of extraordinary ability, outstanding professors or researchers, or are an L-1A Visa as a multinational executive or manager.
- Employment-based immigration: Second Preference EB-2. The EB-2 category is for professionals holding an advanced degree or its equivalent, or a foreign national who has exceptional ability.
- Employment-based immigration: Third Preference EB-3. The EB-3 category is for:
- Skilled workers. “Skilled workers” are persons whose jobs require a minimum of 2 years of training or experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature. The skilled worker must meet the educational, training, or experience requirements of the job opportunity. Relevant post-secondary education may be considered as training.
- Professionals. “Professionals” are persons whose job requires at least a U.S. baccalaureate or foreign equivalent degree and are a member of the professions.
- Other workers. The “other workers” subcategory is for persons performing unskilled labor requiring less than 2 years of training, education, or experience, not of a temporary or seasonal nature.
But you must proceed with caution. As this process can be complex, going from a TN Visa to a green card should only be done after obtaining proper legal advice from a licensed US immigration lawyer with experience handling TN Visa to Green Card cases.
TN Visa to Green Card: Other Considerations
Moving to permanent residency (green card) in the US while on a TN visa requires careful planning. Difficulties may also arise when reapplying for a single-intent nonimmigrant visa while a green card application is pending.
- Immigration officials may question the applicant’s plan to leave or stay in the US
- The fact that there is an application for permanent US residency (green card) may cause the denial of a TN visa extension or renewal
Additional Outside Resources
- USDOS: Immigrant Visa Process – Step 2: Begin National Visa Center (NVC) Processing
- USCIS: I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- USCBP: U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
- USCIS: Green Card for Employment-Based Immigrants
- USDOL: Permanent Labor Certification
- USCIS: Employment-Based Immigration: First Preference EB-1
- USCIS: Employment-Based Immigration: Second Preference EB-2
- USCIS: Employment-Based Immigration: Third Preference EB-3
We Can Help!
Don’t know where to start? We have more than 20 years of experience helping people obtain TN Visa status and moving to permanent residency. If you have questions about your particular situation, contact Richards and Jurusik for a free assessment.