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. We discuss going from a TN Visa to a green card here.
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, “nonimmigrant intent.” Other persons who hold a “dual intent” visa (such as an H-1B Visa or L-1 Visa) are allowed to seek permanent residence, “immigrant intent”, even if this was not the intention they originally declared upon entry. TN Visa holders can also seek permanent residency (green card) either through employment or family. The process is exactly the same as going from an H1B visa to a green card. The big difference is understanding intent and how intent can change from “nonimmigrant” to “immigrant” allowing a TN Visa holder to obtain a green card.
TN Visa to Green Card & Timing
If you are on a TN Visa and plan on adjusting your 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, when handled properly, you will be able to continue to work in the US on a TN Visa while your green card is processed.
- 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 to cause intent issues, but not so late that they may run out of time for green card processing
How do I go from a TN Visa to a green card through employment?
A TN Visa holder can transition to a green card through employment through the same exact process as an H-1B Visa holder—the Permanent Labor Certification Process known as Program Electronic Review Management (PERM).
What is the Permanent Labor Certification (PERM) process?
How do I go from a TN Visa to a green card through marriage?
Although the TN Visa is a nonimmigrant visa, a TN Visa holder is able to marry a US Citizen and obtain a green card through marriage while in the US on a TN Visa. However, there are timing and intent issues that need to be carefully considered before you file your case with USCIS.
Can I get married while working in the US on a TN Visa?
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 TN visa while a green card application is pending.
- Immigration officials may question your intent
- The fact that there is an application for permanent US residency (green card) may cause the denial of a TN visa extension or renewal
I have an approved I-130 or I-140, can I still get a TN visa?
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 30+ years of experience helping Canadian and Mexican citizens go from TN Visas to green cards. If you have questions about the process of going from a TN Visa to a Green Card, contact Richards and Jurusik for an assessment.