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What Will Happen to Canadians and Mexicans with TN Visas if Trump Pulls the United States out of NAFTA

working_in_the_us_tnUpdated Feb 2, 2017:  For most of his campaign, Donald Trump lambasted and bemoaned the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as one of the worst trade agreements in the history of the United States. Now that he has been elected, he has continued to state that he wants to renegotiate the agreement.  If he is not satisfied with negotiations, there is a legitimate fear that the United States may withdraw from the agreement, leaving only Canada and Mexico as parties.  NAFTA is a trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the United States.  The TN visa is a component of NAFTA – no NAFTA, no TN.  Trump has unilateral authority to withdraw from NAFTA – in fact, he is only required to give Canada and Mexico six (6) months notice.

The TN visa is a work visa category that allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to seek temporary employment in the United States if they are offered jobs that fall within a certain list of occupations. The TN visa is a great option for citizens of these countries – particularly in light of the fact that the H-1B visa has been subject to a lottery for the past several years.

So what happens if the United States pulls out of NAFTA? While it would be speculative, the most logical conclusion would be that TN visas would no longer be valid, since the underlying agreement no longer exists. This would be tens (possibly hundreds) of thousands of Canadian and Mexican citizens working in the United States would find themselves suddenly without a valid work visa.

What about if Trump re-negotiates NAFTA?  The fate of TN visas would be less clear with a renegotiation.  There are many components to NAFTA, and the work visa component is just one of them.  However, with the way Trump has lambasted the US immigration system and how “foreigners are taking away American jobs,” it would not be at all surprising if the TN is eliminated.

What should Canadians and Mexicans do if they are currently on a TN? Depending on the occupation, the most prudent suggestion would be to ask their employers to change them to another work visa or to start the green card process. Many TN occupations can also qualify for H-1B visas – which must be filed on April 1st of any given fiscal year. Other occupations may qualify for L-1 visas, E-2 visas, or O-1 visas.

If you have a TN visa and are worried about the United States pulling out of NAFTA, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options.