Cross Border Movement of Business Persons

Temporary Entry into the United States and Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement

A Guide for Canadian Businesspersons

Published by International Trade Canada

3. Professionals

Under the NAFTA, certain Canadian Professionals may enter the United States and Mexico to carry out professional activities for an employer or on contract to an enterprise located
in a member country. This includes performing training functions or conducting seminars related to your profession.

Professionals are exempt from the job-validation process normally required of individuals seeking to work in another country.

Your profession (see interpretative Note 1) must be one of the 63 listed below.

  • Profession: Accountant
    Required Credentials: 1 or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A
  • Profession: Architect
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Computer Systems Analyst
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster
    Required Credentials: 1 and 3 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Economist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Engineer
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Forester
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Graphic Designer
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Hotel Manager
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3 (in hotel/restaurant management)
  • Profession: Industrial Designer
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Interior Designer
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Land Surveyor
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Landscape Architect
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Lawyer (Notary in Quebec)
    Required Credentials: LL.B., J.D., LL.L., B.C.L. or 1 (5 years) or membership in provincial bar
  • Profession: Librarian
    Required Credentials: M.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which 1 is a prerequisite)
  • Profession: Management Consultant (see Interpretive Note 2)
    Required Credentials: 1 or five years experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field related to the consulting agreement
  • Profession: Mathematician/Statistician
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Range Manager/Range Conservationist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Research Assistant (working in a post-secondary educational institution)
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Scientific Technician/Technologist  (see Interpretive Note 3)
    Required Credentials: Possession of
    • a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics; and
    • b) ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research
  • Profession: Social Worker
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Sylviculturist/Forestry Specialist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Technical Publications Writer
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Urban Planner/Geographer
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Vocational Counsellor
    Required Credentials: 1 
Medical/Allied Professionals
  • Profession: Dentist
    Required Credentials: D.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental or 2
  • Profession: Dietician (or provincial licence)
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Medical Laboratory Technologist (see Interpretive Note 4)
    Required Credentials: 1 or 4 and 3
  • Profession: Nutritionist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Occupational Therapist
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Pharmacist
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Physician (Teaching or Research only) (see Interpretive Note 5)
    Required Credentials: M.D. or 2
  • Profession: Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Psychologist
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Recreational Therapist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Registered Nurse
    Required Credentials: 1 or 2
  • Profession: Veterinarian
    Required Credentials: D.V.M., D.M.V. or 2
  • Profession: Agriculturist/Agronomist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Animal Breeder
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Animal Scientist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Apiculturist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Astronomer
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Biochemist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Biologist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Chemist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Dairy Scientist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Entomologist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Epidemiologist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Geneticist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Geochemist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Geologist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Geophysicist (Oceanographer)
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Horticulturist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Meteorologist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Pharmacologist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Physicist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Plant Breeder
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Poultry Scientist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Soil Scientist
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Zoologist
    Required Credentials: 1


  • Profession: College
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: Seminary
    Required Credentials: 1
  • Profession: University
    Required Credentials: 1
Key to Number Symbols

1 = Baccalaureate Degree
2 = Provincial Licence
3 = Post-secondary Diploma or Certificate
4 = Three Years Relevant Experience

Interpretive Notes
  • 1. A Businessperson seeking temporary employment in one of the 63 professions may also perform training functions relating to the profession, including conducting seminars.
  • 2. A Management Consultant provides services designed to improve the managerial, operating and economic performance of public and private entities by analyzing and resolving strategic and operating problems. Consultants may assist and advise in implementing recommendations but do not perform operational work for clients.
    Typically, a management consultant is an independent contractor or an employee of a consulting firm under contract to a client from a member country.
    The professional services provided must be temporary, periodical or on a fixed consulting basis rather than as full-time employment.
  • 3. A businessperson in the Scientific Technician/ Technologist (ST/T) category must have theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences; astronomy;
    biology; chemistry; engineering; forestry; geology; geophysics; meteorology; or physics, and the ability to solve practical problems in any of these disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of these disciplines to basic or applied research. An ST/T does not generally have a Baccalaureate Degree.
    The following principles will be used to evaluate Scientific Technician/Technologist (ST/T) applicants:
    • Individuals for whom ST/Ts wish to provide direct support must qualify as Professionals in their own right in one of the aforementioned disciplines.
    • A general offer of employment by such Professionals is not sufficient, by itself, to qualify for admission as an ST/T. The offer must demonstrate that the work of the ST/T will be inter-related with that of the supervisory Professional. The work of the ST/T must be managed, coordinated and reviewed by the Professional Supervisor, and must also provide input to the Professional Supervisor’s work.
    • Generally, the ST/T’s theoretical knowledge should have been acquired through at least two years of training in a relevant educational program. Such training may be documented by presentation of a diploma or a transcript accompanied by evidence of relevant work experience.
    • Not admissible as ST/Ts are persons intending to perform work that is normally carried out by construction trades people (e.g. welders, boiler makers, carpenters, electricians, etc.), even where these trades are specialized to a particular industry (e.g. aircraft, power distribution, etc.).
  • 4. A businessperson in the Medical Laboratory Technologist category must be seeking temporary entry to carry out chemical, biological, haematological, immunologic, microscopic or bacteriological tests and analyses for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of diseases.
  • 5. Physicians may not enter the U.S. or Mexico to provide direct patient care. However, patient care associated with teaching and/or research is allowed.

Certification requirements for Health-Care Workers

Certain health-care workers must meet specific certification requirements to enter and work in the United States. On July 25, 2003, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) issued a final rule amending the interim regulations affecting certification requirements for certain health-care workers entering the U.S. to provide health-care services.

The regulations cover workers in seven health-care occupations: Registered nurses; physical therapists; occupational therapists; speech language pathologists; medical technologists; medical technicians; and physician assistants.

To enter the U.S. to perform labour as a health-care worker in these occupations, you must first have your credentials evaluated and certified. Please see the USCIS News Release (PDF, 104 Kb) or the CGFNS International website for more information.

If you are a member of one of these professions, you should contact your professional association. If you have a job offer or are currently working in the U.S., you may wish to contact your U.S. employer.

For additional information, see the Federal Registrar notice.

How do I qualify as a NAFTA Professional?

You may qualify as a NAFTA Professional if:

  • you are a Canadian citizen
  • your occupation is one of the 63 listed above
  • you meet the educational requirements of the occupation
  • you have pre-arranged employment or a contractual agreement with an entity located in the U.S. or Mexico
  • you meet the member country’s existing temporary entry immigration requirements

What documentation do I need at the border?

At a U.S. or Mexican port of entry, you must establish that you qualify as a NAFTA Professional.

You should carry with you Proof of Canadian Citizenship (ideally, your Canadian passport) and a letter from your prospective employer, or signed contract, outlining the purpose of your entry. This will assist in your inspection by U.S. and Mexican immigration officials.

The letter or contract should include:

  • your job title and detailed summary of duties
  • starting date and anticipated length of stay
  • payment arrangements
  • proof that you meet the necessary education and experience requirements to work in the profession, including all applicable degrees, and licences
  • original or certified copies of your diploma or credentials

United States

How can I apply as a Professional?

You may apply for entry to the U.S. as a NAFTA Professional at major land border ports of entry or airports handling international flights with pre-flight inspection stations. There is no written application, and no prior petition, labour certification or prior approval required for Canadians applying for admission to the U.S. under the TN classification status. However, you will need to provide evidence that you meet the requirements of the category, as outlined in the above section, “What documentation do I need at the border?”.

You will be issued an I-94 (Record of Entry Document) indicating the TN classification code, which serves as your employment authorization. You should present the I-94 to the U.S. Social Security Administration to receive a social security number. Please note that there is a processing fee for the TN employment authorization.

Professionals must comply with all applicable state and local certification, registration or licensing requirements before starting work. You should contact the state where you wish to
work for additional information on certification requirements.

Self-employed businesspersons may not enter the united states to be self-employed or to establish a professional practice. Professionals must have a pre-arranged contract with a u.s. enterprise. Businesspersons looking to establish a business in the u.s. may wish to apply for temporary entry in either the intra-company transferee or trader and investor category.

US Visit

Canadians entering the U.S. under the TN classification do not have to present themselves to US Visit stations when entering the United States. The I-94 (Record of Entry Document) is only a record of entry/exit and is not an actual visa.

How can I change or renew my status?

TN status is generally issued for one year and may be renewed indefinitely provided that you are able to demonstrate that you have no intention of pursuing full-time employment in the United States.

You may change or add employers while in the U.S. by filing Form I-129 (Petition for Temporary Worker) at:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
Nebraska Service Center
P.O. Box 87129
Lincoln, NE 68501-7129

Please keep in mind that there is a fee associated with filing an I-129 and that applications take up to three months to process. You can find up-to-date information regarding forms and fees on the USCIS Web site.

You should remain in the U.S. while your application is being processed. Leaving the country at this time may negatively affect the successful completion of your application. You may not work for a different or an additional employer until United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves the petition.

Alternatively, you may depart the U.S. and apply for re- entry to obtain an employment authorization with a new or additional employer. For more information, including on premium processing, please visit the USCIS Web site.


How can I apply as a Professional?

To work in Mexico as a Professional, you will require an approved FM-3 Form, which you can obtain from a Mexican embassy or consulate in Canada, from a National Migration Institute office within Mexico.

You can also enter Mexico with a Multiple Migratory Form (FMN), which you can obtain at no charge from most travel agencies and airlines or at a Mexican port of entry. (The FM-3 form is not issued at Mexican ports of entry.) The FMN is valid for up to 30 days. However, before starting work in Mexico you must obtain an FM-3 form. You will also need to obtain a professional identity card from the Directorate General of Professions of the Ministry of Education before engaging in your profession.

When applying for an FM-3 form you must demonstrate that you meet the qualifying criteria as a NAFTA Professional. FM-3 forms are valid for one year but you may request up to four extensions of one year each before you need to get a new form. Please keep in mind that there is a processing fee for the FM-3 form.

Regardless of where you apply for the FM-3, the following information will be required:

  • a letter in Spanish from the employer addressed to the immigration authority
  • your passport (valid for at least six months from the date of application)
  • two recent passport-size photos (no eyeglasses)
  • cash or money order for the application fee
  • a copy of your valid FMN, if the application is being made from within Mexico

The letter from the company in Mexico must contain your full name and address, request an FM-3 Visa, and refer to the attached documentation. In addition, it should explain the purpose of your trip, the arrangements for payment, and the location(s) of work within Mexico. Also, make sure that you provide the information required to demonstrate you meet the requirements of a NAFTA Professional as outlined in the above section, “What documentation do I need at the border?”. If applying from Canada, you must forward four copies of each document. An immigration office must validate your visa within 45 days of your arrival in Mexico.

How can I change or renew my status?

If you wish to change your temporary residency status, you can apply in Mexico at a National Migration Institute office. If you are seeking an extension, you must make a declaration that there has been no change in the purpose or circumstances of your original entry.

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