Unosquare is a bi-national corporation providing software development, testing, and support for a set of highly valued customers. We serve North American clients from offices in Oregon and our Nearshore delivery center in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Truth About the TN (NAFTA) Visa

Now that Unosquare is bringing engineers into the US for certain projects and client roles, I thought it would be helpful to see and understand how the TN Visa really works. You can get official information here... but this is what we've learned from our real world experience.

It is easier to get the TN Visa in Mexico than it is to actually get setup for work in the USA.  Getting the Visa itself is fairly easy in Mexico.  You need an employer, a letter from that employer, and a positive history in Mexico.  If in the last 10 years there is any illegal activity on your record... forget it.

After your interview at the US Consulate, it takes about 2 weeks to get the Visa. Then it's time to travel to the US for work.

Once in the US, things get a little more tricky. There is a process that must be followed to work legally in the USA.  First, the person holding the TN Visa needs to make an appointment at the Social Security office.  It is not possible to apply for a Social Security number online if you are arriving with a TN Visa.  It is mandatory that each new Visa holder appears at the Social Security office in person. The SS officer will verify your immigration information in their computer systems.  If everything is verified it takes about 3 - 5 days to get a social security card.  If items are not verifiable (that can happen also) it will take 3 - 4 weeks to get a social security card.  This is because Social Security has to verify your information with immigration manually... which takes more time.

It is completely unknown why some people are verified automatically and why some are not. I asked a SS officer the other day and she didn't know either.  Regardless, the Social Security number is required before anyone can receive a paycheck or open a bank account in the USA.

You might be asking yourself at this point.. "Why not just get paid in Mexico and avoid the whole deal in the USA?"  Good question.  Because that is illegal with the TN Visa. It is a work Visa allocated for Canadians and Mexicans only and it also produces tax revenue for the US government. So don't try it.

Once you get the SS Card in the mail, it is time to setup payroll and bank accounts.  It is also required that Mexicans go to the Mexican Consulate in the state where you are working to get a local state ID card. This will be useful when getting carded at a restaurant or getting pulled over by the police.  Presenting your State ID card with your Mexican drivers license will suffice in most situations.

Lastly, make sure that you don't come into the US while working for a shady, weak, or otherwise tiny company.  You are a "guest worker" in the USA and the company that you choose to work with is very important.  A lot of companies say they take care of guest workers but some are too small and without the experience to really do that.  So choose wisely.


About Unosquare

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Portland, OR, United States
Unosquare provides US based IT consulting and Mexico based software development and testing.