North American Free Trade Agreement

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The North American Free Trade Agreement is a free trade agreement among Canada, the United States and Mexico. Using valid NAFTA claims for preferential tariff treatment, importers can save a significant amount on Customs duties. Based in Dallas and Mexico City, our NAFTA lawyers are well versed in assessing the advantages of using this treaty and many similar free trade agreements around the world. With recognized Customs attorneys in both the U.S. and Mexico, Foley’s international trade practice is unique in its ability to offer seamless cross-border advice on NAFTA. Our team has deep experience handling reviews and audits by U.S. Customs and Border Protection and by Mexico’s Tax Administration Service (SAT).

It is important to recognize that preferential duty treatment only applies where properly claimed. False NAFTA claims can quickly subject importers to steep Customs penalties, seizures, and even fraud charges. To help our clients claim NAFTA correctly, we conduct a thorough, technical analysis of the countries of origin of parts and components. Under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States and the Tariff Schedule of Mexico, we carefully verify whether goods qualify for tariff shifts or Regional Value Content where applicable.

Additionally, exporters who sign NAFTA certificates could be responsible for any errors on the certificates themselves. NAFTA certificates are frequently incorrect, which can lead to delays and even seizures and penalties. An incorrect NAFTA certificate can invalidate the NAFTA claim altogether. We have extensive experience advising clients on multiple NAFTA compliance issues, including the validity of certificates of origin and supporting documentation. We regularly perform internal audits, reviews, and training for clients in the U.S. and Mexico to ensure they are complying with NAFTA eligibility and recordkeeping requirements.

Our team of NAFTA lawyers and compliance professionals is experienced in NAFTA trade compliance and enforcement in the U.S. and Mexico, and can guide importers, exporters, and producers on NAFTA compliance to maximize duty savings. We have represented companies on NAFTA matters in multiple industries, including food, apparel, oil and gas, retail, aerospace, and automotive. From Customs penalty matters to country of origin analyses and tailored internal controls and procedures, our team has the expertise needed to guide a company through complex NAFTA matters efficiently.

The NAFTA Professional

The NAFTA Professional (also known as the TN Visa, TN1 Visa and TN Status) allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to work in the United States in positions classified as professionals or NAFTA Professional. Foley’s immigration law attorneys provide dedicated advice and assistance to NAFTA professionals who are applying for their TN visa. Our team is expert in relieving clients of the difficulty in completing the application by patiently navigating them through the process step-by-step, ensuring they fulfill all procedural and material requirements needed to apply.

With many members of the team being fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, French, Chinese and a number of other foreign languages, we are able to effectively communicate with clients in what may be their native tongue. Our team is committed to not only making the TN visa application process more manageable, but we are also diligent in educating our clients about NAFTA and TN visas, as well as providing applicable context related to how the process works and can be expected in terms of both time frame and success in obtaining the desired immigration benefit.

NAFTA Visa Requirements for NAFTA Professionals to work in the United States:

  • Must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico.

  • Profession must be on the NAFTA Professional job list.

  • The U.S. job requires a NAFTA Professional.

  • The Mexican or Canadian applicant will work for a U.S. employer; self-employment is not allowed.

  • The Mexican or Canadian applicant is qualified for the NAFTA profession.

Requirements for Canadian Citizens

NAFTA Professional Canadian citizens do not need visas to work in the U.S., but they do need to apply for what’s called “TN Status.” Spouses and children who are dependents and under 21 may be granted a trade dependent visa when accompanying the holder of the NAFTA Professional; they will not be eligible for employment but they will be able to attend school.

A Canadian citizen can apply for the TN NAFTA Visa (or TN Status) at a U.S. Port of Entry with the following:

  • Request for a TN Status admission to a U.S. Immigration Officer

  • A TN NAFTA employment letter showing proof of professional employment

  • Proof of professional qualifications (degree, transcripts, etc.)

  • Proof of ability to meet applicable license requirements

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship

Requirements for Mexican Citizens

As of Jan. 01, 2004, Mexican citizens are not required to petition approval or file labor condition application. They are no longer subject to numerical limits for the TN NAFTA Visa professions. However, Mexican citizens are still required to have a visa to request admission to the United States.

Mexican citizens may apply at consular sections around the world for TN NAFTA Professional – TN Visa. Part of the visa application process requires an interview at the embassy consular section for most TN NAFTA Visa applicants. TN NAFTA Visa applicants should call and schedule the interviews in advance, as wait times for an interview can take up to several weeks.