TD Visas Explained: How to Bring Your TN Visa Spouse to the U.S.

Updated on March 27, 2024

If you’re the spouse of a Canadian or Mexican professional working in the United States under the TN visa category, you may have questions about your own rights and opportunities. While navigating life in a new country can be challenging, understanding your options and making informed decisions can help you thrive alongside your TN visa holder spouse. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key aspects of being a TN visa spouse and provide helpful tips for making the most of your time in the US.

30 Second Recap:

TN visa spouses are allowed to live in the U.S. but are not automatically granted work authorization. They may be eligible for a TD visa, their own work visa, or an Employment Authorization Document in certain situations. Maintaining family life as a TN visa spouse involves staying connected with support networks, exploring the new community, pursuing personal interests, and prioritizing communication with their partner.

What is a TD Visa?

A TD visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows the spouse or unmarried children (under 21 years of age) of a TN visa holder to accompany them to the United States. The TN visa is a work visa available to citizens of Canada and Mexico under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), formerly known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).


To be eligible for a TD visa, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  1. Relationship to the TN visa holder: a. Spouse: The applicant must be legally married to the TN visa holder. Same-sex spouses are also eligible for TD status. b. Child: The applicant must be an unmarried child under 21 years of age. This includes biological children, stepchildren, and adopted children.
  2. TN visa holder’s status: a. The principal TN visa holder must have a valid TN status or be applying for one concurrently with the TD applicant. b. If the TN visa holder is applying for an extension or renewal of their status, the TD applicant must also apply for an extension or renewal to maintain their status.
  3. Nationality: a. The TD applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico, as the TN visa is only available to citizens of these countries under the USMCA (formerly NAFTA).
  4. Intent to depart: a. The TD applicant must maintain a residence outside the United States and intend to depart the U.S. when the TN visa holder’s status expires or is terminated. b. The TD status is not a pathway to permanent residence in the United States.
  5. Financial support: a. The TN visa holder must demonstrate that they can financially support the TD applicant during their stay in the United States.

It is important to note that meeting these eligibility criteria does not guarantee approval of the TD visa. The applicant must also satisfy any additional requirements set by the U.S. immigration authorities and provide the necessary documentation to support their application.

Work Authorization

One of the most common questions TN visa spouses have is whether they are authorized to work in the US. Unfortunately, unlike some other visa categories, the TN visa does not automatically grant work authorization to spouses. However, you may be eligible to apply for work authorization through other means, such as:

  1. TD Visa: As the spouse of a TN visa holder, you can apply for a TD (Trade Dependent) visa, which allows you to live in the US but does not provide work authorization.
  2. Employment-Based Visa: If you have a job offer from a US employer and meet the qualifications, you may be eligible for your own work visa, such as the H-1B or L-1 visa.
  3. Employment Authorization Document (EAD): In some cases, you may be able to apply for an EAD if you are in the process of adjusting your status to permanent residency or meet other specific criteria.

Travel Requirements

As a TN visa spouse, you are allowed to travel in and out of the United States. However, it’s essential to ensure that you have the proper documentation when entering the country. In addition to your valid passport, you’ll need to present your TD visa (if applicable) and proof of your relationship to the TN visa holder, such as a marriage certificate. It’s also a good idea to carry copies of your spouse’s TN visa approval notice and employment documentation.

Maintaining Family Life

Living in a new country can be an exciting adventure, but it can also present challenges for families. To help maintain a strong and successful family life as a TN visa spouse, consider the following tips:

  1. Stay connected with your support network back home through regular communication and visits when possible.
  2. Explore your new community and take advantage of opportunities to meet new people and build friendships.
  3. Pursue hobbies, interests, or educational opportunities that keep you engaged and fulfilled.
  4. Seek out resources and support systems, such as expat groups or online forums, to connect with others in similar situations.
  5. Prioritize open communication and quality time with your spouse to maintain a strong and healthy relationship.

What to Expect When Bringing Your TV Visa Spouse to the US

When considering a job offer in the United States that requires a work visa, it’s important to understand the implications for your spouse’s ability to work. Here are some insights from those who have navigated this situation:

Transfer on an L-1 Visa and Obtain an EAD Card for Your Spouse

One option is to work for a US company based in Canada or another country for a year, then transfer to the US on an L-1 visa. As one user explains, “As an L-2 dependent, your wife can get an EAD card that will allow her to work. You can only stay on L-1 for 5 years, in which time you ask your company to sponsor you for a GC which will allow you both unrestricted right to work.”

TN Dependents Cannot Work, Even Remotely

Unfortunately, TN dependents are not allowed to work, even remotely for a Canadian company while on US soil. “TD dependents cannot work and there is no way around that. They cannot work remotely even for a Canadian company while on US soil. Yes this is quite backward and not the treatment that some other countries offer foreign worker spouses, but it’s been this way for decades and unlikely to change,” notes one user.

Pursue a Green Card for Unrestricted Work Rights

If giving your spouse the freedom to work is a priority, pursuing a green card may be the best option. However, as one user points out, “Based on what you are saying, I think it’s pretty clear that if I would like to give my wife the freedom to do as she pleases, I need to pursue an entry through a green card, which the company will be unlikely to sponsor I imagine given I have no previous experience with them.”

Consider Exceptional Ability for Self-Sponsored Green Card

In some cases, individuals with exceptional ability may be able to self-sponsor for a green card without an employer. “There is one exception to this… if you have exceptional ability, you can self-sponsor yourself without an employer for a GC under the EB1A extraordinary ability or EB2 National interest waiver categories. When you do this, your wife can get a GC as your dependent,” explains one user.

TN Visas May Be Better Suited for Younger Individuals Without Families

Given the limitations on spousal work rights, TN visas may be more ideal for younger individuals without families. As one user observes, “This is why TN visas are usually ideal for younger people rather than people with family. Most Canadians I know move back to Canada after starting a family and saving a few years of their income in the States.”

When evaluating a job offer in the US that requires a work visa, it’s crucial to consider the implications for your spouse’s ability to work and explore options such as transferring on an L-1 visa, pursuing a green card, or assessing whether a TN visa is the right fit for your family situation.

Final Thoughts

As the spouse of a TN visa holder, you play a crucial role in supporting your partner’s career and maintaining a successful family life in the United States. While you may face challenges along the way, understanding your rights, exploring work and travel opportunities, and prioritizing your well-being can help you thrive in your new environment. Remember to stay informed, seek support when needed, and embrace the adventures that come with being a TN visa spouse.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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