How to Transition from a TN Visa to a Green Card

Updated on March 27, 2024

If you’re a Canadian or Mexican professional currently working in the United States under the TN visa category, you may be considering your options for long-term residency. One attractive pathway is transitioning from a TN visa to a green card, which grants permanent resident status in the US. In this blog post, we’ll explore the process of obtaining a green card as a TN visa holder and provide helpful insights to guide you through the journey.

30 Second Recap:

TN visa holders can transition to a green card through employer sponsorship and adjustment of status or consular processing. The process involves PERM labor certification, filing an I-140 petition, and either adjusting status in the U.S. or attending a consular interview abroad. Timing considerations and the potential for a lengthy process based on country of birth are important factors to keep in mind when planning the transition.

Understanding the Green Card Process

Obtaining a green card as a TN visa holder typically involves a two-step process:

  1. Employer Sponsorship: Your US employer must sponsor you for permanent residency by filing a petition on your behalf, usually through the PERM labor certification process.
  2. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: Once your petition is approved, you can either apply for adjustment of status (if you’re already in the US) or go through consular processing (if you’re outside the US) to obtain your green card.

Requirements for TN to Green Card Transition

To be eligible for a green card as a TN visa holder, you must meet the following requirements:

  1. Have a valid job offer from a US employer who is willing to sponsor your green card application.
  2. Meet the qualifications for the position, which typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher and/or specialized skills.
  3. Demonstrate that your employment will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed US workers.

Steps in the TN to Green Card Process

  1. PERM Labor Certification: Your employer must obtain a PERM labor certification from the Department of Labor, which verifies that there are no qualified US workers available for the position.
  2. I-140 Petition: After receiving the PERM certification, your employer files an I-140 Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker on your behalf.
  3. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing: Once your I-140 is approved, you can either file an I-485 application for adjustment of status (if you’re in the US) or go through consular processing at a US embassy or consulate in your home country.

Advice from TN Visa Holders Who Have Transitioned

When navigating the process of changing your status from a TN visa to another visa category or green card, it’s essential to be aware of the “90-day rule.” Here’s what you need to know:

Understanding the 90-Day Rule

The 90-day rule is a guideline that suggests avoiding changing your status within 90 days of obtaining your TN visa or within 90 days of its expiration. As one user explains, “Do not change your status 90 days right after you get your TN or 90 days right before it expires. There are exceptions of course. Hence it’s more like a guide line vs. a rule :)”

Guideline vs. Strict Rule

While the 90-day rule is an important consideration, it’s important to note that it is more of a guideline than a strict rule. There may be exceptions depending on your specific circumstances.

Timing Your Green Card Application

If you’re pursuing a green card through employment sponsorship, your employer will need to go through the PERM process, file an I-140 petition, and then submit your green card application. As one user shares their experience, “For me, the PERM took a while because I moved when I was young and the DoL wasn’t convinced my company couldn’t find a US citizen to do my job. So we had to wait a few years to file. Once everything lined up it took about two years to get a green card.”

Country of Birth and Green Card Backlogs

When considering the timeline for obtaining a green card, it’s important to note that the process is based on your country of birth, not your citizenship. Some countries, such as India and China, have significant backlogs that can impact the timeline. As one user advises, “if you are born in a non backlog country like india or mexico then a potential path of direct filing for employment green card could exist. Talk to a lawyer.”

Other Paths to a Green Card

In addition to employment sponsorship, there are other paths to obtaining a green card, such as marriage to a US citizen or investment. As one user summarizes, “The same as without TN visa. Marriage to USC, employment sponsorship, investment.”

When planning your transition from a TN visa to another status or green card, be mindful of the 90-day rule as a guideline, understand the potential impact of your country of birth on the timeline, and explore all available paths to achieving your goals.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning from a TN visa to a green card can be a rewarding path to permanent residency in the United States for Canadian and Mexican professionals. By understanding the requirements, steps, and potential challenges involved in the process, you can make informed decisions and increase your chances of success. Remember to work closely with your employer, maintain your legal status, and consider seeking professional guidance to help you achieve your long-term residency goals in the US.

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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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