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The O1 vs TN Visa

The O-1 and TN are both temporary U.S. work visas. Professionals worldwide can apply for the O-1 visa, whereas the TN visa is only open to NAFTA professionals from Canada and Mexico. Which is best for you?



Overview of the O-1 vs. TN Nonimmigrant Visas

The O-1 and TN are very different work visas. What they have in common is that both provide temporary work authorization for a U.S. company. Once you start work at a U.S. company, you won't notice any differences between being on TN vs O-1.

The O-1A Visa for Individuals with Extraordinary Ability

The O-1 is a work visa for individuals with "extraordinary ability" in their field. Although this language can be intimidating, many startup founders, engineers, researchers, artists, and executives qualify

Advantages of the O-1 Visa:

  • No degree or wage requirement 
  • Flexible criteria
  • Ability to get work authorization very quickly with 15-day premium processing for O-1 visas
  • U.S. work authorization for three years, with indefinite extensions
  • A strong likelihood that your future extension will be approved because of USCIS' deference policy to prior approvals
  • Ability to work for two companies simultaneously on two different O-1 visas

Downsides to the O-1 Visa:

  • O-1 visa petitions often require a substantial amount of documentation (think hundreds of pages)
  • The O-1's dependent visa does not provide work authorization for spouses
  • Although it is easy to renew the O-1 visa, you still have to pay government filing fees and attorney service fees every three years, which can add up
  • Each O-1 visa is connected to a specific employer. If you decide to leave your employer, you will have to file for a new visa

The TN Visa for NAFTA Professionals

The TN work visa is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens in specific roles

The Advantages of the TN Visa:

  • It is not difficult to qualify for a TN visa, as long as you work in a specific role and meet the qualifications
  • Canadians can apply for a TN directly at the U.S. border, and Mexican citizens can apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate
  • If you choose to apply via mail, you can apply with 15-day premium processing 
  • TN visas are valid for up to three years initially and can be renewed indefinitely
  • Spouses of TN visa holders receive U.S. work authorization

Downsides to the TN Visa:

  • Only individuals working in certain roles qualify. For example, there isn't a TN role that aligns well with the duties of a CEO.
  • The TN is only available to citizens of Canada and Mexico.

O-1 vs TN: Which is right for me? 

The O-1 and TN are both favorable visa options. For many Canadian and Mexican professionals, the TN is the most obvious choice. However, the O-1 should not be overlooked, particularly for individuals whose role does not fit into one of the TN professional categories.

If you are ready for expert immigration advice, don't hesitate to get in touch with our immigration team. 

About the author:

Annie Blay

Content Marketing Specialist

Before joining the marketing team, Annie helped over 60 Legalpad clients navigate U.S. immigration on the client services team.