In January 2008, NAFTA was fully implemented as its last set of policies went into effect. Since then, the Agreement has remained untouched; over the last eight (8) years, very little has been said about changing it . . . until 2016, when then candidate Donald Trump denounced NAFTA, calling it “the worst trade deal ever.”
Making good on a campaign promise, in April 2017 President Trump’s administration began negotiation talks with Canada and Mexico to revamp NAFTA. While there has been much speculation about what this will mean for the TN visa, the negotiations have largely focused on other aspects of the Agreement such as manufacturing, the automotive sector, and timber, rather than the professional skills list that allows foreign nationals from each NAFTA country to obtain work authorization in other NAFTA countries.
Now, as the NAFTA negotiations languish in round 8, we’ve seen the first real sign that the TN visa may be in jeopardy. In keeping with the spirit of the “Buy American, Hire American” Executive Order President Trump signed in April 2017, it was reported last month that the administration wants to shrink the list of professions and cap the number of times a TN visa holder may renew their status; currently renewals are unlimited (at least theoretically). The administration’s efforts to revise the TN visa rules may indicate that the president is getting antsy about the NAFTA negotiations failing to have been wrapped up by now, with the mid-term election season already underway.
However, the TN visa is statutorily and regulatorily ensconced in law, so an act of Congress would be required to do away with the visa altogether. Further, any new version of NAFTA will also require Congress’ approval. Therefore, shy of the TN visa making the chopping block, the Trump administration has few options, if any, to set the TN visa on shaky ground.