According to McClatchy, the Trump Administration is trying to decrease the number of Treaty NAFTA (TN) visas and limit the number of eligible professions under NAFTA negotiations with Canada and Mexico. Although the visa term for eligible professions – e.g., accountants, hotel managers, land surveyors, engineers and computer analysts -- is limited to three years, it may be renewed indefinitely.
The number of TN visas issued has grown recently. Migration Policy Institute President Andrew Selee told McClatchy, "It’s one of these secrets in immigration law that people only recently discovered."
In 2016, the United States issued less than 25,000 TN visas for workers and family from Mexico. Statistics are not kept for Canadian visas but some estimate it may range from 30,000-40,000. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, supports a TN reduction because he believes the numbers are approaching 100,000. In a letter to United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer last October, he wrote,
"This uncapped and under-recognized pool of high skill employees exacerbates the risk to American workers already present in certain industries that rely too heavily on foreign workers. It also constrains the U. S. Government’s total discretion over our immigration laws. Although I recognize there are risks to reopening negotiations regarding any treaty provision, I believe that it would be a mistake to essentially renew the TN temporary worker visa category, without considering the broader implications for the current U.S. economy.
"Given President Trump’s willingness to reevaluate—or reject—any and all of the NAFTA agreement, and in the interest of protecting American workers, I recommend that you specifically include temporary workers in the ongoing NAFTA review. I also ask that you consider whether the admittance of unlimited temporary workers under a multinational trade agreement—as opposed to through the existing statutory and regulatory frameworks employed by the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Labor in other worker visa categories—best serves the interests of the American people and American workers."
Negotiators from Mexico and Canada oppose the Administration’s efforts and seek to expand the list of professions that qualify. The Administration also faces a hurdle under a 2016 law that prohibits changing visa numbers through trade negotiations as the prior president did. It’s possible the Administration can avoid this bar by changing the current trade agreement rather than establishing a new one.
For more on this story, see McClatchy.
Updated: Mon, Jun 4th 2018 @ 6:20pm EDT