USTR Announces USMCA Does Not Require Changes to US Immigration / TN Visas

On January 29, 2019, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), Robert Lighthizer, submitted a letter to U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley that outlines the changes needed to existing laws to bring the U.S. into compliance with the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA).

According to Ambassador Lighthizer’s letter, “the USMCA does not require changes to U.S. immigration laws nor does it change access to visas…” (see pg. 5). Interestingly, the Ambassador's letter specifically mentions that the new agreement “replicates the commitments” contained in Section D of Annex 1603 to NAFTA (i.e. the provisions relating to TN visas). I am not sure if the Ambassador meant to specifically highlight the NAFTA TN visa section, or had instead intended to refer to all of the immigration provisions of NAFTA Annex 1603, e.g. Section A - Business Visitor (B-1/B-2) visas; Section B - Trader / Investor (E-1 / E-2) visas; and Section - C Transfer (L-1) visas).

It is possible that Ambassador Lighthizer specifically wanted to bring to Senator Grassley’s attention that the USMCA did not make any changes to the TN visa provisions. In October 2017, Senator Grassley wrote to the Ambassador to encourage review of the TN visa during the NAFTA negotiations, and had proposed placing restrictions and other requirements on the TN visa classification. In this case, the Ambassador’s letter, which states that the lack of changes to U.S. immigration laws were “[c]onsistent with the overall trade negotiating objectives under the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act”, may be the formal response declining Grassley’s request.