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TN visas

The TN, or Trade NAFTA, category was developed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens into the United States to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis. The TN category allows for admission of individuals for the purposes of:

  • Working for a U.S. employer as a professional.
  • Working for a foreign employer (including non-Canadian or non-Mexican employers) to provide prearranged professional services to a U.S. employer.

TN status is only available for occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty. Scholars in TN status may work part time, and may also study part time or full time as long as the study is incidental to their job.

To obtain TN status, entry must be into the United States (including all U.S. states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico). Canadian and Mexican citizens can be admitted to the U.S. in TN status in increments of up to three years, with extensions granted for additional three-year increments. There is no cumulative total limit on the time an individual can be in TN status; TN status can be renewed indefinitely as long as the stay remains temporary in nature.

Eligibility requirements

  • Must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  • Entry must be temporary in nature.
  • Job must constitute prearranged professional activity for a U.S. entity in one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty.
  • Cannot be self-employed in the U.S.
  • Must possess minimum qualifications for the occupation as specified in Appendix 1603.D.1 (most common qualifications include bachelor's degree and licensure).
  • Minimum education requirements are based on education or training received from an educational institution in the U.S., Canada or Mexico. Degrees from other institutions must be accompanied by an evaluation by a reliable credentials evaluation service that specializes in evaluating foreign educational credentials.

NAFTA-specific occupations

The individual seeking TN classification must be coming to the U.S. to engage in business activities in one of the 63 NAFTA-specified occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty. This appendix includes annotations on minimum qualifications and the scope of permissible activity for these occupations.

TD status for dependents

Dependents (spouses and/or children) of scholars in TN status will be in TD status and are not eligible for employment in the U.S. However, individuals in TD status are permitted to attend school on a full-time basis.

Applying from outside the U.S.

The procedures for acquiring TN status differ for Canadian and Mexican citizens.

Canadian citizens

Canadian citizens do not need to obtain a TN visa. They must present the required documentation at a U.S. port of entry and will be admitted directly into TN status.

Steps for application
  1. MU department contacts International Center regarding TN status.
  2. International Center provides sample letter of support for TN status.
  3. Canadian citizen presents the following at the border:
    • Proof of Canadian citizenship
    • Documentation establishing eligibility for TN classification
    • $50 fee (in U.S. dollars)

Mexican citizens

Mexican citizens must obtain a TN visa from a U.S. consulate before being eligible to apply for admission to the U.S. in TN status.

Steps for application
  1. MU department contacts International Center regarding TN status.
  2. International Center provides a sample letter of support for TN status.
  3. Mexican citizen presents the following documents at the U.S. consulate in support of their visa application:
  4. Once visa is obtained, Mexican citizen presents the following at the border:
    • Valid Mexican passport and TN visa
    • Documentation establishing eligibility for TN classification

Changing status to TN while in the U.S.

If a Canadian or Mexican citizen is already in the U.S. in nonimmigrant status, they can apply for a change of status to TN as long as they are not subject to the two-year home residency requirement imposed on certain J visa types.

  1. Hiring department contacts the International Center to initiate the process and provides the scholar's name, email address, country of origin, supervisor's name and anticipated start date. The International Center will provide the preliminary paperwork and online forms that must be completed and submitted to the center.
  2. Beneficiary provides necessary documentation:
    • Questionnaire
    • Proof of current nonimmigrant status
    • Proof of citizenship
    • Proof of diploma/license (to meet minimum requirements for the job)
  3. After receiving all necessary documents, the International Center will file a TN petition with USCIS. If this is an initial TN petition, the beneficiary can start working after receiving the approval notice from USCIS. If this is an extension, the beneficiary can continue employment for 240 days past the current petition expiration date.

Adding an employer

There are two options for adding new or additional employers:

  1. By filing an application with USCIS and obtaining approval before starting the new position.
  2. By traveling outside the U.S. and presenting documentation regarding the new or additional employer at the border when returning.

In either case, the new employment cannot begin until USCIS approves the I-129 and petition start date is reached, or the TN re-enters the U.S. through a qualified port of entry.