TN Classification

Putting the pieces togetherThe North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.

Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. You may be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, if:

  • You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
  • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment – see documentation required below); and
  • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

There are two different types of TN status, a TN-1 for Canadian professionals and a TN-2 for Mexican professionals. It is important to note that there are differences between the requirements for Canadian citizens and Mexican Citizens. The major difference is that a Mexican citizen must obtain a TN visa stamp from a U.S. consulate before they can enter the United States while Canadian professionals can apply for their visa stamp directly at the border. Mexican citizens, however, are not required to file a petition with the USCIS before seeking their visa at a consulate. The full requirements for each TN status are listed below.

TN-1: Canadian Professional

If you are a Canadian citizen, then you are not required to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate.

You may establish eligibility for TN classification at the time you seek admission to the United States by presenting required documentation to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station. You must provide the following documentation to the CBP officer:

  1. Proof of Canadian Citizenship
  2. The applicant must intend to engage in employment in an approved profession and have an offer of employment. For a list of professions for this class please (click here) http://www.nafta-sec-alena.org/en/view.aspx?x=343&mtpiID=147#Ap1603.D.1
  3. The applicant must possess the necessary credentials to be considered a professional in the approved profession the applicant is applying under. A bachelor’s degree or higher is usually required for all approved professions on the list. If the profession requires licensing, then the applicant must possess the requisite license.
  4. The applicant must intend to stay in the U.S. for a temporary period. An applicant can be denied TN status because he has a pending immigration petition.

TN-2: Mexican Professional

  1. The applicant must be a Mexican citizen.
  2. The applicant must intend to engage in employment in an approved profession and have an offer of employment. For a list of professions for this class, please click here.
  3. The applicant must possess the necessary credentials to be considered a professional in the approved profession the applicant is applying under. A bachelor’s degree or higher is usually required for all approved professions on the list. If the profession requires licensing, then the applicant must possess the requisite license.
  4. The applicant must intend to stay in the U.S. for a temporary period. An applicant may be denied TN status because he has a pending immigration petition.
  5. A non-immigrant visa issued by the U.S. Consulate.

Additionally, spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 may accompany the TN visa holder on a TD visa.

Necessary Documentation

For both TN-1 and TN-2 status, the alien must be able to prove they will be employed in one of the qualifying professions during their time in the United States and that they possess the necessary education or qualifications for that position. The following documents must be provided to USCIS and/or border officials in order to be issued a TN visa:

  1. Proof of citizenship
  2. Form DS-160, Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application
  3. Documentation of diplomas, degrees (and evaluations of foreign degrees if necessary), certificates, and professional memberships.
  4. A letter from the prospective employer describing in detail the activities to be performed to show they are in a professional capacity. It should provide the following: The letter must indicate that the position in question in the U.S. requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity, consistent with NAFTA guidelines;
    1. The applicant must prove full-time or part-time employment by a U.S. entity. Self-employment is not permitted;
    2. Activity in which the applicant shall be engaged and purpose of entry;
    3. Anticipated length of stay;
    4. Educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status;
    5. Evidence of compliance with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations and/or state laws;
    6. Arrangements for pay.
    7. Although not required, proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the U.S. may be offered along with the job offer letter and other documentation.

For those TN-2 nonimmigrants who are applying for their visa at a consular office, an in person interview is required for those applications age 14 to 79.

Applicants must be able to show that their intended stay is temporary and without the intent to establish permanent residence, as the TN is not a dual intent visa. Additionally, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have the following:

  • Education: The applicant’s employer must submit proof that the applicant meets the minimum education requirements or has the necessary alternative credentials. Evidence of professional qualifications may be in the form of degrees, certificates, diplomas, professional licenses, or membership in professional organizations. Degrees, diplomas, or certificates received from an educational institution outside the U.S., Canada, or Mexico must be accompanied by an evaluation by a reliable credentials evaluation service specializing in evaluating foreign documentation.
  • Work Experience: Documentation attesting to the applicant’s experience should be in the form of letters from former employers. If the applicant was self-employed, business records should be submitting proving that self-employment. However, please note that self-employment is not valid for a TN visa.

In addition, when applying for admission, you should have in your possession a copy of the Form I-129, and all supporting documentation that was submitted to USCIS, to respond to questions about your eligibility. You should also be prepared to pay any applicable inspection fees at the time you seek admission. If a CBP officer finds you eligible for admission, you will be admitted as TN nonimmigrant.

Initial Period of Stay:

Up to 3 years.

If you wish to remain in the United States beyond your initial period of stay without first departing from the United States, you must seek an extension of stay. If you are in the United States, your employer may file Form I-129 on your behalf.

Alternatively, you may depart from the United States before the date your status expires, and then, once abroad, you may apply at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station using the same application and documentation procedures required at the time of your initial application for admission as a TN nonimmigrant.

Dependents of TN Nonimmigrants

Any accompanying or “following to join” spouse and children under the age of 21 may be eligible for TD nonimmigrant status. Spouses and children are:

  • Not permitted towork while in the United States, but they are permitted to study.
  • Granted TD status for no longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN nonimmigrant.