The United States has signed free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico. The TN status enables these citizens to be admitted to the U.S. to engage in “business activities at a professional level” in certain fields, for one or more specific employers. If there will be more than one employer, each employer will have to apply for a separate TN visa. TN status may be initially granted for as long as the employment offer specifies, up to three years, and this status may be extended indefinitely in three-year increments.
The OISS scholar advising staff will assist the university department to determine whether the TN visa is appropriate for the prospective employee.
What is the TN?
The United States, Canada and Mexico developed the TN (Trade NAFTA) category, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which provides for expedited admission of Canadian and Mexican citizens to the United States to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis. The applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico. Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are ineligible to work as NAFTA professionals.
To qualify for TN employment, the intended occupation must be listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty. Appendix 1603.D.1 also provides the minimum qualifications for admission into the U.S. for each occupation. Additionally, applicants must prove that their visit to the U.S. will be temporary in nature and that they intend to return to their country after completion of their activities in the U.S.
If a scholar is not eligible for TN status, other visa types may be possible. The sponsoring department should be in contact with the OISS.
Entry into the United States
A Letter of Employment must be provided by the sponsoring department at Washington University in St. Louis. The letter, which must be reviewed by the Office for International Students and Scholars (OISS), must indicate that the position constitutes prearranged professional activity within one of the professions outlined in NAFTA, Appendix 1603.D.1.
Procedure for Canadian Citizens
Canadian citizens seeking admission to the United States in the TN category must present their application at the port of entry. No prior petition, visa or approval is required for Canadian citizens seeking admission under the TN category. The scholar should carry proof of Canadian citizenship, the letter of employment and documentation of required credentials for the occupation.
Procedure for Mexican Citizens
Mexican citizens must obtain a TN visa from a U.S. Consulate prior to seeking admission into the United States. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the U.S. Consulate is required. To enter the U.S., the scholar should carry a valid Mexican passport with a valid TN visa, the letter of employment and documentation of required credentials for the occupation.
Maintaining TN Status
- Proof that you hold citizenship in a country to which you may return at the conclusion of your stay in the U.S.
- Issued by the passport agency of your home country, then examined and returned to you by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the U.S. port of entry
- Must remain valid (six month minimum validity expected upon arrival to U.S.) during your stay in the U.S.
- May be renewed while in the U.S.
- May be replaced, if lost in the U.S., by contacting your home country’s nearest consulate or embassy
- Only required for Mexican TN scholars; Canadians are exempt from the visa requirement
- Proof that you have demonstrated your admissibility to the U.S. in TN status
- Issued by a U.S. Consulate (Department of State), then examined and returned to you by CBP at the U.S. port of entry
- Does NOT need to remain valid during your stay in the U.S. (may expire during your stay without adversely affecting your nonimmigrant status)
- May not be replaced (if the passport in which it has been placed is lost) or renewed within the U.S. – a new application must be made outside the U.S. prior to re-entry to the U.S.
I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record):
- Proof that you have been admitted to the U.S. in TN status for a certain period of time
- Issued by airline personnel en route to the U.S., then stamped and returned to you (usually stapled into your passport near the entry visa page) by CBP at the U.S. port of entry
- Must remain valid during your stay in the U.S. in nonimmigrant status
- Must be replaced, if lost, by submitting an application and fee to United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS)
A Canadian or Mexican citizen may be admitted under TN status for a period of stay up to three years (expiration date is indicated on I-94 card). The three-year period of admission allows for any number of reentries during this period. Extensions can be granted in three-year increments. There is no cumulative time limit on TN status. It can be renewed indefinitely, provided the stay remains temporary in nature.
TN professionals can apply for an extension of stay by filing an application for extension of stay with USCIS in the United States. TN scholars interested in applying for an extension should be in contact with the sponsoring department, which will work with the OISS to prepare the application.
Or, in lieu of applying for an extension with USCIS, TN professionals can travel and apply for a new TN at the border.
Changes in Employment
TN professionals may change jobs or have several jobs, but since TN status is employer and employment–specific, USCIS must approve all new employment prior to its commencement. New employment cannot begin until USCIS approves the I-129 (petition for nonimmigrant worker) and the petition start date is reached, or the TN professional re-enters the United States with documentation of the new TN employment.
Travel and Readmission for TNs
TN professionals can be readmitted into the United States for the period of time authorized on their Form I-94, without having to provide additional supporting documents (employer letters and credentials), provided that their job duties and employer(s) has not changed. In addition, Mexican TNs must ensure that they have a valid visa to re-enter the United States.
If the original Form I-94 has been lost, the TN would have to present evidence, including a letter from the employer, to be readmitted and reissued a new Form I-94.
If a TN professional plans to travel outside of the U.S. while the OISS is preparing an application for extension with USCIS, or while the application is pending, the scholar should contact the OISS to discuss travel plans.
Process for Canadians
Dependents of TN professionals are admitted in TD (Trade Dependent) status. If the spouse or child of a TN is a Canadian citizen, they do not need to obtain a TD (Trade Dependent) visa, but nonCanadian dependents do need a TD visa. TD applicants must demonstrate a bona fide spousal or parent-child relationship to the TN professional.
Process for Mexicans
Mexican TD dependents need to apply for visas to enter the United States. Dependents of Mexican TNs should apply for their visa at the same time as the TN. If applying at a later date, the dependent must provide copies of the TN scholar’s I-94 card, employment letter and proof of relationship to the TN professionals.
Employment and Study for TD Dependents
TD dependents are not permitted to work while in the United States but they may attend school, either on a part-time or full-time basis.