TN status

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TN status or TN visa is a special non-immigrant status in the United States, Canada, and Mexico that offers a unique, expedited work authorization to a citizen of these countries. It bears a similarity, in some ways, to the US H-1B visa, but also has many unique features. Within the TN set of occupations, a United States, Canadian, or Mexican citizen can work in the one of the other two countries for up to three years, but does not have the right to apply for permanent residence.[1] The permit may be renewed indefinitely.


The visa category "Professionals Under the North American Free Trade Agreement", also known as a TN (Treaty NAFTA) visa, is available only to citizens of Canada and Mexico, under the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Beginning in 1988, individuals practicing one of the professions identified in the Canada - United States Free Trade Agreement are able to obtain TN status for legal work in the United States and Canada, creating freedom of labor movement. TN status is recognized in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which began in 1994.

Certain TN status categories are known to be more difficult than others. For example, 'Management Consultant' applicants will often be scrutinized closely to determine if they will really be serving as consultants, or are in practice simply 'managers'. (The latter is generally not allowed under TN status.) Similarly, 'Computer Systems Analysts' will often have their applications carefully examined to ensure that their qualifications and job duties truly rise to the level of Computer Systems Analyst, and that they are not in practice simply serving as computer programmers.


A person may be eligible for TN status, if:[2]

  • The prospective employee is a citizen of the United States, Canada, or Mexico;
  • The profession is one cited under the NAFTA Treaty;
  • The company seeking to pursue TN Status with the prospective employee meets qualifications cited under the NAFTA treaty;
  • The prospective employee has been issued a formal, written full-time or part-time offer of employment in the United States, Canada or Mexico;
  • The prospective employee has the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

Initial Period of Stay[edit]

Once TN status is granted, it is good for up to three years,[3] but only for the specific employer for which it was originally requested. Changing employers will require to start from scratch with a new application. If employment with a single employer is desired for more than three years, it may be renewed indefinitely.

Prior to October 16, 2008, the initial period of stay for a TN status holder was up to one year only.[4]


Renewal is accomplished either by a mail-in renewal within the United States, or by returning to the border and, in effect, presenting a new application.

However, the TN status may be renewed indefinitely in three-year increments, but it is not a permanent visa and if U.S. immigration officials suspect it is being used as a de facto green card, then they may elect to deny further renewals. The set of occupations permitted to petition for TN status is also quite a bit more limited than for the H-1B visa.[5]

Renewal is possible, in theory, indefinitely, but the TN status is not a substitute for permanent residency (a green card), and the border official has the discretion to refuse further renewals if she feels the ability for indefinite renewal is being abused. How this happens in practice depends largely on the mood of the individual border official. Some Canadians have successfully renewed TN status for a decade or more; others have found that after 3–4 years a border official denies further renewals.


The spouse and dependent children under the age of 21[2] of a TN professional may apply for TD status (TD-1 for the family members of a Canadian citizen worker, or TD-2 for those of a Mexican worker). TD status can't be granted for longer than the period of time granted to the principal TN professional holder.[2]

TD status does not allow them to work, although they are permitted to attend school.[2] In most states, non-resident tuition rates will apply for post-secondary institutions. If the spouse requesting TD status is not a Canadian citizen, he or she will usually still qualify for TD status, but must first request a formal TD visa at a US consulate.

The US consulates report 3,000 to 4,000 TD visas issued in each US Fiscal year from 2007 to 2009; this includes visas issued both to family members of Mexican TN-2 visa holders and to non-Canadian family members of Canadian TN-1 entrants.[6]

Canadian citizens[edit]

For Canadians, TN status does not involve a visa. Canadian professionals are admitted into the United States in TN-1 status at the border. Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa,[7] but instead receive TN status with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at their Port of Entry (most commonly it is done upon entry to the United States from Canada, but entry in TN status is permitted at any port of entry, such as an airport with United States border preclearance). It must be noted that the TN status will only be granted if the period of stay is temporary.[7] There is no appeal recourse if one is refused TN status.

Canadian citizenship for TN status purposes may be by descent or naturalization. Those with qualifications from sources outside Canada or the U.S. must prove equivalency to the U.S. requirements.

Canadians have two alternative procedures to apply for TN status. One by going directly to their Port of Entry and the other one by mailing their application to the designated processing office prior to their intended trip into the United States [two- six months processing time, unless you use the Premium Processing service]; Canadians already in the US could do the same, without having to leave. However, should you leave before you hear from the government -because say, your tourist visa has expired, your TN application will be dropped automatically!

Directly to a Port of Entry[edit]

Applying for this status is a fairly streamlined procedure. The Canadian at the U.S. Port of Entry, must:[7]

  • Request TN status;
  • Present a proof of a job offer[note 1] from a U.S.-based employer, in the form of an employment letter detailing a temporary employment for not more than three years;
  • Bring the original documentation and provide a copy of the applicant's college degree and employment records which establish qualification for the prospective job;
  • Present a proof of Canadian citizenship (passport); and
  • Pay a fee of US$50 (plus an additional $6 at a land or sea crossing; this is included in airline tickets when arriving by air).

The U.S. immigration officer will then adjudicate the application on the spot and grant or deny TN status. If the decision is to grant TN status, the Canadian immediately enters the U.S. and begins TN employment. If the decision is to deny, the immigration officer will often detail the shortcomings in the application; if these are relatively straightforward to correct, the Canadian will often correct the problem in a day or so and then return to the border to reapply.

Applying with the USCIS[edit]

Alternatively, a prospective TN employer can apply for a change of visa status to TN on the person’s behalf.[2] The procedure for doing this is by submitting Form I-129 petition with a US$460[8] fee to the appropriate (California or Vermont)[9] USCIS Service Center.

If USCIS approves Form I-129, the prospective worker may then apply to CBP for admission to the United States as a TN nonimmigrant by providing the following documentation to a CBP Officer at certain CBP-designated U.S. ports of entry or at a designated pre-clearance/pre-flight inspection station:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship; and
  • Approval Notice from USCIS for Form I-129.

In addition, when applying for admission, the applicant should have in their possession a copy of the Form I-129, and all supporting documentation that was submitted to USCIS, in order to respond to any questions about eligibility. The applicant should also be prepared to pay any applicable inspection fees at the time that he or she seeks admission. If a CBP officer finds the applicant to be eligible for admission, the person will be admitted as a TN nonimmigrant.[2]

The advantage of this U.S.-based process is that the applicant can avoid a face-to-face meeting with an officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in order to get the TN visa. Many U.S. CBP officers, particularly those located at a U.S./Canada land crossing or a major Canadian international airport, have a reputation for being unduly skeptical, if not confrontational, toward Canadian TN visa applicants.[10]

Domestic Partner/Cohabitating Partners[edit]

If you have a TN Visa you may bring your Domestic Partner to live with you. They will get a B2 visa up to one year, but most likely only 6 months. They will not be able to work for a US Company in the US or study in the US.[11]

Mexican citizens in the United States[edit]

A Mexican citizen must first obtain a U.S. TN-2 visa at an American consulate (generally in Mexico). Once the TN visa stamp is on the Mexican citizen's passport, they may enter the U.S. with TN status in a similar manner to a Canadian citizen. In fiscal years 2007 through 2009, between 4,000 and 5,000 TN visas (including TN-2 visas for Mexicans) were issued by U.S. consulates each year.[6]

Prior to 2004, Mexicans were subject to an annual quota and to procedures similar to an H-1B visa.[12]

Extension options[edit]

Renewal/extension of TN status can be done either by mail (which requires filing of form I-129 "Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker" by the employer, along with proof of the TN holder's citizenship and education, and an extension letter similar to the original offer letter) or by duplication of the original process (for Mexican citizens, a trip to a US consulate; for Canadians leaving and re-entering US, document requirements are similar to those for obtaining the original TN).

TN holders (and any dependents) are required to leave the US as soon as the TN status expires or the job is terminated; there is no formal grace period as there is with an H1-B. The individual is legally not allowed to remain in the USA to look for another job (unless they have an active application for B1/B2 Visitor Visa or similar before the last day of employment). If they wish to re-enter, they must secure an offer of employment from abroad. USCIS will usually allow a non-immigrant to enter the US to attend a specific pre-arranged job interview in visitor status. (Visitor status is allowed up to a maximum of six months - entry in any other non-immigrant category including TN counts against this limit.)

Income tax requirements[edit]

Canadian TN status workers are responsible for US Medicare, State, Federal and Social Security taxes work in the US. US TN status workers in Canada are also subject to corresponding income tax liabilities and end-of-year filing of returns in Canada. In general, there will be income tax liabilities in accordance to where the employee works regardless of where legal or physical residence is maintained during employment. This is much like US citizens who live in one state but work in another who are then subject to state income and other taxes in the state in which they work. If their legal residence is still in their home country, workers may also be required to file a return in their home country. Based on income tax treaties, credit is normally available in the home country for income and other payroll taxes paid in the foreign country. Bilateral treaties exist to allow workers to regain benefits. For example, after a minimum of 1.5 years of work in the US, workers become eligible for a pro-rata Social Security benefit under what is known in the US as a Totalization agreement. After more than 10 years of work in the US, the regular Social Security benefit calculation minus the Windfall Elimination Provision will be applied. Therefore, the worker may receive 3 cheques, one each from the Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security and US Social Security.[13]

Comparison to H-1B visa[edit]

TN status has some similarities with the H-1B visa. TN status may be easier for some Canadians or Mexicans to obtain, as they are not subject to the annual cap for H-1B visas issued. However, because the TN status is adjudicated at the border, TN status can also be revoked at any time at the border (if a Canadian is re-entering the US), even if it is not up for renewal. Thus it is important to be sure that any application is perfectly airtight.

But the most important difference is that TN status does not include the doctrine of dual intent. Therefore, Canadians or Mexicans on TN status must be careful if they desire to ultimately pursue the green card. Either they should first switch to the H-1B visa before applying for the green card, or they must carefully time things to ensure they do not attempt to renew TN status after the green card application is formally pending (generally meaning that Form I-485 package has been filed for TN holder; those pursuing consular process can renew until just before the interview appointment at an Immigrant Visa issuing US Consulate).

Employer Requirements[edit]

Employers do not need to maintain extensive documents and records on TN workers, unlike with H-1B employees. In the case of an investigation or audit by the Immigration Service or Labor Department, the employer must show that the worker is in valid status. An employer must complete the Form I-9 for employees in TN visa status, as with all other employees.

Recognized TN professionals[edit]

The following professions qualify for the TN Visa.[14][15] They are covered by Appendix 1603.D.1 of the North American Free Trade Agreement.[16]


Accountant Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or C.P.A., C.A., C.G.A. or C.M.A.

including Agronomist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Animal Breeder Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Animal Scientist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Apiculturist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Architect Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license[note 2]

Astronomer Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Biochemist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Biologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Chemist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Computer Systems Analyst Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma[note 3] or Post-Secondary certificate,[note 4] and three years' experience


Dairy Scientist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Dentist D.D.S., D.M.D., Doctor en Odontologia or Doctor en Cirugia Dental; or state/provincial license

Dietitian Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster
claims adjuster employed by an insurance company located in the territory of a Party, or an independent claims adjuster
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims; or three years' experience in claims adjustment and successful completion of training in the appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims


Economist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Engineer Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Entomologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Epidemiologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Forester Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license


Geneticist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Geologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Geochemist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

including Oceanographer in Mexico and the United States
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Graphic Designer Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience


Horticulturist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Hotel Manager Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree in hotel/restaurant management; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate in hotel/restaurant management, and three years' experience in hotel/restaurant management


Industrial Designer Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience

Interior Designer Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience




Land Surveyor Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial/federal license

Landscape Architect Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

including Notary in the Province of Quebec
LL.B., J.D., LL.L., B.C.L. or Licenciatura Degree (five years); or membership in a state/provincial bar

Librarian M.L.S. or B.L.S. (for which another Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree was a prerequisite)


Management Consultant Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by statement or professional credential attesting to five years' experience as a management consultant, or five years' experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement

including Statistician
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Medical Laboratory Technologist (Canada)/Medical Technologist (Mexico and the United States)[note 5] Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience

Meteorologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Nutritionist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Occupational Therapist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license


Pharmacist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Pharmacologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

teaching or research only
M.D. or Doctor en Medicina; or state/provincial license

including Oceanographer in Canada
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Physiotherapist/Physical Therapist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or state/provincial license

Plant Breeder Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Poultry Scientist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Psychologist State/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree



Range Manager/Range Conservationalist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Recreational Therapist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Registered Nurse State/provincial license; or Licenciatura Degree

Research Assistant
working in a post-secondary educational institution
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Scientific Technician/Technologist[note 6] Possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics; and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research

Social Worker Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Soil Scientist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

including Forestry Specialist
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


College, Seminary or University teaching only
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree

Technical Publications Writer Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or Post-Secondary Diploma or Post-Secondary Certificate, and three years' experience


Urban Planner
including Geographer
Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


Veterinarian D.V.M., D.M.V. or Doctor en Veterinaria; or state/provincial license

Vocational Counselor Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree





Zoologist Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree


  1. ^ The job must be included in Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA, which provides a list of provisions covered by the Agreement
  2. ^ "State/provincial license" and "state/provincial/federal license" mean any document issued by a state, provincial or federal government, as the case may be, or under its authority, but not by a local government, that permits a person to engage in a regulated activity or profession.
  3. ^ "Post-Secondary Diploma" means a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of postsecondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.
  4. ^ "Post-Secondary Certificate" means a certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of postsecondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.
  5. ^ A business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry to perform in a laboratory chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic or bacteriological tests and analyses for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease.
  6. ^ A business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry to work in direct support of professionals in agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 201 / Thursday, October 16, 2008, pp. 61332-6, retrieved from
  2. ^ a b c d e f "TN NAFTA Professionals". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  3. ^ United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. "TN NAFTA Professionals: Period of Stay". Archived from the original on 6 February 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  4. ^ "Rules and Regulations" (PDF). Federal Register. 73 (201): 61332–61336. October 16, 2008. 
  5. ^ Carnegie Mellon University, Office of Student Affairs
  6. ^ a b Table (B), Nonimmigrant Visas Issued by Classification (Including Crewlist Visas and Border Crossing Cards): Fiscal Years 2005 - 2009, in Report of the Visa Office 2009
  7. ^ a b c "TN Visas: Professionals under NAFTA". US Embassy Canada - Ottawa. US Embassy. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  8. ^ "I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  9. ^ "Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker". United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  10. ^ Bray, Ilona. "TN Visa Application Procedures for Canadians". NOLO. Retrieved 25 February 2016. 
  11. ^ "Cohabiting Partners - USCIS" (PDF). 
  12. ^ "Rules and Regulations" (PDF). Federal Register. 69 (47). March 10, 2004. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  13. ^ Totalization Agreement with Canada
  14. ^ "Professions Covered by NAFTA". The Embassy of the United States of America. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  15. ^ "Appendix 1603.D.1 Professionals". North American Free Trade Agreement. Office of the United States Trade Representative. Retrieved 24 February 2016. 
  16. ^ "NAFTA Chapter Sixteen Appendix 1603.D.1" (PDF). Retrieved 27 January 2009. 

External links[edit]