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TN NAFTA Professional

This information is for UH departments who have hired or are interested in hiring a foreign national. This information does not constitute legal advice.

What is TN Status? Who qualifies?

The TN (Treaty NAFTA) category was developed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens to the United States to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis.

This category permits U.S. employers to hire Mexican and Canadian professionals (including professors, researchers, and certain technical personnel) who meet the minimum qualification requirements for the pertinent NAFTA profession. 

To be eligible for TN status, a potential employee must:

  • Be a citizen of Canada or Mexico. Landed immigrants and permanent residents of Canada and Mexico do not qualify.
  • Be applying for a position listed on the TN Occupations List (Appendix 1603.D.1)
  • Possess the minimum qualifications for that position, as listed on the TN Occupations List
  • Have plans for a temporary stay in the U.S. Longer-term positions (such as tenure-track faculty positions) are not appropriate for TN status.

Only occupations specified in Appendix 1603.D.1 of Annex 1603 of the NAFTA Treaty can serve as the basis for TN employment. Appendix 1603.D.1 also stipulates the minimum qualifications for entry into the U.S. in each occupation. Commonly sponsored positions for TN status include: Teachers (Professors), Scientists, Research Assistants, Librarians, Pharmacists and Physicians (only incidental patient care allowed). If the position requires licensure, applicants must have the license at the time of applying for TN status.

Occupations not listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 are not eligible for TN sponsorship.

Paths to obtain TN authorization

As TN is an employer-sponsored status, the hiring college/department is responsible for starting the TN process by notifying the Immigration Specialist of their interest in a TN candidate and submitting a completed Request to Petition for TN form. 

The Immigration Specialist will evaluate the candidate and position for TN sponsorship eligibility, and will only petition for qualified personnel whom the college/department wishes to employ. The hiring unit must initiate this process on behalf of new and continuing personnel.

There are two paths to TN status for both new and existing employees:

(1) Via Travel - TN Border or Consular Application: The Immigration Specialist can assist your department in preparing the support letter for your employee to present to CBP when requesting TN status or to the Consulate/Embassy to obtain a TN visa stamp (not applicable for Canadian passport holders). This method incurs no charge to the college/department and is the fastest way to obtain TN status. 

(2) Petition to USCIS - TN Change of Status, Change of Employer, Extension of Status, or Amendment: If the candidate is currently in the U.S. and unable to travel, a full TN application can be prepared for filing with USCIS. The Immigration Specialist files all official TN requests with the USCIS for UH. The UH department is responsible for paying the $510 application fee, and may also wish to pay the additional $2,805 Premium Processing fee to expedite the USCIS portion of the process. 

Please visit TN Request Procedures for detailed steps.

TN Employment Start Date

The employment start date for an initial TN filing to change the nonimmigrant status, or change of TN employer, or concurrent TN employment, will be the requested starting date or the date the petition is approved, whichever is later.

When TN status is obtained via travel, the employment begins when the beneficiary has arrived in the U.S. in TN status.

Duration of TN

TN classification can be granted in increments of up to three (3) years at a time. TN status can be renewed indefinitely, provided the TN professional can still prove nonimmigrant intent each time he or she applies for admission to the U.S.

Change from One TN Employer to Another

The USCIS requires that the petition to work for a new TN employer be approved prior to beginning at the new institution. 

TN Visa Processing

The TN visa stamp, which is a full-page sticker applied to the passport through a formal application at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, is necessary in order to be able to enter the U.S. and be assigned TN status, unless an individual holds a Canadian passport. The visa application normally requires the scheduling of an appointment ahead of time and presenting consulate-specific forms and supporting documentation. UH does not prepare these visa interview materials for your employee's consular appointment.

TN Dependents: TD status

Qualifying TD beneficiaries are the spouse and any unmarried children under 21 years of age of the principal TN visa holder, to allow them to stay in the U.S. for the duration of the worker's TN. TD holders are not eligible for employment in the U.S., but may attend school.

The filing fee for the TD change of status or extension application filed with the USCIS is currently $370 plus $85 biometrics fee (if applicable), subject to change. UH does not prepare the I-539 application packet for the TN worker's dependents, but may include it with the TN petition packet as a courtesy.

Additional fees apply when processing the TD visa at the consulate, for individuals who do not hold Canadian passports. The I-539 filing fee and biometrics fees do not apply to status obtained via consular appointment/travel.

Volunteering in TN Status

Individuals in TN status may not work for UH without pay.

Permanent Residency for TN Workers

TN status is considered temporary in nature, and does not allow "dual intent;" foreign workers should not pursue permanent residence while in the U.S. in TN status. Please visit the Immigrant (Permanent Visa) Worker section for details on permanent residency.