The following is a summary of the basics of the TN visa:
Main Procedural Step:
Apply at the U.S./Canadian border (Canadian Nationals)
Apply at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy (Mexican Nationals)
Initial duration of status: Three year maximum
Total time-limit cap on category: No time limitation
Major advantage: Quick processing; no DHS applications required of outside the US
Major disadvantage: Not all professions qualify; position cannot be permanent
What is the TN Application Process?
Step I: The employer must:
Prepare a letter to Homeland Security describing how the employment qualifies for TN status.
STEP II: The prospective employee must submit the following documents:
1.) A copy of highest diploma and related transcripts.
If the degree is NOT from a university in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, or Australia, an evaluation of the equivalent U.S. degree must be submitted. An acceptable evaluation should:
1. consider formal education only, not practical training experience.
- state if the collegiate training was post secondary education, i.e., did the applicant complete the United States equivalent of high school studies before entering college;
- provide a detailed explanation of the materials evaluated, rather than a simple conclusive statement;
- briefly state the qualifications and experience of the evaluator providing the opinion.
2.) Personal information such as:
- a) Curriculum vitae;
- b) Copies of all current immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94 card) if the employee will not be applying for the TN at the border. You need to submit a photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 if your most recent entry to the U.S. was prior to April 30, 2013. If your most recent entry occurred after April 30, 2013, print out an electronic copy of the I-94 at http://www.cbp.gov/i94..
- c) If applying from within the U.S. and the applicant has dependents, Form I-539 and copies of all current immigration documents (passport, visa, I-94 card) for dependents.
See above for instructions on the I-94 card.
STEP III: Upon receipt of the letter and all documentation listed in Steps I and II, the immigration lawyer will:
1. Prepare the I-129 application if the employee will not be traveling to the border/embassy to obtain TN status.
- Send the employee/applicant instructions for check-in if obtaining TN status at the border.
Under NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) Canadian and Mexican professionals
may apply to enter the U.S. under the TN visa classification. The TN process does not require
U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) certification of a Labor Condition Application or prior approval by
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of any petition. The result is that qualifying
Canadian nationals trained in one of a published list of professions may obtain TN-1 visa status
and enter the U.S. in one day by applying at the U.S. port-of-entry. Mexican nationals must first
apply for a TN-2 visa at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy. New applications for/or extensions of the
TN status can also be filed with the USCIS by mail using form I-129, and are processed in 2-4
months (unless premium processing is paid for).
What are the Advantages of TN-1 Status?
1. Granted in three year increments, with unlimited renewals.
- No forms are required. TN status can be obtained in person at the U.S. border (Canadians) or at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy (Mexican nationals).
- TN status is available to some people who may not qualify for H-1B status.
What are the Requirements for TN-1 Status?
- Proof of Canadian/Mexican citizenship. Canadian Landed Immigrants and non-Canadian
citizens must apply for H-1B status.
- Evidence that the intended U.S. employment and the applicant quality under Schedule 2
- Applicants must intend to engage in employment at a professional level. The employment
must be prearranged by a U.S. company or institution.
- A letter from the U.S. employer detailing the nature of the employment. TN status is granted for only one employer at a time for a specific type of work. For multiple
employers, multiple TN applications must be filed.
- Self-employed professionals are precluded from obtaining TN status, and the USCIS has advised its field offices that E-2, treaty investor classification may be the appropriate alternative for these types of professionals.
Documents Necessary to Prove Nature of Employment
- A letter from U.S. employer detailing nature of employment in U.S.
- The employment must be temporary. A letter from U.S. employer stating that employment is temporary. A person on TN status can later apply for permanent resident status based on the same U.S. employment. However, at the time of the TN application, the applicant cannot intend to remain in the United States permanently.
- There must be no strike or lockout at proposed worksite. If there is, the USCIS may deny the entry or employment.
Documents Necessary to Prove Applicants Qualifications
- Originals or certified copies of school records, diplomas, licenses, degrees, certificates or membership in professional organizations, or transcripts showing an appropriate degree (bachelorʼs degree or higher) from a recognized university or college; a statement of U.S. equivalency might be required.
- If a license is necessary in the U.S. state where employment is located (i.e., C.P.A., lawyer, professional engineer, etc.), then applicant must provide proof of possession of a license to be able to practice in the U.S. or an explanation in petitioner’s covering letter regarding why the beneficiary does not need to be licensed to perform services in the particular state.
- USCIS will approve an unlicensed applicant who will be under the direct supervision of licensed personnel. (This occurs only in professions that customarily permit members to practice under these conditions.)
TN-1 (Treaty NAFTA) Checklist for Canadian Professionals when Crossing the Border
- Proof of Canadian/Mexican citizenship: Original Passport and/1. or Birth Certificate.
- TN-2 visa stamp (for Mexican nationals only).
- Employment contract from U.S. Employer – detailing position responsibilities and
employment dates (please note: employment must be on a temporary basis).
- Professional license or certification (if applicable).
- Customs fee (Canadian nationals only-Mexican nationals pay a visa
- Evidence of academic qualifications: Diploma (copy and original).
- Export Control Issues
When hiring someone on TN status UC is required to certify the receipt of various export
control regulations to determine whether an export license is required before controlled
technology or technical data is released to a foreign national during the course of their
NOTE: TN status may be obtained at any U.S. Port of Entry along the Canadian/Mexican border. Some border crossing posts are more experienced with the TN-1 status than others. It is always better to have too much documentation than too little. Original documents should be presented whenever possible.
The above is for informational purposes only and an experienced immigration lawyer should be consulted for legal advise about your particular situation.