TN status/visa arises from the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) in 2020. TN is an employment visa that allows Canadian and Mexican citizens (but not Canadian or Mexican permanent residents) to be employed in the U.S. in certain professions listed in Appendix 1603.D1 of the USMCA regulations. The USMCA lays out specific educational, licensing, and experience qualifications that individuals working in these professions must possess.
TN employees may be admitted for temporary employment of a maximum of 3 years. Renewals are possible indefinitely and can be requested for up to 3 years at a time. TN status is not appropriate for tenured or tenure-track positions or others who are pursuing permanent residency due to its strictly temporary nature; it does not allow for dual intent. Part-time employment is permitted.
See the Visa Options for Employment Eligibility chart for a comparison to other visa types.
How to Obtain TN Status
TN status may be obtained in one of two ways:
- Admission to the U.S. in TN status, or
- Application to USCIS from within the U.S.
Admission to the U.S. in TN Status
The following items must be presented to U.S. officials:
- Proof of professional qualifications: diplomas, transcripts, licenses, certificates, resume and/or records of previous employment. Any credentials obtained outside the U.S., Canada, or Mexico should be accompanied by a credentials evaluation.
- Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship: passport valid for at least 6 months into the future
- Fees (subject to change — applicants should verify in advance):
- Canadians: $56 cash for immigration fees to be paid at the port of entry
- Mexicans: $160 for DS-160 Visa application fee to be paid to consulate
- The employer must provide a letter of employment. The letter must be addressed to U.S. Customs & Border Protection, and it must include all of the following details:
- The employee’s full name
- The contact information of the work site location (complete address and phone number)
- An explanation of all activity in which the applicant shall be engaged and the USMCA job title/profession that applies. If the job has a UMN title like Postdoctoral Associate, it is very important to use/emphasize the NAFTA job title/profession. For example: "John Doe will be working as an Engineer, a profession that is eligible for TN status. He will be doing engineering research and will also be given the internal University of Minnesota title of Postdoctoral Associate."
- A thorough description of the job duties
- A description of the education and background necessary for the position
- An explanation of the employee’s educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status
- Arrangements for pay
- The purpose of entry
- Anticipated length of stay (dates of employment - not to exceed three years)
Canadian citizens acquire TN status by arriving at a U.S. port of entry and presenting the required items to an inspector. See the CBP website for which ports of entry are optimal for TNs to use.
Mexican citizens must first apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate, then acquire TN status at a U.S. port of entry. Required items must be presented both at visa application and at the port of entry.
Once granted TN status, an individual may only work for the employer whose job offer the employee presented to obtain TN status, but they may accept expense reimbursement from other sources.
Application to USCIS From Within the U.S.
Individuals already in the U.S. may apply for a change of status to TN, or an extension of TN status, by filing an employer-sponsored petition with USCIS. This option is more expensive and more time-consuming (see application fees and processing times), but eliminates the need for travel to Canada or Mexico. ISSS can prepare TN petitions for submission to USCIS. Departments should initiate the process using the same procedures for H-1B applications.