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TN-1 and TN-2: Canadian and Mexican Professionals under NAFTA

Summary

The TN category was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement ("NAFTA"), and applies to Canadian and Mexican professionals and management consultants coming to the United States temporarily to work in a designated professional capacity.

The U.S. visa classification assigned to Canadians who qualify under NAFTA is "TN-1;" the "TN-2" classification is assigned to Mexicans.

Who Qualifies as a Professional?

NAFTA refers to Canadian and Mexican citizens who seek "temporary entry" to engage in "activities at the professional level."  Temporary entry means without the intent to establish permanent residence in the United States.  Activities at the professional level are those undertakings that require at least a baccalaureate degree or other appropriate credential demonstrating professional status.  Canadian and Mexican citizens must prove that they fall into an occupation listed in an "Appendix."  Appendix 1603.D.1 describes the professions for which TN classification may be granted. TN Professional Occupations List

Application and Admission Procedures for Canadians

Because Canadian citizens do not need visas to enter the United States, they may apply for TN status directly at a U.S. port-of-entry.  Application for admission must be made in person to a U.S. immigration officer at most ports of entry, at selected U.S. airports handling international traffic, or at selected pre-clearance inspection stations at airports outside the United States.  If admitted, the Canadian is issued a Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.  The I-94 indicates the date and place of entry, the date on which the authorized stay expires (not to exceed an initial period of three years), and the visa category entry symbol "TN" or "TN-1."  An application fee of $50 (U.S.) must be paid.  There is also a $6 (U.S.) document preparation fee (unless the TN applicant travels to the U.S. by commercial airline in which case the $6 document preparation fee is usually included in the cost of the airline ticket).

Application and Admission Procedures for Mexicans

Unlike Canadian citizens, Mexican citizens must obtain a visa before seeking admission to the United States in TN classification.  Mexicans must schedule a visa appointment at an U.S. consulate or embassy.  In theory, a visa appointment may be scheduled at any U.S. consulate in the world but the better approach is to schedule an appointment at a U.S. consulate in Mexico.  Information and instructions about applying for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. consulate can be found on the specific U.S. consulate’s website.  A list of U.S. consulates and their websites can be found at www.usembassy.gov.

Once a TN visa is issued, the TN visa holder may apply for admission to the United States at a U.S. port-of-entry.  No additional fees apply for Mexican citizens.  If the visa holder is admitted to the United States, he or she is issued a Form I-94 Arrival-Departure Record.

Documents Needed for Visa Issuance and for Admission to the United States
  1. Proof of Citizenship.  All applicants must establish their citizenship.  The best evidence is a passport.
  1. Visa.  Mexican citizens must present their valid TN visa issued by the U.S. consulate. 
  1. Documentation demonstrating engagement in business activities at a professional level and showing professional qualifications.  This is a two-fold requirement:
  • proof that the activity is professional; and
  • proof that the applicant qualifies as a professional person.

The evidence must affirm: the professional activity to be engaged in; the purpose of entry; the anticipated length of stay; the educational qualifications or credentials proving that the applicant has professional-level status; and the arrangements for remuneration for services to be rendered.

Readmission

If the applicant is seeking readmission to the U.S. after having been previously admitted in TN status, he/she may be readmitted for the remainder of the period authorized on her/his Form I-94.  The documentation presented as part of the initial application for a TN visa or for TN admission is not required for (subsequent) readmission, PROVIDED that the originally intended business activities and the employer(s) have not changed.

Extension Procedure

An application for an "extension of stay" means a request for additional time to remain in the United States after admission.  The request must be made to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in the United States and must be accompanied by, among other documents, an explanation from the U.S. employer.  The application must be filed before the applicant's permission to remain in the U.S. has expired.  Extension requests may be granted for periods of up to three years.

Change or Addition of U.S. Employer(s)

If the TN applicant wishes to change or increase the number of employer(s), the applicant must obtain permission from USCIS before changing or adding employers.  Employment with a different or an additional employer is NOT authorized until USCIS approves the TN applicant’s request.

Effect of a Strike

If the U.S. Secretary of Labor certifies that a strike or other labor dispute is in progress and that the Canadian or Mexican citizen's entry in TN status might adversely affect the settlement of the dispute or the employment of a person involved in such a dispute, the U.S. immigration authorities may refuse to admit a Canadian or Mexican citizen seeking TN classification.

Spouses and Children

Spouses and children (under 21 years of age) may accompany the principal TN applicant or may follow to join at a later time.  Spouses and children are issued a Form I-94 with an expiration date that is consistent with the principal applicant's expiration date.  Dependents are admitted in the "TD" visa category. 

Canadian Dependants 

No application or filing fee is required for spouses and unmarried children under age 21 who hold Canadian citizenship.  Canadian citizen spouses and children must present the following documents at the port-of-entry: proof of Canadian citizenship, proof of relationship to the principal applicant, and photocopies of entry documents of the principal applicant.

Non-Canadian and Mexican Dependants

Most non-Canadians and all Mexican citizen spouses and children must present valid passports and U.S. nonimmigrant visas (which must be obtained at a U.S. consulate or embassy located outside the U.S.) to be admitted to the United States as TD dependents.  Spouses and children admitted in the TD category may not work in the U.S.

Employment Termination or Layoff

TN status generally terminates when the employment associated with that status ends. Dependents also lose their TD status when the principal nonimmigrant's status ends.  There is no grace period when TN status ends, so strictly speaking a nonimmigrant is immediately "out of status" beginning upon the termination of the approved employment relationship that supported the TN status.  Being "out of status" (regardless that the expiration date on the nonimmigrant's Form l-94 might not yet have arrived) means that the U.S. government may detain the nonimmigrant and/or begin removal (deportation) proceedings.

 

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