TN Status Allowing Canadian and Mexican Professionals to Legally Enter the U.S.
The TN non-immigrant classification allows a Canadian or Mexican citizen in a professional occupation to temporarily come to the U.S. based on a job offer by a U.S. employer. Although the status lasts for no more than three years, the foreign national can renew it in three-year increments indefinitely. USCIS does not impose a cap on TN status recipients, but an applicant must show that they have a job offer from a U.S. employer, they fall within one of the permitted types of occupations on the NAFTA list, and they are not inadmissible under immigration laws. TN classification offers a more efficient way of getting legal status in the U.S. than applying for many other types of work visas. TN professionals may bring a spouse or child to the U.S., although they will not be able to get work authorization in the U.S. (TN professionals must provide proof of their relationship with the spouse or child, such as a marriage or birth certificate.)
Canadian citizens do not need to obtain a visa for admission to the U.S. as a TN non-immigrant. Instead, a Canadian citizen can go to a border crossing or another port of entry, such as an airport, and ask a Customs and Border Protection officer to review their application for TN non-immigrant status. If the CBP officer approves their application, they will obtain their TN status immediately and continue into the U.S. They also must pay a small fee. They will receive an I-94 in paper or electronic form. Checking the information on this form is important to ensure that any errors are corrected promptly.
Mexican citizens must obtain a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate in Mexico to enter the U.S. as a TN non-immigrant. After their visa is approved, they may apply for admission at a CBP-designated U.S. port of entry or pre-clearance or pre-flight inspection station.
Professionals eligible for TN status include engineers, accountants, scientists, pharmacists, teachers, and lawyers.
Documents Required for TN Admission
Canadian citizens must provide proof of their Canadian citizenship and a letter from their prospective employer explaining the professional role, the purpose of employment, the length of their stay, and their professional qualifications. They should also provide documentation supporting their professional qualifications. This often consists of college diplomas, professional licenses, or memberships in professional associations. Even if an employer or lawyer has compiled an applicant’s packet, the applicant should make sure that they know what it contains so that they can discuss it knowledgeably with the CBP officer. If their employer has submitted Form I-129, Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker to USCIS on their behalf, they should also bring the Approval Notice from USCIS as well as a copy of the Form I-129 and all supporting documents.
Mexican citizens must first obtain a visa by completing Form DS-160, Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. Mexican visa applicants are generally required to schedule a U.S. embassy or consulate interview at which they should present the printed online application confirmation. Applicants should also bring a valid passport, receipts for any application fees they have paid, a photograph if they could not upload one with their online application, a contract or letter of employment from an employer in the U.S., and documentation that they meet NAFTA’s minimum education or work experience requirements, such as a degree, diploma, or professional license.
To extend an individual’s TN status without leaving the U.S., an employer can submit Form I-129 to USCIS, while including documents similar to those used in the initial application. The individual can also leave before their original TN status expires and then apply at a CBP-designated port of entry or pre-clearance or pre-flight inspection station with the same application and documentation procedures applicable to their initial application.
Spouses and Dependents
Canadian citizen spouses or dependents of TN non-immigrants do not need a visa to apply for admission to the U.S., but they will need proof of their Canadian citizenship, proof of their relationship to the TN non-immigrant, copies of the TN non-immigrant’s admission documents, and proof that the TN non-immigrant is maintaining their status. Mexican citizen spouses or dependents must apply for a TD non-immigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate and provide proof that the TN non-immigrant is maintaining their status.
Denial of TN Status
If the CBP officer denies an individual TN admission, they can go home to collect more documentation to address the problem and then try again. They do not need to try again at the same border crossing or airport, but this may make the process easier. If the individual crosses at the same place, they might have their second application reviewed by the same CBP officer, who will be familiar with their situation. The name of the officer who reviewed the initial application can be found at the bottom of the CBP eligibility checklist form.
Applying for TN Status While in the U.S.
If an individual has legal status in the U.S. and has not overstayed their visa, they can ask their employer to help them adjust their status to TN status. This would involve submitting Form I-129 and paying a fee. The individual would not need to have a direct conversation with a CBP officer in this situation. Handling the process by mail can make it less stressful.