TN Professionals under NAFTA-Office of International Education - Carnegie Mellon University

TN Professionals under NAFTA

Click here to download OIE's TN handout (.pdf)

The TN (Trade NAFTA) category was developed as a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican citizens to the U.S. to engage in certain professional business activities on a temporary basis. For more information and a list of the TN professional fields, visit the US Department of State website or visit the or visit the USCIS website.

An advantage of TN status is that there is no upper limit on the length of time that an individual may remain working in TN status and there is no numerical limit on the number of new Canadian or Mexican TN applications. For Canadians, TN status is quick to obtain at the border or port of entry.

Disadvantages of the TN include (1) it is only valid for a limited number of occupations, (2) TN status is only available to citizens of Canada or Mexico, and (3) since it is meant to be temporary, tenure-track or tenured professors may have difficulty in obtaining TN status. Canadians do not require a visa stamp. For Mexicans, a TN worker must have a TN visa from a US consulate to enter the US. TN’s are admitted to the US for up to three years at a time.

The most common fields or occupations used by TN employees at the University are:
  • Research assistant
  • Scientist (many but not all fields are listed)
  • College and University Teacher

OIE encourages new TN workers to attend OIE's weekly New Scholar Orientation sessions held each week on Thursday, from 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM. Call OIE at (412) 268-5231 for more information or to schedule attendance. TN workers should bring their passport and I-94 card or print out of the I-94 from the Customs & Border Protection (CBP) website to the meeting.

For Canadian citizens, the process is relatively simple and quick. (Note that "landed immigrants" of Canada (e.g. permanent residents) can not use TN status.) Canadians apply for TN status at the point of entry to the US (land border or airport) and bring with them:
  1. Proof of Canadian citizenship
  2. Letter (sample follows below) or contract from the employer that outlines….
    • Job description (must be one of the professions listed on the NAFTA list)
    • Anticipated duration of stay
    • Qualifications required for the job
    • Terms of employment (salary, hours, etc.)
    • Evidence that s/he meets applicable licensure requirements for the position
  3. Professional qualifications (diplomas, licenses, etc.)
  4. Application fee

For employment and payroll purposes, Canadians will present an I-94 card stamped and notated with "TN" with an expiration date (not more than three years after entry.) The name of the specific employer should be written next to the stamp on the I-94 card and/or in the passport. If the person will work for two or more employers, there should be a stamp and entry recorded for each employer. The employee will also have a passport and social security number but will not have a visa stamp.

TN status is "employer specific." Therefore, a Canadian in TN status who wants to change employers is obliged to exit the US and present new TN documents to the US border officer at the port or entry in order to be readmitted to the US in TN status for any new or additional employer.

Most Canadians "extend" TN status by travelling to or flying across the US/Canada border and re-entering the US with a letter from the employer requesting renewal of the TN status. Other documentation (including diplomas, etc.) should also be carried at the time of renewal. If successful, the employee is provided with a new I-94 card marked with a new expiration date. Individuals may also apply for an extension of status by applying to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) however, this can take several months to process therefore travel to the border is usually preferred.

Canadians who will travel to a country other than Canada are advised to travel "fully documented." This includes a copy of the I-94, proof of current employment, and a copy of academic document(s). Unlike travel to and from Canada when the I-94 is generally left in the passport, the I-94 will likely be removed when the employee exits the US to travel to another (non-Canadian) foreign country. In this case, the visitor may be obliged to prove eligibility for TN status upon reentry to the US.

Mexican citizens must obtain a TN visa at a US consulate in order to be admitted to the US in TN status. Instructions from the US Department of State (USDOS) indicate that a Mexican TN applicant must submit documents to the US Consulate to support the TN visa application:
  1. Proof of Mexican citizenship (usually, the passport)
  2. Letter or contract from the employer that outlines the job description (must be one of the professions listed on the NAFTA list), anticipated duration of stay, qualifications required for the job, terms of employment (salary, hours, etc.) and evidence that s/he meets licensure requirements for the position.
  3. Professional qualifications (diplomas, licenses, etc.)
  4. Application fee

Sample TN Letter (.pdf)

Last Updated: March 10, 2017