TN Mexican and Canadian NAFTA professional workers

TN Mexican and Canadian NAFTA professional workers

The TN nonimmigrant classification is used for professionals working in the U.S. under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, known as USMCA and formerly known as NAFTA. The nonimmigrant TN visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico to come to the U.S. to engage in specified professional activities under the provisions of the USMCA that require at least a bachelor’s degree or appropriate credentials demonstrating status as a professional. Only certain occupations may serve as the basis for receiving TN status to work in the U.S.

Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not eligible to apply to work as a USMCA professional. Also, a Canadian residing in another country with a non-Canadian spouse and children would need a visa to enable the dependent family members to be able to apply for a visa to accompany or join the TN professional as a TD visa holder.

Canadian and Mexican citizens may enter the U.S. in TN status for up to three years. TN status can be extended up to three additional years at a time, and there are no specific limits on TN status.

A prospective employee may apply for TN status at a pre-flight inspection location or a U.S. port of entry. If the person is already in the U.S., the ISSC can file a TN petition with USCIS.

Sponsoring TN employment Back to top

Step 1: ASU job offer

ASU may file an H-1B petition on behalf of a prospective employee when a job offer from ASU has been accepted via offer letter.

Step 2: Determine TN eligibility

ASU can sponsor a foreign national for TN status if all of the following requirements are met:

  • The foreign national is a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  • The job falls within one of the USMCA professions.
  • The foreign national possesses the required education and skills for the USMCA procession.
  • The position requires an individual in that professional capacity.

Mexican citizens

Mexican citizens must apply for and obtain a TN visa at a U.S. consulate before being admitted into the U.S. in TN status.

Canadian citizens

Canadian citizens will apply for TN status at pre-flight inspection or a U.S. port of entry. They do not need to obtain a U.S. visa before being admitted into the U.S. in TN status. A Canadian residing in another country with non-Canadian dependents would need a visa to enable the spouse and children to be able to apply for a visa.

The International Students and Scholars Center processes TN requests on behalf of foreign nationals sponsored by ASU, and coordinates the TN process for university staff positions sponsored by ASU, which are then handled by outside legal counsel. Please note: Permanent residents, including Canadian permanent residents, are not eligible to apply to work as TN professionals.

Step 3: Submit the TN request

The TN process begins when the ASU sponsoring department submits a complete and accurate TN Request Packet to the ISSC. Please contact the ISSC (InternationalScholars@asu.edu) for the current TN Request Packet.

Foreign nationals have two options to obtain TN status:

  1. Apply for a TN visa to the U.S. from a U.S. consulate abroad. (Applies only to Mexican citizens; Canadian citizens are visa-exempt).
  2. File a TN petition with USCIS if they are in the U.S.

Required documents

Department documents
  1. TN request memo.
  2. Department support letter.
  3. Copy of offer letter.
Beneficiary documents
  1. Copy of diploma and transcript for the highest relevant degree.
  2. Certification of Translation (if applicable).
  3. Copy of an official foreign academic credential evaluation for the highest relevant degree if earned from a foreign university (if applicable).
  4. All But Dissertation (ABD) letter (if applicable).
  5. Copy of most recent CV.
  6. Copy of valid passport identification page.
  7. Copy of most recent visa (applies only to Mexican citizens) and most recent entry stamp(s), including entries in TN status (if applicable).
  8. Copy of most recent I-94 document.
  9. Copy of any previously issued Forms DS-2019/AP-66 and J visas for any time spent in J status (if applicable).
  10. Copy of three most recent pay stubs (if applicable).
  11. Document certification.

Processing timeline

TN petition requests from inside the U.S. under regular processing generally take USCIS several months to adjudicate.

  • Canadian citizens outside the U.S. do NOT need to apply for TN visas at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
  • Mexican citizens outside the U.S. are REQUIRED to obtain TN visas at a U.S. consulate or embassy.
    • Prospective TN employees and sponsoring departments should consider the waiting periods for visa interview appointments and visa issuance.

Fees

  • Form I-129 TN filing fee: $460.
  • Form I-907 premium processing (optional): $2,500.
    • Under regular processing, it generally takes three to six months for USCIS to adjudicate TN petitions.
    • If premium processing service is requested, USCIS will expedite the adjudication process and issue a decision on the petition in 15 calendar days.

TN inside the U.S.

This option is generally appropriate when the employee is already inside the U.S. and cannot depart and re-enter to begin TN employment. The request should be submitted as soon as possible so that the ISSC can prepare and file the TN petition with USCIS.

A decision can be an approval, request for evidence (RFE) or denial.

USCIS can issue an RFE or deny a petition or application at its discretion when the initial documentation provided is not deemed sufficient for approval. USCIS will issue a receipt notice that confirms the TN petition has been received, which generally takes about one to two weeks.

While the petition is pending, foreign nationals and departments can check the case status using the receipt notice number and view current processing times on the USCIS website.

Let the ISSC (InternationalScholars@asu.edu) know if the employee has plans to travel outside the U.S. while the TN petition is pending. Also notify us if the TN employee has family members who may require a TD extension or change of status. If needed, please include their documents and filing fee check(s) in the TD Request Packet.

TN outside the U.S.

This option is most appropriate when the employee is outside the U.S. and will begin TN employment by applying for admission at a U.S. port of entry.

To apply for and facilitate TN entry at a pre-flight inspection location or a U.S. port of entry, employees should bring the following items:

  • Application fee (Canadian citizens).
  • Valid TN visa in passport (Mexican citizens only; Canadian citizens are visa-exempt).
  • Valid passport.
  • Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship (if employee does not hold a Canadian or Mexican passport).
  • Employment offer letter.
  • Department support letter.
  • Documentation of licensure (if required).
  • Evidence of qualifications (such as diploma, transcript, foreign academic credential evaluation if applicable, CV, etc.).
  • TD dependent family member admission documents.

Mexican citizens

The employee must have a valid TN visa from a U.S. consulate to apply for TN admission at pre-flight inspection or a U.S. port of entry. An employee who already has a TN visa that will be valid on the date of arrival in the U.S. does not need to apply for a new TN visa.

To apply for a TN visa, the employee should visit the U.S. Department of State’s embassies and consulates website to view the visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview. It is best to try to apply at the U.S. embassy or consulate having jurisdiction over the place of residence, although they may apply at any U.S. embassy or consulate worldwide that allows TN visa applications from third-country nationals.

TN visa application requirements vary by consulates and embassies, and the employee should check directly with the specific U.S. consulate or embassy on the requirements for the visa application.

In general, TN visa applications must include:

  • DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page.
  • Visa interview appointment confirmation page.
  • Proof of payment of visa fees.
  • Passport-style photo(s) that meet DOS nonimmigrant visa photo requirements.
  • Valid passport.
  • ASU offer letter and department support letter that include:
    • Job description.
    • Anticipated length of employment (duration may not exceed three years).
    • Qualifications needed for the position.
    • Terms of employment (salary, hours, worksite location, etc.).
  • Evidence of any applicable licensure requirements for the position.
  • Evidence of qualifications (such as diploma, transcript, foreign academic credential evaluation if applicable, CV, etc.).
  • Any other documents required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate.

Foreign nationals are required to have a valid TN visa (stamp on the passport) in order to enter the U.S. If the employee has any family members who will come to the U.S. as dependents, please view the TD outside the U.S. section below.

Foreign nationals are not guaranteed admittance to the U. S. A Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry will review all documents and ask about the reason for entry. These officers have the discretion to admit a person in TN status and any family members in TD status or refer them to a more detailed secondary inspection.

When the TN employee is admitted into the U.S., all documents should be returned and an admission date should be placed in the passport with the notation “TN” (worker) or “TD” (dependent) and a date indicating the period of authorized stay in the U.S. It is good practice to access and print the I-94 arrival record on CBP’s I-94 website. The admission stamp and the I-94 printout are proof of admission and legal immigration status in the U.S.

Foreign national employees and their family members should keep copies of their passport identification/expiration pages, visas, admission stamps and I-94 records permanently in case any of these documents are lost or stolen.



TD dependents Back to top

Eligible family members do not need to be Canadian or Mexican citizens to qualify for TD dependent status. TD status is contingent upon the continued validity of the principal TN employee.

Spouses of TN employees and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible for TD status. Children may not remain in the U.S. once they turn 21 unless they change to a different nonimmigrant visa status such as F-1 student or B-2 visitor.

Foreign nationals have two options to obtain TD status:

  • If they are outside the U.S.:
    • Apply for a TD visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate (applies to Mexican citizens only; Canadian citizens are visa-exempt) and then apply for TD admission at pre-flight inspection or at a U.S. port of entry.
  • If they are already in the U.S.:
    • File an I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status with USCIS.

TD inside the U.S.

This option is generally appropriate when the family members are already in the U.S. and require a change of status to TD or an extension of their TD status. As a courtesy, the ISSC will file the I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status Concurrently with the I-129TN Petition of family members who are already in the U.S. in a qualifying status.

If filing for dependents, the TN beneficiary is responsible for providing the following documents and filing fees to the ISSC:

  • Completed Form I-539 and I-539A Supplement (if applicable).
  • Copy of current U.S. visa in passport (if applicable).
  • Copy of current I-94 document.
  • Copy of Form DS-2019, I-20 or I-797A/I-797B Approval Notice (if applicable).
  • Copy of passport identification page.
  • Copy of marriage certificate for spouse.
  • Copy of birth certificate for each child.
  • Copies of any other required documents listed on the I-539 instructions.

Fees for dependents

  • Form I-539 Application / I-539A Supplement: $370
    • Paid by beneficiary, single fee for one application for all dependents.
  • Biometrics: $85
    • Paid by beneficiary for each applicant.

If the TN’s spouse is applying for TD status, the spouse should complete Form I-539 with their own information. If there are dependent children applying for TD status, a Form I-539A Supplement should be completed for each child. If only minor children are applying for TD status, the oldest child’s information should be entered on Form I-539 and each additional child’s information should be entered on Form I-539A.

Children 14 years of age or older may sign for themselves, but a parent may sign for children younger than 14 years of age.

TD outside the U.S.

This option is most appropriate when the family members are outside the U.S. and will enter as TD dependents, or when they are in the U.S. but plan to depart before the current status expires and then return with TD status.

Mexican citizens

To apply for a TD visa, the family member (Mexican citizens only; Canadian citizens are visa-exempt) should visit the U.S. Department of State’s embassies and consulates website to view the visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview.

TD visa application requirements vary by embassy and consulate, and the dependent family member should check directly with the specific U.S. embassy or consulate on the requirements for the visa application.

In general, TN visa applications must include:

  • DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page.
  • Visa interview appointment confirmation page.
  • Proof of payment of visa fees.
  • Passport-style photo(s) that meet DOS nonimmigrant visa photo requirements.
  • Valid passport.
  • Evidence of relationship to the TN employee: marriage certificate for spouse, birth certificate for each child.
  • Evidence of the TN employee’s status.
  • Any other documents required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate.

Study for TD dependents

TN dependents are allowed to study in the U.S. The duration of study is contingent on the TN employee’s period of stay.

Employment for TD dependents

TD dependents are not eligible for employment authorization.

Maintaining TN compliance Back to top

Arriving at ASU

TN beneficiaries sponsored by ASU, should contact the ISSC at InternationalScholars@asu.edu to schedule an appointment after arriving at ASU in order to review documents, regulations and responsibilities.

Status expiration

TN employees should not remain in the U.S. beyond the expiration date of their I-94 record or passport entry stamp unless a TN extension petition has been filed with the USCIS in a timely manner. If the I-94 expiration date was shortened on the last entry into the U.S., the employee should contact the ISSC for further guidance to comply with TN requirements. It is extremely important to be aware of the period of authorized stay. Employees must leave the U.S. on or before this date to avoid accruing unlawful presence.

Beneficiaries should always retrieve their electronic I-94 record when returning to the U.S. and verify that the information on the I-94 printout is correct. It is always good practice to confirm that the name appears as stated on the passport, the appropriate visa classification is noted (TN), and the “admit until date” at least matches or is extended for a 10-day grace period beyond the end date on the TN approval notice.

The grace period is not automatic, but may be granted on the I-94 record upon entry or on the I-94/TN Approval Notice. During this grace period, the employee may remain in the U.S. but may not continue to work.

If the I-94 is shortened due to a passport validity date, status will end on the date marked on the I-94 record rather than the TN approval notice. TN employees are advised to immediately contact the ISSC if there is an error or data inconsistency on the I-94 record, or if the end date does not match the TN approval notice. The employee may be advised to contact the CBP Deferred Inspection Office in an attempt to change the I-94 record to a correct date.

TN duration and extensions

An initial period of up to three years of TN status can be granted by the CBP at a U.S. port of entry or by a petition filed with the USCIS. TN status can be extended up to three years at a time, and there are no specific limits in TN status.

However, the TN employee will need to show that employment is temporary, demonstrate ties to their home country, and prove intent to leave the U.S. Therefore, if the worker remains in the U.S. in TN status for a long period of time, they may eventually have difficulty qualifying for TN status.

It is the sponsoring department’s responsibility to notify the ISSC if it intends to extend TN status for its employee beyond the end date of the current TN. A TN extension request can be filed as early as six months prior to the current TN expiration date.

Original TN approval notice

The original I-797 TN Approval Notice is issued to Arizona State University as the employer who filed the I-129 TN petition on behalf of the employee and is maintained at the ISSC.

Material changes to employment

TN work authorization is employer-specific and covers only the particular position for which TN status was approved. The ISSC will determine whether or not an amended petition needs to be filed with the USCIS to indicate the updated job position information.

If TN employment is terminated for any reason, the ISSC must be notified immediately so that we can cancel the remaining TN with USCIS (if applicable).

Please immediately inform the ISSC before any material changes to the original job position take place, such as:

  • Job title.
  • Job duties.
  • Salary.
  • Worksite location.
  • Number of hours from full-time to less than full-time employment.

Traveling while petition is pending

The TN employee must be physically present in the U.S. at the time a petition is filed. After filing, it is not advisable for TN employees to travel abroad while the petition is pending.

Change of address

It is the responsibility of the TN employee to file a change of address with USCIS within 10 days of moving to a new home address in the U.S. by filing Form AR-11 on the USCIS website. Employees should retain a copy of the completed form for their files.

See FAQs about TN