General Information

The TN (Trade NAFTA) category was developed as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to facilitate the entry of Canadian and Mexican Citizens to the United States (US) in order to engage in professional activities on a temporary basis.

The US Department of State (DOS) has issued a list of the professional occupations and minimum qualifications which serves as the basis for TN employment. Direct information about the TN category may be found at INA§214(e)(2), and at 8CFR§214.6.

Please note that the TN category is only available to citizens of Canada or Mexico. Landed immigrants or permanent residents of Canada or Mexico are not eligible, since the NAFTA and INA have made provision only for citizens of these two countries.

Length of Employment

Canadian and Mexican citizens may be admitted to the US in TN status for a period of three years to participate in a qualifying activity; however, there is no cumulative total limit on the time a Canadian or Mexican citizens can be in TN status.

Extensions of stay may also be granted in increments of up to three years, provided that the TN nonimmigrant is able to demonstrate that s/he does not intend to remain or work permanently in the US. Candidates for tenure-track positions are asked to consult with the ISO on different immigration classifications which would allow permanent employment.

TN Process When Outside of U.S.

*Initial processing requirements differ for Canadians and Mexicans

-- A Canadian citizen does not require a TN entry visa in his/her passport. A  Canadian simply presents the required supporting documentation at a U.S. port of entry.

-- A Mexican citizen must obtain a TN entry visa in his/her passport from a U.S.  Consulate or Embassy before being eligible for admission to the U.S. in TN status.  Otherwise, the application process is the same. 

Application for entry in TN status is made at a port of entry (at an airport handling international traffic or at a pre-clearance/pre-flight station directly upon entering the U.S.). At that time, the prospective TN status applicant must present the required documentation listed below. The TN applicant will complete the required US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) forms and only Canadian citizens ( not Mexicans) will pay fee ($56 must be USD). The TN status will be adjudicated on the spot at a port of entry, and the TN applicant will be admitted to the US in TN status. The back of the TN I-94 card should be annotated with the name of the employer (and/or position title) by the DHS officer.

Required Documentation

Please be prepared to present the following documentation upon arrival to the U.S.:

-- Proof of Canadian/Mexican citizenship

-- Detailed letter from employer on Southeastern letterhead, written by the TN

applicant's supervisor or the Department Head or Dean.

           The letter should:

  • Affirm that the applicant's profession is one listed in the NAFTA agreement. This should be a direct statement specifically placing the employment within one of the occupations listed.

  • Describe the duties the applicant will perform in the U.S.

  • Reference the anticipated length of stay

  • Describe the arrangements for payment for the services to be rendered, including benefits.

  • Confirm that the applicant meets the relevant license and/or educational requirements

-- Evidence that the individual has the required credentials for the profession as stated in the NAFTA Agreement.This proof can be in the form of diplomas, transcripts, licenses, certificates, or other documentation. DHS has the right to see these documents in original form, or certified copies. The ISO strongly recommends that credentials obtained outside of Canada or the U.S. be accompanied by a credential evaluation. Furthermore, credentials in a foreign language must be translated into English.

-- A statement that the purpose of entry to the US is temporary. Although this may be set forth in the employer's letter, the applicant should also articulate it at the time of admission. This is usually satisfied by including the beginning and end dates of employment in the employer's letter.

 -- Filing fees of $56 (Mexican citizens are exempt from this change, and the fee is subject to change).


TN Processing Within the U.S.

To pursue an extension or change of status to TN within the US, the hiring department must work with the ISO. If processing from within the US, it will involve a filing of a US government petition by the employer, not by the TN employee. The government processing time will be 2-6 months, compared to immediate processing if done at the border.

The hiring departments and the foreign nationals are not authorized to file their own TN I-129 petitions. Such petitions must be filed by the ISO.

NOTE: While it may be possible to change/extend status to TN within the US, the process is costly and more time-consuming than applying for TN status at a port of entry. Thus, TN processing from within the U.S. is not recommended.

Employment Restrictions

The TN is specific to the employer and job/position for an individual TN employee. TN employment authorized for Southeastern does not allow employment with another department at Southeastern, at another location, or for a different employer.

Consult the ISO prior to any changes in the individual's employment, such as change in title, academic degree required for position, number of hours worked, department, location, or position duties. In some cases, an amended petition will have to be filed with DHS.

Please note that failure to consult the ISO may put Southeastern and the individual employee at risk for sanctions and penalties by DHS or DOL.

TN employees are not allowed to accept honoraria or payment from outside sources.


Travel in TN Status

TN employees should always consult with the ISO before traveling outside the US. Furthermore, employees requesting a change of status to TN within the US should not leave the US while the petition is pending; DHS considers leaving the US while a petition is pending to be an abandonment of the petition.


Change of Employer

If an individual is already in the US and in TN status but is sponsored by another employer and wishes to start employment at Southeastern, s/he must obtain a new TN status that is specific to Southeastern employment. The individual must not begin working for the university until Southeastern's TN is approved.


Completion of TN Employment

Unfortunately there is no grace period for the TN employees. So, the individual is expected to leave the US on the last day of employment.


Useful Links for TN

NAFTA List of Professions:

Customs and Border Protection (CBP):