TN status allows Canadians and Mexicans to temporarily work as professionals in prearranged business activities in the United States.
The TN non-immigrant classification allows qualified citizens of Canada and Mexico to seek admission to the United States as engineers, accountants, pharmacists, lawyers, teachers, scientists, and many other professional occupations.
Chapter 16 of Appendix 2 in the United States-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) Agreement has listed the occupations eligible for TN status. Unless an exemption is listed, the applicant must also present a licensure or bachelor’s degree from a university or college.
On July 1, 2020, the USMCA went into effect, replacing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). However, the TN status was largely unaffected by this new trade agreement. Further, the text NAFTA used to describe TN status was heavily reused in Chapter 16. These are the most up-to-date policies for the enforcement of TN status, and as of August 2020, no new material for it has been published.
Caution: Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S./Canada border is closed for all nonessential travel. However, those who seek TN status will still be able to get authorization to work even with the closures. Nevertheless, applicants might experience stricter border inspections to ensure that they are essential travelers. To avoid this, they may opt to travel by air.
The procedure to apply for TN status differs for Canadians and Mexicans. We have provided the procedures for each one below.
One essential element for any TN status application is to demonstrate “nonimmigrant intent.” This means that you must demonstrate to the immigration officials that you have no intention of staying in the United States permanently, and that you plan to return to your home country.
Canadian citizens do not need to apply for TN status at a United States consulate or embassy. They may simply apply for TN status at a United States port-of-entry.
You can do this by presenting all the necessary documents to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) official at a designated port-of-entry, or at a pre-flight inspection post at a Canadian airport.
An applicant must present the following to a CBP officer:
Alternatively, your prospective employer may apply for TN status on your behalf. They must file Form I-129, which is a Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Once approved, you can be admitted with TN status by a CBP official at a port-of-entry or preflight inspection post by showing:
It is wise to keep a copy of Form I-129 with supporting documents (those that were submitted to USCIS) because the CBP officer can ask questions regarding your eligibility. You may also have to pay an inspection fee.
Citizens of Mexico must apply for TN status at a U.S. consulate or embassy in Mexico.
You may need a photograph to complete your Form DS-160.
An interview must be scheduled at a U.S. consulate or embassy in Mexico.
Mexican citizens must pay a $160 application fee. You may also be required to pay an issuance fee.
The applicant must present the following documents at the interview:
TN status can be granted for 3 years. Extensions are available in 3-year increments as long as you continue to meet the requirements, and your job offer is extended.
However, TN status extensions are not easy due to the requirement to maintain “nonimmigrant intent.” In practice, immigration officials may limit TN status to fewer than three years, if the intended employment will be accomplished in less time..
It is important that the prospective employment letter request a full three-year period if necessary or desired.
TN status must be extended before expiration to remain valid. The guidelines provided below are the steps you must take to extending or reapplying for a TN visa.
Your employer can file Form I-129 with USCIS to obtain an extension of your TN status.
Employers may not apply for an extension until 6 months before your current TN status expires.
The processing time for an extension can take between 2 and 7 months. If you want a faster processing time, you may pay USCIS an additional fee for premium processing, to obtain a decision in as few as 15 calendar days.
Rather than wait for USCIS to process an extension, it is sometimes possible for an applicant to obtain an additional three years under TN status by simply traveling to a port-of-entry, where CBP can issue another period of stay
There are risks involved with this approach. One of the most common risks is that if you leave the United States and are denied TN status at a port-of-entry, you may not be permitted to reenter the United States.
If you are planning to obtain TN status, you need the help of an expert who can guide you through the process and strengthen your application. Reeves Immigration Law Group can provide you with the information and expertise you need.
We have four offices available to meet your TN status needs. If you are unable to visit one of our locations, you may consult with us by phone or via video conference. Give us a call today to explore your options.