Who is a TN?
The TN program is the immigration component of The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The TN is a non-immigrant status that is employment based. It is for Canadian and Mexican citizens coming temporarily to the United States to work in certain occupations.
The TN status is employer specific, which means the TN visa holder can work only in the position specified in the UW-Madison employment letter. An individual who has TN approval from another employer is not eligible to work at UW-Madison. An individual may work for more than one employer, but must obtain a separate TN for each employer.
Individuals on TNs sponsored by UW-Madison may not accept money, including honoraria, from any other company or employer. Individuals in TN status invited to give a lecture, collaborate, conduct research or present at other institutions can be reimbursed for reasonable living and transportation costs only.
How long can I hold TN status?
TN status may be granted for an initial period of up to three years, and this status may be extended indefinitely in three-year increments. However, upon entry to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may choose to admit you for less than 3 years at a time.
Who is eligible?
Citizens of Canada and Mexico are eligible to apply for TN status so long as you hold the appropriate professional level qualifications and the job you have in the U.S. qualifies under Schedule 2 of the NAFTA treaty. Only those professional level occupations which appear on Schedule 2 qualify.
NAFTA governs what evidence is required to prove whether a Canadian or Mexican citizen is a professional in a qualifying profession.
Who is not eligible?
An individual seeking TN status must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico. Landed immigrants or permanent residents of Canada or Mexico do not qualify.
A person in TN status may not have the intent to establish permanent residence in the U.S. TN status is, therefore, inappropriate for tenure-track or tenured positions, or for any individual who clearly has the intent to immigrate permanently.
Self-employment is not permitted in TN status.
Advantages of TN status
The primary benefit is the speed and ease of the application process. The employer does not file a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. The employee is granted the status at the port of entry with the appropriate documentation. Canadians do not need to obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate to enter, but Mexicans do.
The TN also can be beneficial if the person is subject to the two-year home residence requirement (HRR) of the J-1 visa. Obtaining TN status does not waive or eliminate the requirement (the person would still be ineligible for H, L or permanent resident status until the HRR had been either waived or complied with), but it is possible to work in the U.S. as a TN without fulfilling with the HRR.
Although the TN must be renewed every three years and may not be for permanent employment, there is no maximum number of years that a person may remain in the U.S. in TN status. Each application for extension of stay or readmission will be examined by the USCIS officer to determine if the employment is indeed temporary, but, in theory, a TN could remain in the US for many years whereas the H-1B is limited to a maximum of 6 years.
The spouse and minor children (under age 21) are admitted to the US in TD (Trade Dependent) status. Dependents do not need to be Canadian or Mexican citizens or landed immigrants in order to be given TD status.
TDs cannot work in the US under any circumstances. However, if they obtain an offer of professional employment and have the appropriate qualifications, they may apply for their own TN or H-1B status. TDs may attend school at any level, full or part time.
How do I request TN status?
The IFSS staff can assist the UW-Madison department in making the determination whether the TN visa is appropriate for an employee.
The procedures for acquiring TN status differ for Canadians and Mexicans:
- A Mexican citizen must obtain a TN visa from a U.S. consulate before being eligible to apply for admission to the United States in TN status.
- A Canadian citizen does not require a TN visa. A Canadian simply presents the required supporting documentation at a U.S. port-of-entry, and is admitted directly in TN status.