In accordance with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) a designated group of professionals are admissible for employment in the U.S. under NAFTA without the requirement of an approved United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) petition. The nonimmigrant NAFTA Professional (TN) status allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States for up to three years. These professionals can enter the United States by providing documentation at the port of entry or U.S. consulate abroad that they will be engaged in one of the designated professions (see NAFTA Professional Job Series List).
Procedures for Admission
Canadian professionals seeking admission to the U.S. in the TN category must present the case for admission at the port of entry. The major ports of entry now have NAFTA officers designated by USCIS. Mexican professionals seeking admission to the U.S. in the TN category must apply for a TN visa at a consular section abroad. There are specific requirements for Canadian and Mexican citizens wishing to apply for TN status (see TN Application Requirements).
In general, the application will include the following (see TN Application Requirements for specific instructions):
- Proof of Canadian/Mexican citizenship
- Evidence that the intended U.S. activity is one listed in the NAFTA Professional Job Series List (Schedule 2) of the U.S.-Canada-Mexico Free Trade Agreement:
- A letter from the U.S. employer describing the nature of the U.S. activity
- Copy of the NAFTA Professional Job Series List (Schedule 2)
- Proof of a required bachelor's or higher degree is required, or proof of the alternative evidence of qualification included on the list. Equivalency to a required degree through a combination of experience and education will not be accepted for TN purposes; aliens in this situation must apply for H-1 status. Certified copies of relevant university degrees and affidavits of work experience should be attached to the application. Other indications of professional status, such as membership in professional associations and licensure in a Canadian, Mexican or U.S. jurisdiction would also be appropriate.
- The letter from the employer should specify the alien's salary.
- The letter from the employer should contain an affirmation of temporariness, which should be sufficient for TN purposes.
Professionals already in the U.S. (probably in B-1, H-1, or L-1 status) can apply for TN status through an application for change of nonimmigrant status using Form I-129.
Extension of Status
Canadian or Mexican citizens admitted as a NAFTA Professional may seek an extension of stay, which may be granted for up to three years, by:
- The employer filing Form I-129 if seeking to extend status while present in the U.S.; or
- Applying at a port of entry using the same application and documentation procedures as required for the initial entry.
- While the application can be presented at the port of entry prior to a flight, many applications are complex enough and have sufficient amount of supporting documentation to require at least a few hours for evaluation. Therefore, each FTA officer has established ground rules for submission of the application. The best policy is to call the port of entry and ask for the NAFTA officer to determine the latest procedures for a TN application.
Family Members of the TN Applicant
Spouses and children (unmarried children under the age of 21) who are accompanying or following to join NAFTA Professionals (TNs) may receive a derivative TD visa status. Admission can be granted for a one-year period coinciding with the TN alien's period of admission. Canadian citizen spouses and children do not need visas; Mexican citizen spouses and children must apply for TD nonimmigrant visas at a U.S. embassy or consulate. If the spouse and children are not Canadian citizens, they must get a TD nonimmigrant visa. For specific documentation requirements for TD applicants, see Spouses and Children.
Change of Address
TN professionals are required by regulation to notify USCIS of their change of address within 10 days of the change by filing Form AR-11. The completed Form AR-11 must be sent to the Department of Homeland Security at the address listed in the form's instructions.
Change of Employer
TN status is employer-specific, so any change in employer will affect the TN professional's immigration status. A change of employer for a TN necessitates reapplication for TN status.
TN status holders may have more than one job, but USCIS must approve all employment prior to its commencement.