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 in order to engage in professional activities on a temporary basis.

  • The U.S. 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.

Application & Process Information

  • TN Processing from within the U.S.
  • NOTE: There will be a processing fee assessed to "within the U.S." TN processing through USCIS starting 1/1/2013.   The $500 fee will be assessed to initial and any subsequent applications.

    • To pursue an extension or change of status to TN within the U.S., the hiring department must work with ISSS. 
    • If processing from within the U.S., it will involve a filing of a U.S. 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 ISSS.

    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 US is not recommended.

  • TN Processing Outside the 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 US port of entry.
    • A Mexican citizen must obtain a TN entry visa in his/her passport from a US Consulate or Embassy before being eligible for admission to the US 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 US). 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 fees ($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 US:

    • Proof of Canadian / Mexican Citizenship
    • Detailed letter from the employer on Penn department letterhead, written by the TN applicant’s supervisor or the Chair of the Department.
    • 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.
        • For example, "Dr. Smith will be employed as a Biologist in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. His title will be Postdoctoral Researcher."
      • Describe the duties the applicant will perform in the US.
      • Reference the anticipated length of stay.
        • For example, "This position is for 40 hours per week and begins on December 1, 2009 and ends on November 30, 2011; it may be renewed based on successful performance."
      • Describe the arrangements for payment for the services to be rendered, including benefits.
        • For example, "Dr. Smith will be paid on a monthly basis at an annual salary of $xx, and he will receive the standard University benefits package."
      • 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 request to see these documents in original form, or certified copies. ISSS strongly recommends that credentials obtained outside Canada or the US are accompanied by a credentials evaluation. Furthermore, credentials in a foreign language (including Latin) 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 ending dates of employment in the employer's letter.
      • For example, "This appointment is temporary, for two years, from December 1, 2009 to November 30, 2011, renewable upon satisfactory performance."
    • Filing fees of $56 (Mexican citizens are exempt from this fee, and the fee is subject to change).

Conditions & Reminders

  • Period of TN Employment
    • Canadian and Mexican citizens may be admitted to the U.S. 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 U.S.
    • Candidates for tenure-track positions are asked to consult with ISSS on different immigration classifications which would allow permanent employment.
  • TN Employment Restrictions
    • The TN is specific to the employer and job/position for an individual TN employee. TN employment authorized for Penn does not allow employment with another department at Penn, at another location, or for a different employer.
    • Consult ISSS 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 ISSS may put Penn 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 ISSS before traveling outside the U.S.  
    • Furthermore, employees requesting a change of status to TN within the U.S. should not leave the U.S. while the petition is pending; DHS considers leaving the U.S. while a petition is pending to be an abandonment of the petition.
  • Change of TN Employer
    • If an individual is already in the U.S. and in TN status but is sponsored by another employer and wishes to start employment at Penn, s/he must obtain a new TN status that is specific to Penn employment.
    • The individual must not begin working for Penn until Penn’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 U.S. on the last day of employment.

TD Dependents

  • TD Dependent Status
    • The spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) of the TN status holder are eligible for TD (Trade NAFTA Dependent) dependent status.
    • Unlike TN status, TD status is not limited to citizens of Canada and Mexico.
    • To obtain TD status, a dependent must either:
      • Apply for an TD visa stamp at the US Embassy or Consulate overseas. Canadian citizens are visa exempt. Upon entry to the US, dependents must present a copy of TN’s immigration documents, his/her passport and his/her TD visa stamp (accompanied by any supporting documents) at the US Port of Entry in order to gain TD status; or
      • Apply for a Change of Status in the US.  Meet with an ISSS advisor for further details.
    • TD dependents may study in the US, as long as their primary purpose in the US is to accompany the TN status holder.  However, the duration of their study depends on the TN’s period of stay.
    • TD dependents are not eligible to work in the US. 
    • If the TN is eligible and applies for an extension of stay, the TD dependent may also apply for an extension along with the TN status holder before the expiration of TD status.
    • A child may not continue to hold TD status upon reaching his or her 21st birthday.

Processing Fee Starting 1/1/2013:

ISSS recommends obtaining TN status by traveling for immigration processing at the port of entry.

If the TN employee does not want to travel, ISSS will need to file an I-129 Petition with USCIS.  In such cases, there will be an internal processing fee of $500 for initial and any subsequent applications.  The fee will be assessed to any complete TN applications received at ISSS on or after 1/1/2013