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Work Visas / Work Authorization
TN "Trade NAFTA" classification is available to qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens pursuant to the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). TN status is granted up to three years at a time. Currently there is no limit to TN stay in the U.S. However, an individual in TN status must maintain an intent to return to his or her home country. Thus, it is wise to consider other work authorization status options with HR and Fennemore Craig before any permanent residence process is started.
1) Who is eligible for TN classification?
TN status is available only to citizens of Canada and Mexico. TN applicants must be offered a temporary position in one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 to Annex 1603 of the NAFTA. The list of professions includes, among others, Engineer, Computer Systems Analyst, Accountant, and Scientific Technologist. Most of the listed TN professions require a minimum of a bachelor's degree in the specialized field, but in contrast to the H-1B category, work experience equivalent to a degree is not recognized.
2) How is a TN Visa application processed?
The TN application process cannot begin until the offer of employment is made and accepted. Although the TN classification is available to Canadian and Mexican nationals, the application process and timing is different for each.
As with all work authorization status types, TN status must be renewed or extended prior to the expiration of the employee's current TN status (evidenced by the expiration date of the I-94 card).
Canadian nationals with plans to travel outside the United States in the weeks or months immediately before the expiration of their current TN status may make a new application for admission in TN status at a U.S. port of entry or pre-flight inspection. Upon reentry, the TN employee can be admitted for up to three more years of stay in TN status.
Where a border application is not an option, TN employees must have an extension filed by the employer at the Vermont Service Center before the current status expires in order to preserve his/her right to continue to work at the company. Once the TN extension request has been filed, the employee will have continued work authorization for up to 240 days or upon USCIS approval of the extension, whichever comes sooner. In the event of international travel (including to Canada or Mexico) while the extension application is pending, another TN application would need to be submitted upon reentry.
The employee should contact HR or Fennemore Craig approximately four months prior to expiration of their current TN status to ensure sufficient time remains to process an extension.