TN-NAFTA Workers

TN Overview

To begin a case for University of Alabama TN employment, please contact International Student and Scholar Services to determine if the TN is appropriate and applicable to the case. For questions about the TN classification and petition process, please contact ISSS at international@ua.edu.

OVERVIEW OF TN
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 to engage in professional business activities on a temporary basis.

Only occupations specified in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA treaty can serve as the basis for TN employment; so, TN sponsorship is not always possible for all positions at UA. Appendix 1603.D.1 also stipulates the minimum qualifications for entry into the U.S.in each occupation.  A list of requirements for each occupation can be found on the NAFSA Site.

Both Canadian and Mexican citizens can be admitted to the United States in TN status in increments of up to three-years.  Extensions of stay are also granted in up to three-year increments. There is no cumulative total limit on the time a Canadian or Mexican citizen can be in TN status. Status can be renewed indefinitely, provided that the stay remains temporary in nature (e.g. not tenure track or permanent employment).

There are two basic ways for Canadian and Mexican citizens to process the TN:

1. Apply for the TN Visa in their home country (Canadian citizens do not require a visa and may obtain TN-status at the US Port of Entry) or
2. Have The University of Alabama International Student and Scholar Services file an I-129 petition sponsoring either a change-of-status to TN or extension-of-status of TN within the United States – TN Sponsorship Packet (Only for changes-of-status, extensions, & concurrent employment filings inside the U.S.).

TN ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS

• TN-Applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico
• TN-Applicant must possess the minimum qualifications of a member of one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1
• Entry must be “temporary”
• Job must constitute “pre-arranged” professional activity for a U.S. entity, within one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1

More information about the TN Visa can be found on the Department of State Website.

TIMING OF FILING
Applying for TN Visa Status Abroad – Applying for TN status abroad (either for a TN Visa at a US Consulate for Citizens of Mexico or for TN-Status at the Port of Entry for Citizens of Canada) is often the fastest possible way to obtain TN Status since no petition must be filed with US Citizenship and Immigration Services in advance. Mexican Citizens who will apply for a visa at a US Consulate must plan at least 1 month in advance to allow enough time for obtaining an appointment for the visa interview and for visa processing. Canadian citizens who will apply for TN-status at the port-of-entry should make sure to obtain all supporting documents needed for TN determination at least 2 weeks prior to their intended entry to the US.

Filing I-129 for TN Status within the US – If The University of Alabama will process a change-of-status to TN or an extension of TN-Status within the United States, Student and Scholar Services must submit an I-129 Petition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services as early as 6 months before the intended beginning effective date of the TN. The TN application process is very long and requires much documentation from both the department and applicant.  It is recommended that departments and applicants begin any TN application, extension, or amendment which is to be filed inside the US as close to 6 months in advance of the intended start date as possible. For more information, see the TN Sponsorship Packet (Only for changes-of-status, extensions, & concurrent employment filings inside the U.S.).

TN Application & Extension

APPLYING FOR TN VISA OUTSIDE OF THE U.S. (MOST COMMON TN PROCESSING OPTION)

Instructions For Canadian Citizens
Canadian citizens can apply for admission to the United States directly with the Department of Homeland Security at a port of entry. Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa requirement in general, meaning that they do not have to get a TN (or TD-dependent) Visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

Non-Canadian dependent spouses or children of Canadian citizens are not exempt from the Visa requirement. A Canadian residing in another country with a non-Canadian spouse and child would need a TN visa to enable the spouse and child to be able to apply for a visa to accompany or join the NAFTA Professional, as a TD visa holder. Canadians applying for a visa will follow the same documentation requirements as Mexican Citizens.

Canadian citizens should provide the following information at a U.S. Port of Entry to be allowed into the United States in TN-status:

1. Provide Proof of Citizenship
2. Provide detailed letter of employment from The University of Alabama.  Letter should:

a. affirm the Appendix 1603.D.1 profession of the applicant;
b. describe the duties the applicant will perform in the U.S.;
c. reference the anticipated length of stay;
d. review the educational qualifications or credentials which demonstrate the applicant has professional-level status;
e. describe the arrangements for payment for the services to be rendered;

3. Provide evidence that the job is in one of the occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1

a. This can be in the form of a copy of the Appendix, with a statement in the UA employment letter or cover letter specifically placing the employment within one of the occupations listed;
b. The appendix list and occupation requirements can be found on the State Department Website.

4. Provide evidence that the individual has the required credentials for the job as stated in Appendix 1603.D.1

a. The TN visa applicant must present his or her credentials, including diplomas, transcripts, licenses, certificates or other documentation.  The Department of State and Department of Homeland Security have the right to request to see these documents in original form or certified copies, so the applicant should be prepared with originals or certified copies;
b. Any credentials obtained outside the U.S., Canada or Mexico should be accompanied by a credentials evaluation;
c. If the applicant is seeking to prove work experience that is necessary to meet the TN requirements, the applicant should submit letters from previous employers or business records for proof of self-employment;
d. In general, there must be a reasonable connection between the academic or professional credentials of the individual and the duties that will be performed.  If the connection is not obvious, a reasonable argument should be provided to support the application.

5. Provide statement that the purpose of the entry to the U.S. is temporary.  Although this may be set forth in UA’s employment letter, the applicant should articulate it at the time of admission

Instructions For Mexican Citizens
A Mexican citizen must obtain a TN visa, and his or her dependents must obtain a TD visa, prior to being admitted to the United States under NAFTA.  This means that Mexican citizens must make an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain the TN or TD Visa.

To apply for the TN Visa:

1. Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160.
2. A passport valid for travel to the U.S. and with a validity date at least six months beyond the applicant’s intended period of stay in the U.S.
3. One (1) 2×2 photograph. See the required photo format explained in Photograph Requirements.
4. Letter of Employment from The University of Alabama, which must indicate that the position in question in the U.S. requires the employment of a person in a professional capacity, consistent with the NAFTA Chapter 16, Annex 1603, Appendix 1603.d.1.
5. The applicant must present evidence of professional employment to satisfy the Consular Officer of your plans to be employed in prearranged business activities for The University of Alabama at a professional level. Part-time employment is permitted. Self-employment is not permitted, meaning that the TN is not appropriate for self-funded research at UA. An employment letter or contract providing a detailed description of the business activities may be provided from UA, and should state the following:

a. Activity in which the applicant shall be engaged and purpose of entry;
b. Anticipated length of stay;
c. Educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status;
d. Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws; and
e. Arrangements for pay.
NOTE: Although not required, proof of licensure to practice a given profession in the U.S. may be offered along with a job offer letter, or other documentation in support of a TN visa application.

APPLYING FOR TN CHANGE-OF-STATUS WITHIN THE U.S. (VERY UNCOMMON TN PROCESSING OPTION – PLEASE FILE TN APPLICATION PACKET)
If the Canadian or Mexican citizen is present in the United States in another nonimmigrant classification (i.e. F-1, H-1B, etc.), it is possible to file an application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services to change status to TN, without traveling outside the United States.  An individual must have a valid nonimmigrant status in order to be eligible for a change of status, and must wait until the change of status is approved before he or she begins employment in TN status.

If a Mexican citizen changes to TN within the U.S., the next time he or she exits the United States for travel, he or she must get a TN or TD visa prior to returning to the U.S. to resume work in TN status.

University of Alabama departments who wish to process a TN petition on behalf of an employee must contact International Student and Scholar Services to initiate processing.  Please be aware that a change-of-status to TN is rare since obtaining TN status at the border or abroad is often significantly faster.  For TN filing in the U.S., please see the TN Sponsorship Packet (Only for changes-of-status, extensions, & concurrent employment filings inside the U.S.).

To change status within the U.S., The University of Alabama, through International Student & Scholar Services, must petition USCIS for TN sponsorship of the employee:

• File Form I-129 (form will be completed by ISSS)
• File Nonimmigrant Classification Based on Free Trade Agreement Supplement to the Form I-129 (to be completed by ISSS)
• File I-129 Application Fee (to be paid by the department)
• Provide proof of citizenship
• Provide detailed job letter from the employer (to be provided by the department)
• Provide evidence that the job is in one of the occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1
• Provide evidence that the individual has the required credentials for the job as stated in Appendix 1603.D.1
• Provide proof of current immigration status

EXTENDING TN STATUS WITHIN THE U.S.
According to 8 C.F.R. § 274.12 (b) (20), if the TN applicant is currently in TN status with The University of Alabama, it is possible for the applicant to continue working for The University of Alabama for up to 240 days after the expiration of the current TN status as long as the TN extension was timely filed.  Timely filing means that US Citizenship and Immigration Services must receive the I-129, TN application before the expiration of the current TN. International Student and Scholar Services will authorize employment to continue as soon as the I-797 receipt notice (the official notice of application receipt from USCIS) arrives before the expiration of the current TN. For TN extension filing in the U.S., please see the TN Sponsorship Packet (Only for changes-of-status, extensions, & concurrent employment filings inside the U.S.).

TN & TD Travel Regulations

TRAVEL WITHIN THE UNITED STATES
Travel within the United States for any international student or scholar on a non-immigrant visa does not require any special documentation, letters, or any signatures from International Student and Scholar Services. However, U.S. and Alabama state law require that anyone on a non-immigrant visa be able to present proof of their legal status within the United States at any time. It is recommended that for travel outside of Tuscaloosa, you take your passport and your accompanying documentation (i.e. TN Approval Notice or I-94 Card for TN). Also, it is recommended that you keep photocopies of your main passport page, visa page, I-94 Card, and any other visa documentation with you at all times even when not traveling.

TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
To be able to travel outside of and return to the United States in TN status, you will need to carry documentation of your TN status with the institution.  In general, the documentation of your TN status would be your appointment letter and proof of your TN qualifications. If you applied for a TN from within the US (via an I-129 filed by The University of Alabama), the documentation of your status with The University of Alabama will include the original approval notice for your TN as well as copies of all TN application materials and your appointment letter for your current position at SU.

Additionally, TNs seeking to reenter the United States must have a valid passport proving Canadian or Mexican citizenship. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after the date you intend to return to the United States. If your passport is expiring, you should make plans to renew or extend your passport before your travel.

For Mexican Citizens, with the exception of visits to Canada or Mexico that last less than 30-days [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)], you will also need to have a valid TN visa stamp in your passport to be able to return to the United States. The TN Visa Stamp cannot be obtained within the United States. Visa appointments must be made with a US Consulate or Embassy outside of the United States to obtain or renew the TN Visa.

Canadian citizens are exempt from the visa stamp requirement in general, meaning that they do not have to get a TN (or TD-dependent) Visa stamp at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.

It is recommended that faculty and staff in TN status carry their most recent UA Appointment Letter whenever traveling internationally.

Visa Requirements for Transit through and Travel to Other Countries
Traveling through/to another country may involve obtaining a transit/entry visa to that country. It is best to check the consulate website of the country you wish to visit to get the current visa procedures. Do not assume that you will be allowed to transit through another country without a visa prior to your departure.  Failure to obtain necessary transit/entry visas may result in being denied entry onto your flight.

Travel to Canada and Mexico
For visits to Canada and Mexico that last less than 30-days [22 C.F.R. § 41.112(d); 8 C.F.R. § 214.1 (b) (1)], it is possible to return to the United States without having to renew an expired visa stamp.

• Information on Automatic Revalidation of Visa

Please remember that you may be required to obtain a visa to enter Canada or Mexico, or if your spouse or children does not hold citizenship that would allow for a visa waiver to enter Canada or Mexico, he or she would need to apply for a visa.

• For Canadian Visas
• For Mexican Visas

TN Visa Regulations

MAINTAINING PASSPORT
All international faculty, staff, scholars and students should maintain their passport validity. In general, it is best to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months longer than the intended dates of stay. If renewal of a passport is necessary, check with your embassy or consulate about the renewal process.

TN LIMITATIONS OF STAY
TN status is valid for up to 3 years at a time, but the length of time granted depends on the appointment letter. There is no maximum to the total amount of time allowed in TN-status, but the TN should only be working in a temporary position. TN’s cannot hold a tenure track position.

If the TN holder was sponsored by the employer for a change-of-status or an extension of the TN from within the United States and has not left the country since the most recent TN Approval, he/she is valid to stay in the country for the time period listed on the TN I-797 Approval Notice.

If the TN holder entered the U.S. in TN status, they should have an I-94 card in their passport that notes their TN status and an end date of the status.  The I-94 is the white card which should be stapled inside the passport and shows the date of entry into the United States and the port of entry.

As long as the TN holder extends his/her TN status before the end date listed on the I-94 or on the TN I-797 Approval, he/she will be able to remain in the United States.

TRANSFERRING TO ANOTHER EMPLOYER – PORTABILITY REGULATIONS
A TN Holder can transfer to another employer as long as the employee is currently in valid status and the new employer files an I-129 application in a timely manner (before the intended start date of new employment and before the expiration of the current status). The new I-129 for TN employment with the new employer must be approved before work can begin, as evidenced by an I-797 Approval Notice.

Before taking new employment, talk to ISSS. ISSS must withdraw or cancel TN sponsorship when you end your employment with The University of Alabama. The withdrawal of the TN sponsorship may affect your employment eligibility with your new employer, so timing is critical.

EMPLOYMENT RESTRICTIONS
TN holders are not allowed to work for any other employer or in any other work location other than those that are authorized on the I-797 Approval Notice or the employer listed in the job offer letter which was used to obtain the TN.

The only way a TN employee can work for another employer (as in the case of a faculty member teaching at another institution for the summer months) is if the other employer files an I-129 Petition for concurrent employment. Concurrent employment for TNs cannot begin until the I-129 for concurrent employment is approved and the employer has received an I-797 Approval Notice.

TN holders CANNOT receive honorariums or fees for lectures or contractual services from other U.S. institutions or businesses.  In such situations, only reimbursements for actual travel expenses such as airfare, hotel, and meals are allowed. Any University employee in TN status must check with Capstone International Services prior to accepting any offer to give a lecture or conduct any employment outside of The University of Alabama.

REPORT ADDRESS CHANGES TO USCIS WITHIN 10 DAYS
All faculty and staff in TN status have to report any address change directly to the Department of Homeland Security using the AR-11 Form or online change of address form.

If your address has changed since the last time you were issued a Form I-94 Departure Record (the little white card in your passport), you must report the change of address with DHS within 10 days of your move in order to satisfy the notification requirement.

File change-of-address online with USCIS.

You should also update your information with UA via MyBama and inform International Student and Scholar Services of any change of your physical residence (apartment or home address) or contact information in the United States. This is to ensure we have the most accurate contact information for you.

TD Dependent Spouse and Children

TN workers and TN applicants can sponsor their dependent spouse and/or minor children under 21 years of age for TD status.

There are two separate ways for a dependent spouse or child to apply for TD status: apply for TD outside of the U.S. and change or extend status within the United States.

Dependents Outside of the United States
If the dependent spouse or child is currently outside of the United States, the dependent can apply for an TD visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy using the following guidelines (Canadians can obtain TD status at the port-of-entry without a visa, but only if the TD dependent is a Canadian citizen):

1.      TD Visa applicants should check the website of the US Consulate or Embassy for instructions on how to apply for a U.S. Visa.  Contacts of Consulates and Embassies can be found at http://usembassy.state.gov/.  TD applicants should check the site for specific details about how to set the visa appointment and what additional information may be required for the visa interview and then should schedule an interview for a visa interview.
2.      Complete the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form: https://ceac.state.gov/genniv/
3.      Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s web site.
4.      Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:

(a)  A passport valid for at least six months
(b)  Supporting visa documentation (TN’s I-797 Approval Notice or I-94 Card + TN Visa Stamp)
(c)  Completed DS-160 visa application
(d)  One 2”x 2” photograph in the prescribed format
(e)  A receipt for the visa application fee
(f)  Financial evidence that shows the TN holder has sufficient funds to cover the TD’s living expenses while in the U.S.
(g)  Any additional information listed on the consulate’s web site.

Dependents Currently inside the United States
For sponsorship of dependents who are already in the US to either extend or obtain TD status, the prospective TN employee will need to submit documents for concurrent filing with the TN petition.

1.       Form I-539 and check for $370 made payable to Department of Homeland Security
2.      Copy of Passport Identification Pages
3.      Copy of Current/ most recent Visa Stamp
4.      Copy of I-94 Record 
5.      Copy of all previous I-20s, DS-2019’s, and TN/TD I-797 Approval Notices, etc.
6.      Copy of any Employment Authorization Card (e.g. EAD Card for F-1 OPT or J-2 EAD Card)

For dependents who are currently outside of the US and will enter the US in TD status at a later date, the International Student & Scholar Services can advise on how they may obtain TD status abroad.

NO TRAVEL DURING CHANGE-OF-STATUS: Once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition is submitted to USCIS, the TD applicant cannot leave the United States for any reason.  If the TD leaves the U.S., even for a Caribbean Cruise, the I-539 petition will be considered “abandoned,” and the case will be cancelled by USCIS.  Only once the I-539 Change-of-Status petition has been approved will the TD be able to travel internationally.  Also, please be aware that the I-539 petition approval is not a visa stamp; so, the TD dependent will need to apply for a new visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate the next time he/she travels beyond North America (see Travel Requirements).

IMPORTANT NOTES FOR B-1/B-2 VISA HOLDERS: If the TD applicant is currently on a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa Status and wants to apply to change status to an TD visa status, he/she needs to be aware of two important regulations.

  1. First, applying for a Change-of-Status within the first 90 days of entry to the U.S. in B-1/B-2 status will likely result in a denial and will be considered fraudulent entry based on a misrepresentation of status based on 9 FAM 302.9-4(B)(3)(g)(2) Inconsistent Conduct Within 90 Days of Entry.  This change to the Foreign Affairs Manual was published on September 20, 2017. 
  2. Second, USCIS now requires someone in a B-1/B-2 status to maintain B-1/B-2 status continuously while awaiting a Change-of-Status.  This means that in addition to filing an I-539 petition to change status to TD status, the B-1/B-2 visa holder must also file I-539 petitions to extend B-1/B-2 status while the Change-of-Status is pending.  See USCIS’s Special Instruction Page for more information.

TD Employment Restrictions
A TD dependent spouse or child cannot work while in TD status.  If a TD dependent wishes to work, he/she must apply for a change-of-status to a visa-type that allows employment.

TDs & University Study
TD dependents who are eligible to enter college may study in the United States as either full- or part-time students of higher education institutions.  The duration of stay for the TD is limited to the TN’s period of stay.  TD students are not eligible to work and are not eligible for practical training programs.  TD students may want to consider changing status to F-1 if they wish to study full-time and want to seek F-1 student employment benefits.