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Everything Employers Need to Know About the TN Visa

May 25, 2021

TN status allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to come to the United States to work in certain specialty occupations. But as an employer, the process can be daunting. Who is eligible, where do you submit your application, and how much does it cost? Read on for the answers to these questions and more.

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TN Status Common Questions

Who is eligible?

  • Canadian and Mexican professionals with qualifying, pre-arranged U.S. job offers are eligible for TN nonimmigrant status to get U.S. work authorization. The job must fall under the list of NAFTA professional categories, and the professional must have the required background, typically a related bachelor’s degree

Do job titles have to exactly match the NAFTA categories?

How long is TN status valid for?

  • TN is valid for up to 3 years at a time but is renewable indefinitely as long as the individual does not show immigrant intent

Is there a limit on TN issuances?

  • TN is uncapped and is granted every day of the year
  • While the data isn’t clear on this, CBP records more than 700,000 TN admissions per year!

Is TN sponsorship?

  • Hiring an employee on TN is different from traditional sponsorship because it requires minimal work for the employer and there are no further obligations for the employer once TN status is granted, besides remaining compliant

How do you remain compliant when hiring on TN status?

  • Ask the employee to complete the I-9 work authorization check as soon as they start
  • Ensure that their I-94 indicates the proper date granted as part of TN status
  • Ensure the employee works pursuant to the TN position, which includes the job duties and stated salary

What application materials do employers need to provide for the TN application?

  • In the most basic cases, the employer only needs to provide a letter of support for the employee indicating the job opportunity, the NAFTA profession, dates of employment, compensation, and other basic information

Where do you submit the application?

  • When submitting the application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the employer also needs to submit Form I-129 (“Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker”). This is the only case where the employer needs to submit the complete application.

How should employers choose between U.S. Customs and Border Protection, USCIS, and the State Department to lodge the application?

  • This depends on the employee’s nationality, whether it is their initial or subsequent TN application(s), and cost/time considerations for all parties
  • Canadian citizens have the option of choosing between CBP and USCIS for both initial TN applications as well as renewals. Canadian citizens with non-Canadian dependents requiring TD (TN dependent status) wishing to travel together with the Canadian TN applicant to the U.S. will need to apply for a TN visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate to enable the dependents to apply for TD visas. Please refer to the slide below for a comparison of these options
  • Mexican citizens are required to apply through the State Department (a U.S. embassy or consulate) in order to receive a visa foil before seeking admission. Mexican citizens currently holding TN status and other nonimmigrant statuses within the United States, however, may submit Form I-129 to USCIS to adjust (to) TN status

Do you need an immigration attorney to apply for TN?

  • An immigration attorney is not required to apply for TN, but an immigration attorney can help to check the application to make sure it’s ready to file

How much does applying for TN status cost?

  • Application fee: applying via CBP at a port of entry costs around $50 (Canadian citizens only). USCIS charges $460 for regular processing or $2805 for premium processing (a guarantee that your application is processed within 15 business days). U.S. embassies and consulates will also charge a $185 visa fee for applying for TN using Form DS-160
  • Travel costs: traveling to the United States to either apply for TN at the port of entry or activate an approved TN (approval notice or visa number) will require travel so employers should also take into account these costs

What if the TN application is rejected?

  • Strong TN applications are rarely rejected outright. At CBP, unsuccessful TN applications are provided the opportunity to “withdraw,” especially in circumstances where the Canadian employee applies at a pre-clearance facility and is able to stay in Canada. USCIS may often ask for a Request For Evidence (RFE) for applications that are initially not approved

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