Other Visa Statuses
Please contact the Office of Immigration to determine if the TN is appropriate and applicable to the case, prior to completing any offer letter to a potential scholar.
Overview of TN status
Please Note: On July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The criteria for TN admission under the USMCA is the same as under NAFTA.
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. Appendix 1603.D.1 also stipulates the minimum qualifications for entry into the U.S.in each occupation.
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. cannot be in a tenure-track or permanent employment position).
TN Eligibility Requirements
- Applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico
- Applicant must possess the minimum qualifications of a member of one of the professions listed in Appendix 1603.D.1
- Entry must be temporary in nature (no tenure-track position)
- 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.
How do I apply for TN status?
- Apply for the TN visa in their home country (Canadian citizens do not require a visa and may obtain TN status at a U.S. Port of Entry) or
- Have the University of South Alabama Office of Immigration file an I-129 petition sponsoring either a change of status to TN or extension of status of TN within the United States.
Timeline and Preparing for TN Status
- Apply for a TN visa or status abroad (either for a TN visa at a U.S. Consulate for citizens of Mexico or for TN status at a U.S. Port of Entry for citizens of Canada) is often the quickest way to obtain TN status since no petition must be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in advance. Mexican citizens who will apply for a visa at a U.S. Consulate must plan at least 2 months 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 status at least 2 weeks prior to their intended entry to the U.S.
- The USA Office of Immigration will process an I-129 petition for change of status to TN or an extension of stay if scholar is within the United States. The Office of Immigration must submit the I-129 petition to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as early as 6 months before the intended start date of the TN. The TN application process is very long and requires much documentation from both the department and applicant. It is important that the department and scholar prepare for this process well in advance of the start date of employment. The fee for the I-129 is $460.
TN Application & Extension
Outside the U.S. (most common process)
Canadian citizens can apply for admission to the United States directly with Customs and Border Protection (CBP) 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 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.
Canadian citizens should provide the following information at a U.S. port of entry to be allowed into the United States in TN status:
- Proof of Citizenship
2. A detailed letter of employment from the University of South Alabama that includes:
- the Appendix 1603.D.1 profession of the applicant
- the duties the applicant will perform in the U.S.
- list the anticipated length of stay, including start and end date of employment
- demonstrate the applicant’s educational qualifications or credentials to prove professional level status
- wage, salary, and/or benefits to be paid to the applicant
- Provide evidence that the job is in one of the occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1
- This can be in the form of a copy of the Appendix, with a statement in the USA employment letter or cover letter specifically placing the employment within one of the occupations listed
- Provide evidence that the individual has the required credentials for the job
- The TN 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
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.
- Provide statement that the purpose of the entry to the U.S. is temporary. Although this may be set forth in USA’s employment letter, the applicant should articulate it at the time of admission.
A Mexican citizen must obtain a TN visa prior to being admitted to the United States. Mexican citizens must make an appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain the TN visa.
Steps to apply for the TN Visa:
- Online Nonimmigrant Visa Electronic Application, Form DS-160. Please note that the DS-160 asks for a list of all social media platforms you have
used in the past 5 years and the username(s) or handle(s) you have used on those platforms.
- The U.S. Embassy may ask you to also complete a Form DS-5535, which is a supplemental questionnaire regarding your travel, employment, and residence history and family. Please note, not every visa applicant will be asked to complete the DS-5535.
- 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.
- One (1) 2×2 photograph. You can find the required dimensions at Photograph Requirements.
- Letter of Employment from the University of South 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.
- The applicant must present evidence of professional employment to satisfy the Consular
Officer of your plans to be employed in prearranged business activities for he University
of South 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 USA. An employment letter or contract providing a detailed description of the business
activities may be provided from USA, and should state the following:
- Activity in which the applicant will be engaged and purpose of entry
- Anticipated length of stay, including start and end date of employment
- Educational qualifications or appropriate credentials demonstrating professional status
- Evidence of compliance with DHS regulations, and/or state laws
- 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.
Change of Status Inside the U.S. (an uncommon process)
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 a change of status petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) without exiting 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 they exit the United States for travel, they must get a TN visa prior to returning to the U.S. to resume work in TN status.
University of South Alabama departments who wish to process a TN petition on behalf of an employee must contact the Office of Immigration 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.
To change status within the U.S., the University of South Alabama, through the Office of Immigration, must petition USCIS for TN sponsorship of the employee:
- File Form I-129 and Nonimmigrant Classification Based on Free Trade Agreement Supplement
- Pay the $460 application fee (to be paid by the department)
- Provide detailed job letter from the employer (to be provided by the department)
- Provide proof of citizenship
- 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
- Provide proof of current immigration status
*Note: This process could take 8-10 months to process and both the department and scholar should plan accordingly.
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.
Dependents Outside of the United States
A dependent spouse or child(ren) who is currently outside of the United States can apply for a TD visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy. Please note that Canadians can obtain TD status at the port of entry without a visa, but only if the TD dependent is a Canadian citizen.
TD Visa for Citizens of Mexico and Other Countries
- Check the website of the S. Consulate or Embassy for instructions on how to apply for a U.S. Visa. 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.
- Complete the DS-160 Nonimmigrant Visa Application Form
- Pay the visa application fee by following instructions on your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate web site.
- Prepare and bring to your visa interview the following:
- A passport valid for at least six months
- Supporting visa documentation (TN’s I-797 Approval Notice or I-94 Card + TN Visa Stamp)
- Completed DS-160 visa application
- One 2”x 2” photograph in the prescribed format
- A receipt for the visa application fee
- Financial evidence that shows the TN holder has sufficient funds to cover the TD’s living expenses while in the U.S.
- 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.
- File a Form I-539: “Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status” and Form I-539A for each TD dependent along with the following:
- I-539 Application Fee and additional Biometrics Fee for each TD dependent applicant/co-applicant
- Copy of passport identification page(s)
- Copy of current/most recent visa (if any)
- Copy of I-94 Record
- Copy of all visa documents (e.g. previous I-20s, DS-2019s, Employment Authorization Documents, I-797 Approval Notices, etc.)
- Proof of marriage (for a spouse) and/or birth (for a child)
For dependents who are currently outside of the U.S. and will enter the U.S. in TD status at a later date, the Office of Immigration can advise on how they may obtain TD status abroad.
*Note: No travel outside the U.S. while a change of status petition is pending. Once the I-539 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 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. The TD dependent will need to apply for a new visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate the next time they travel beyond North America.
Dependents Currently on B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa
- If a dependent is currently on a B-1/B-2 visitor visa and they want to apply to change status to an TD dependent visa status, 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.
- USCIS now requires someone in another visa status to maintain their status continuously while awaiting a change of status approval. This means that in addition to filing an I-539 petition to change status to TD dependent status, you must either maintain your current visa status until a decision is made or file I-539 petitions to change to or extend B-1/B-2 status while the change of status to TD is pending. The Office of Immigration advises that an immigration attorney be retained if the TD applicant is in this scenario.
TD Employment Restrictions
A TD dependent spouse or child cannot work while in TD status. If a TD dependent wishes to work, they 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 their status to F-1 if they wish to study full-time and want to seek F-1 student employment benefits.
The Visitor for Business category is appropriate for visitors who wish to come to the United States to engage in temporary commercial, business, or professional activities related to their employment or business abroad. This activity may not constitute “employment” as defined by the U.S. Department of State. The term “business,” as used in INA 1-1 (a) (15) (B), refers to conventions, conferences, consultations, and other legitimate activities of a commercial or professional nature. It does not include local employment or labor for hire.
The following are examples that are directly applicable to academics:
- Consult with business associates*
2. Participate in scientific, educational, professional, or business conventions, conferences, or seminars*
3. Undertake independent research*
5. Negotiate contracts
6. Engage in commercial transactions which do not involve gainful employment in the U.S. (i.e. a merchant who takes orders for goods manufactured abroad)
*Particularly useful in the academic setting.
Eligibility for B-1/WB Classification
Eligibility for B-1 classification must be established:
- To the consular officer when applying for a B-1 visa
- WB Visitors must pre-register their visit through ESTA and are restricted to a maximum of 90 days per visit
- By the port of entry officer when applying for entry to the U.S. Applicants must submit evidence of the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the U.S., and the arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip.*
*This requirement can be satisfied with a letter from the U.S. business/corporation indicating the above information along with documentation from the visitor’s business/corporation abroad which complements the information given by the U.S. business/corporation.
Observing Business or Vocational Operations and Activity
A person coming to the U.S. exclusively to observe the conduct of business or other professional or vocational activity may also eligible for B-1/WB classification provided the visitor pays his/her own experience.
Payments to B-1/WB Visitors – See Payroll, Benefits, and Honoraria page
Reimbursements and per diem expenses (per 9 FAM 41.31 N11.1)
B-1/WB visitors may not accept part-time, full-time, or temporary teaching or research positions paid by a U.S. Institution. However, B-1/WB visitors may receive reimbursements or per diems for incidental expenses related to their activity. The total amount of payment cannot exceed the actual reasonable expenses of travel to and from the event, lodging, meals, and other basic services.
Academic honorarium (per INA § 212 (q))
B-1/WB visitors may accept an honorarium payment as well as reimbursement for incidental expenses for a usual academic activity or service conducted for the benefit of the institution provided the activity lasts no more than 9 days and the visitor has not received payments or expenses from more than 5 institutions/organizations in the previous 6 months.
*Note: If the service to USA will be longer than 9 days and payment of an honorarium is involved, departments should look at the J-1 Short-term Scholar visa category.
B-2 Visitor for Pleasure and WT Visitors Visa Waiver Program
Purpose of B-2/WT Visitor Category
The visitor for pleasure (or tourism) category is appropriate for visitors who wish to come to the United States to engage in a variety of activities “for pleasure.” The term pleasure, as used in INA 101(a)(15)(B), refers to legitimate activities of a recreational character, including tourism, amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, and activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature.
Eligibility for B-2/WT Classification
Eligibility for B-2 classification must be established:
- To the consular officer when applying for a B-2 visa
- WT Visitors must pre-register their visit through ESTA and are restricted to a maximum of 90 days per visit
- By the port of entry officer when applying for entry to the U.S. Applicants must submit evidence of the purpose of the trip, intent to depart the U.S., and the arrangements made to cover the costs of the trip.
Payments to B-2/WT Visitors – See Payroll, Benefits, and Honoraria page
Reimbursements, Per Diem & Academic Honorarium (per INA § 212 (q))
B-2/WT visitors may not accept part-time, full-time, or temporary teaching or research positions paid by a U.S. institution. However, B-2/WT visitors may accept an honorarium payment as well as reimbursement for incidental expenses for a usual academic activity or service conducted for the benefit of the institution provided the activity lasts no more than 9 days and the visitor has not received payments or expenses from more than 5 institutions/organizations in the previous 6 months.
*Note: If the service to USA will be longer than 9 days and reimbursement of expenses or payment of an honorarium is involved, departments should look at the J-1 Short-term Scholar visa category. If the activity at USA exceeds 9 days, no reimbursement, per diem, or honoraria can be paid to a person on B-2/WT status.
Study Restrictions for B-1/B-2 and WB/WT Visitors
B-1 visitors for business and B-2 visitors for pleasure are prohibited from “enrolling in a course of study” unless they apply for and USCIS approves a change from B status to F-1 or J-1 student status. [8 C.F.R. § 214.2(b)(7) and 8 C.F.R. § 248.1(c), as amended by 67 Fed. Reg. 18062 (April 12, 2002)].
WB/WT Visitors are likewise prohibited from enrolling in a course of study by the same provisions, and a change of status to F-1 or J-1 student status is not possible under the WB/WT categories. Those in WB/WT status would have to exit the country and apply for an F-1 or J-1 student visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad.