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Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick --Business Immigration--
Established in 1979

TN NAFTA Home Page: A U.S. Immigration Permit For Canadians

TN Handbook

For companies on the cusp of the Internet Age, the resource in shortest supply is neither raw material nor capital, neither powerful technology nor new markets. What keeps managers up nights...is the scarcity of brainpower, the talent to give wings to visions of a future that becomes the present at the speed of light. . .For many companies today, talented people are the prime source of competitive advantage. ---Business Week.

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Introduction to This Web page

Photo of Joseph C. Grasmick

Joseph C. Grasmick, the NAFTA Immigration Lawyer.

This page---with linked materials---is the most comprehensive source of TN information on the Internet. It is also the most accurate and current source. Since 1995, these materials have facilitated thousands of TN work permits. It has made my life easier. My clients are amongst the best informed immigration clients anywhere. (100% of my clients say they are "kept informed about relevant developments throughout the matter.") It is a real pleasure working with clients who know where they are at and where they are going. Employers and employees become real partners in the immigration transactions.

The TN permit---only for Canadian and Mexican citizens---is the quickest and easiest of the work permits. Nevertheless, your research should not stop with this page. For example, if the U.S. work will be for a branch of your Canadian company, see if the L-1 holds some advantages:

  • Like the TN, your Canadian employees can get the L-1 right at the border thanks to NAFTA. (See a photograph of the actual "I-94" border permit.)
  • L-1 permits are also valid for up to three years at a time.
  • Canadian landed immigrants (not just citizens) can get L-1's.
  • The L-1 also sets your managers up for a quick green card in the permanent multi-national executive category.

Look at this graphic to see if your profession fits within the O-1, TN and/or the H-1B. Use this flowchart to decide between the TN and the H-1B. If you cannot find the answer on this site schedule a telephone consultation with me.  (Remember that TNs are now valid for three years at a time.)

To confirm your immigration strategy you can:

The TN permit is the quickest and easiest of the work permits.

Do not overlook The Definitive HR Checklist- Moving Workers from Canada to the U.S.A. Even with NAFTA, human resource managers face a multitude of unique issues when transferring employees from Canada to the U.S. That page provides three massive checklists containing all of these issues.

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TN Status: Free Trade Professional

TN at a Glance
Main procedural step: Apply at border only.
Initial duration of status: Three year maximum/trip.
Total time-limit on the category: No time cap.
Processing time: Instant approval.
Major advantage: Quick.
Major disadvantage: No disadvantages.

This simple table answers many questions about the TN. Compare it to its counterpart on the H-1 page to decide which permit is best for you.

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Introduction to TN Status

The Peace Bridge---A Main Source of TN NAFTA Activity
Peace Bridge: Focus of TN activity.

The availability of TN (Trade NAFTA) status is the most dramatic immigration benefit of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The new provisions of NAFTA pertain to Canadian and Mexican citizen temporary visitors, treaty traders, investors, temporary workers, and professionals.

The immigration-related provisions of NAFTA are very similar to those expressed in the prior United States-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA/CFTA), which went into force on January 1, 1989. All FTA provisions were suspended when the NAFTA went into force. The NAFTA provisions covered the same non-immigrant classifications as the old FTA: B-1, E, L-1 , and Professionals. Under the old FTA, the Free Trade Professional designation was known as TC (Trade Canada), while currently the designation is TN (Trade NAFTA Professional).

This page is only about the TN for Canadians .

The major advantages of TN status over H-1B status are:

  • The number of renewals permitted is currently unlimited whereas H-1B status has a definite time cap.
  • No forms, quotas or waiting periods are required.
  • TN status can be obtained in person at the border instead of having to be submitted by mail or courier as do most other visa applications.
  • TN status is available to some people who do not qualify for H-1B status. Of course, the reverse is also true.

While some people have turned up at the U.S. border with minimal documentation and obtained TN status with no difficulty, it is strongly advised that you follow the extensive checklists in the TN Handbook. (You can order this handbook from this website.)  The FAQ question 18. Do I need a lawyer?" will help you determine the advisability of using legal counsel.

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Requirements for TN Status

(i) Must be a Canadian citizen

TN-1 status is available only to Canadian citizens.

TN status is available only to Canadian citizens. Canadian landed immigrants and non-Canadian citizens must apply for H-1B status.

(1) Document Necessary to Prove Requirement

  • Canadian passport (recommended) or Canadian Birth Certificate

(ii) Must provide evidence that the intended U.S. business activity and the applicant qualify under Schedule 2 of NAFTA

A list of professionals who qualify under Chapter 15, Schedule 2, of NAFTA is shown on this page, along with permitted fields of activity where these are limited.

The professional must be engaged in business activities at a professional level. The activity in question must be prearranged to be performed for a U.S. entity. According to the regulations, the "entity" may also be an individual. Self-employed professionals are precluded from obtaining TN status unless they can perform services for a U.S. entity. The INS has advised its field offices that E-2, treaty investor classification may be the appropriate alternative for these types of Canadian professionals.

The nature of the work to be done for the U.S. employer by the applicant must be fully detailed in a letter from the U.S. employer, with all possible supporting documentation. TN status is granted for only one employer at a time for a specific type of work. For multiple employers, multiple TN applications must be filed.

The applicant must be in one of the professions listed below. Also, with the exceptions noted in this list, the applicant must have a baccalaureate degree in that profession. If the degree does not match the desired category see FAQ question 6B. Must college major match TN job? No allowance is made for equivalent work experience, unless otherwise noted in the list.

In addition, the degree must be recognizable as one required to practice in the applicant's profession and of the necessary level to qualify that person for the U.S. work to be done. In some cases, both a baccalaureate degree and experience are required.

Particular problems are sometimes encountered by management consultants.

Particular problems are sometimes encountered by management consultants who want to obtain TN status. Problems also arise when companies want to send a valued and highly skilled employee to work for a U.S. concern as a management consultant, but that employee does not have either a baccalaureate degree or five years' experience as a management consultant.

Go to a short page with just the TN list. Print, mail, fax or save results.
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(1) Recognized TN Professionals (Grasmick's TN List)

(Appendix 1603.D.1 of NAFTA)

Unless noted otherwise, the following professionals qualify for TN status if they have a baccalaureate degree or a licenciatura degree in their professions:

Grasmick's TN List
  • Accountant (baccalaureate, CPA, CA, CGA, or CMA) 
  • Actuary (Subcategory of Mathematician, below. Must be in a U.S., Canadian or Mexican professional actuarial association or society.)
  • Agriculturist/Agronomist
  • Animal breeder
  • Animal Scientist
  • Apiculturist
  • Architect (baccalaureate or state/provincial license. Also see Landscape Architect, below)
  • Astronomer
  • Biochemist
  • Biologist (Includes Plant Pathologist, below.)
  • Chemist
  • Computer systems analyst Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • post secondary diploma *and three years' experience
  • Dairy Scientist
  • Dentist (DDS, DMD, or state/provincial license)
  • Dietician (baccalaureate or state/provincial license)
  • Disaster Relief Insurance Claims Adjuster Must have:
    • baccalaureate or 3 years' experience in claims adjustment, and
    • completed training in appropriate areas of insurance adjustment pertaining to disaster relief claims
  • Economist
  • Engineer (baccalaureate or state/provincial license)
  • Entomologist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Forester (baccalaureate or state/provincial license) (Also see Sylviculturist, below)
  • Geneticist
  • Geochemist
  • Geographer
  • Geologist
  • Geophysicist
  • Graphic Designer Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • post secondary diploma *and three years' experience
  • Horticulturist
  • Hotel Manager Must have:
    • baccalaureate in hotel/restaurant management or
    • post secondary diploma * in hotel/restaurant management and three years' experience in hotel restaurant management
  • Industrial Designer Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • post secondary diploma *and three years experience
  • Interior Designer Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • post secondary diploma *and three years' experience
  • Land Surveyor (baccalaureate or state/provincial/federal license)
  • Landscaping Architect
  • Lawyer (member of state/provincial bar, or LLB, JD, LLL, or BCL)
  • Librarian (MLS, or BLS. BLS must be one for which another baccalaureate degree was a pre-requisite)
  • Management Consultant Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • five years' experience in consulting or related field.
  • Mathematician (Includes Actuary, above.)
  • Medical Technologist/Medical Lab Technologist (Canada)/ Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • post secondary diploma *and three years' experience
    (U.S. job must be in a laboratory to perform chemical, biological, hematological, immunologic, microscopic, or bacteriological tests, and analyses for diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease)
  • Meteorologist
  • Nurse, Registered (must have state/provincial license)
  • Nutritionist
  • Occupational Therapist (baccalaureate or state/provincial license)
  • Oceanographer
  • Pharmacist (baccalaureate or state/provincial license)
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physician (teaching and/or research only, MD or state/provincial license)
  • Physicist
  • Physio/Physical Therapist (baccalaureate or state/provincial license)
  • Plant Breeder 
  • Plant Pathologist  (Subcategory of Biologist, above.)
  • Poultry Scientist
  • Psychologist (must have state/provincial license. Cannot qualify with just baccalaureate degree)
  • Range Manager/Range Conservationist
  • Recreational Therapist
  • Research Assistant (baccalaureate and U.S. job in a post-secondary educational institute)
  • Social Worker
  • Soil Scientist
  • Statistician
  • Sylviculturist/Forestry Specialist (also see Forester, above)
  • Teacher (baccalaureate degree: must be coming to work for a college, seminary or university only); no secondary or elementary school teaching.
  • Technician or Technologist, Scientific. (E.g.: Electronic engineering technician.) Must:
    • work in direct support of professionals in one of these disciplines:
      • biology
      • chemistry
      • engineering
      • forestry
      • geology
      • geophysics
      • meteorology
      • physics
    • possess theoretical knowledge of discipline, and
    • solve practical problems in discipline, or apply principles of the discipline to basic or applied research
  • Urban Planner
  • Veterinarian (DVM, DMV, or state/provincial license)
  • Vocational Counselor
  • Writer, Technical Publications (Technical Publications Writer) Must have:
    • baccalaureate or
    • post secondary diploma *and three years' experience
  • Zoologist

* A post secondary diploma (or certificate) is a credential from an accredited academic institution in Canada, Mexico or the U.S. showing completion of two or more years of post-secondary education.


You work in a profession on the TN list which requires possessing a Bachelor's degree. However, you do not possess the necessary college degree for the profession.

Solution: Consult with your lawyer to see if you qualify for one of the TN categories that do not require a bachelor's degree. (See the above table.) These categories are usually more challenging. As an alternative, apply for an H-1. Show the employee has the equivalent of a Bachelor's degree through related work experience.

(2) Documents Necessary to Prove Requirement

Nature of U.S. activity:

  • Letter from U.S. or Canadian employer specifying nature of applicant's U.S. business activity
  • See the TN Handbook for checklists and sample company support letters.

Applicant's qualifications:

  • Originals or certified copies of school records, diplomas, licenses, degrees, certificates or membership in professional organizations, or transcripts showing an appropriate degree (bachelor's degree or higher) from a recognized university or college; a statement of U.S. equivalency might be required
  • Also see Handbook checklist bullet points.

(iii) Must provide proof of possession of a licence to practise profession in United States, if one is necessary in the U.S. state where employment is located

As in the case of H-1B applications, lack of a licence is not a conclusive bar, however: the INS will approve an unlicensed beneficiary who will be under the supervision of licensed personnel. This occurs only in professions that customarily permit members to practise under these conditions.

(1) Document Necessary to Prove Requirement

  • Valid U.S. licence from the state of intended employment (e.g., for CPA, lawyer, professional engineer, etc.) -- or --
  • Explanation in petitioner's covering letter regarding why the beneficiary does not need to be licensed to perform services in the particular state

(iv) Must provide documentation of remuneration arrangements with U.S. employer

The TN applicant does not have to be an employee of the U.S. company on a strict "W-2 form" basis.

INS regulations allow self-employed and contracted applicants to qualify under certain circumstances. The TN applicant does not have to be an employee of the U.S. company on a strict "W-2 form" basis.

Proof of prospective remuneration for the services rendered (e.g., a letter from the U.S. "employer") should be sufficient.

(1) Documents Necessary to Prove Requirement

  • Letter from U.S. employer stating the amount of the remuneration to be paid to the applicant
  • Also see Handbook checklist bullet points.

(v) U.S. employment must be temporary

A person on TN status can later apply for permanent resident status based on the same U.S. employment. However, at the time of the TN application, the applicant cannot intend to remain in the United States permanently. FAQ question 7. "Can I go from TN to Green Card status?" clarifies this confusing area.

A person on TN status can later apply for permanent resident status based on the same U.S. employment.

(1) Document Necessary to Prove Requirement

  • Letter from U.S. employer stating that employment is temporary. See bullet points in Handbook checklist.


An employer is unwilling to hire a Canadian for a permanent job. The employer hears that a TN is only for temporary employment.

Solution: Our office prepares a letter for our clients. Job applicants can present this "plain English" letter to prospective employers. Hiring managers can show the letter to the HR or legal department.

"Plain English" Letter Re: Temporary TN Intent

Business ImmigrationPhotograph of Joseph C. Grasmick


TEL: (716). 842-3100

Dear Michael:

Thank you for your telephone call.

You mentioned that some prospective employers of Canadian computer specialists question whether they can use the NAFTA TN permit for long-term U.S. employment assignments.

Please advise your clients there should not be a problem in this regard.

It is true that the TN---as well as all temporary immigration permits---require the person to have temporary intent.

Nevertheless, this temporary intent requirement still allows the person to remain in the U.S. for years. Put another way, "temporary" in the immigration rules is not the same as "temporary employment" in the business world.

Here are some facts for your use:

  • There is no top cap on the total number of years a person can remain in the U.S. on TN status. There are TN applicants who have been on NAFTA status since the commencement of the original CFTA.
  • When we draft TN applications we usually state that the person will be needed for several years. All such applications have been approved, in three-year increments.
  • If there is a good chance a person will be employed for longer than two to three years, we suggest converting the TN to a green card (permanent residency). Employers would probably want to do this anyway.

I hope this answers your questions.

I invite your employer clients to call my office with any questions. You or your client can set up a telephone appointment at http://www.grasmick.com/consult.htm . They may also refer to our Website: Canada to U.S. Business Immigration (www.grasmick.com).

Best regards,


Joseph C. Grasmick

(vi) No strike or lockout

There can be no strike or lockout from a labour dispute in beneficiary's job at the worksite. If there is, the INS may deny the entry or employment of such alien beneficiary.

(1) Documents Necessary to Have in Your Files to Prove Requirement

TN employers need not maintain extensive documents for possible INS audits. This is a major advantage over H-1 applications. This removes a large burden. In the case of an investigation, the employer has the burden of proof to show that there were no relevant labour problems in the job classification.

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Approval of a well-documented application takes from 20 minutes to one hour.

Time it Takes to Get TN Status

Representatives of my office can walk applicants through the border formalities, if we decide this is the best approach. Approval of a well-documented application takes from 20 minutes to one hour. An INS officer immediately decides the fate of the application at the port of entry.

Call me to arrange this service.

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Ease of Obtaining TN Status

The INS readily honours valid TN applications under NAFTA. All INS employees are subject to supervision and audit controls, however, so applicants should expect to be turned back if they cannot prove their cases.

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Duration of TN Status

A person with TN status can live and work in the United States for up to three years at a time and can renew the status for additional periods of three years each. There is no ceiling on the total years a person with TN status can work in the United States.  Nevertheless, it is unlikely that the INS will renew TN status indefinitely. It is, after all, a temporary status.

TN renewal can be obtained at the border with an updated company supporting letter. A central function of my office to to assist employers with this. Alternatively, if the person is not out of the United States for more than 30 days at a time, instead of applying at the border, that person could simply use Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker, renewing it by sending it to the INS Regional Service Center with jurisdiction.   See the FAQ question 6. "Should I renew a TN at the border or by mail?" for the relative merits of these two approaches.

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Pros and Cons of TN Status

With TN status, professional Canadians can access the U.S. market with even greater ease and U.S. employers can freely recruit throughout Canada. The flexibility afforded by TN status gives a U.S. employer the opportunity to assess a Canadian employee's performance and adaptability to the organization. Then if both parties are satisfied and want the arrangement to be permanent, a permanent resident visa is the next step. Meanwhile, the Canadian employee has been enjoying rapid and trouble-free access to the United States in his or her professional capacity.

One of the main advantages of TN status is that labor certification is not required. Labor certification involves providing proof that the applicant is not taking a job away from a U.S. worker. Regulations require labor certification for H-2B non-immigrant status and for permanent residency.  They also require an abbreviated version of the certification for H-1B applicants.

Another advantage of TN status is that it can he obtained quickly. The INS grants these visas right at the border. . .

Another advantage of TN-l status is that it can he obtained quickly. The INS grants these visas right at the border, so there is no waiting period for approval and no petition to file in advance. In contrast, permanent resident applicants can wait years for their status, and waits for H-lB status can take six months or more.

A little-known bonus is also attached to TN status. Under TN Status, household help ("personal and domestic servants") can enter the United States as tourists and can work for the applicant. No visa is required, just a simple employment authorization card. To qualify, the person must be either:

  1. Someone who worked for you in Canada at least one year prior to the date you entered the United States, or
  2. Someone who worked for you for any period of time and you can show you regularly employed any personal or domestic help over a period of several years immediately prior to coming to the United States, and the employee you want to bring with you has at least one year's experience in the field.

There is no upper limit on the number of times TN status can be renewed. Compared to the maximum limits for H-lB professionals and L-l intracompany transferees , this is a definite advantage.

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©2010 Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick
Law Office of Joseph C. Grasmick, Business Immigration
300 International Drive
Williamsville, NY 14221 USA
Tel: 716/842-3100  jgrasmick@grasmick.com

This Internet Web page is http://www.grasmick.com/nafta.htm