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Overview of TN Status

TN visa category:

The TN visa allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, considered NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States. This visa category is regulated by the United States Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS). TN status is available only for professions listed on the NAFTA Professions List.

Qualifying for TN status if a citizen of Canada or Mexico:

Citizens of Canada or Mexico may work in the USA in TN status under the following conditions:

  • TN position meets the requirements as listed in the regulations;
  • TN profession is on the NAFTA Professions List;
  • Canadian or Mexican citizen meets the qualifications of the professional position at Vanderbilt;
  • Canadian or Mexican citizen will work, full or part time, for a U.S. employer. Self employment is not permitted.

Applying for a TN Visa:

The TN visa can be obtained inside the USA (through USCIS) or outside the USA (at port of entry or US consulate). OIS is responsible for the TN visa process regardless of whether the petition is for an employee outside or inside the USA. Please complete Visa Case Initiation Request if you wish to sponsor a TN employee.

  • At Port of Entry (Citizens of Canada only): Canadian citizens are not required to visit a US consulate to receive TN visa status. Instead, citizens of Canada can apply at any port of entry (land, airport, etc…) for TN visa status.
  • At US Consulate (Citizens of Mexico only): Mexican citizens must obtain a TN visa from a US consulate before entering the USA in TN status. Therefore, unlike citizens of Canada, they do need a TN visa in order to enter the USA. As part of the visa application process, an interview at the US consulate is required and applicants for a TN visa will need to schedule an appointment for consular interview.
  • Apply Within the USA (USCIS): Canadians and Mexicans currently in the USA in legal status may also apply for TN status through the USCIS. This process takes much longer than the port of entry or consular processing but it is sometimes the wisest course of action if an employee cannot leave the USA by the time the current status expires. It is important to note that applying for a new TN in the USA may cost more in filing fees and it will take longer than having the employee apply at the port of entry. In addition, premium processing may be required for new employees if the employee has no other employment authorization.

Changes in employment and transfers of TN status within Vanderbilt:

Employees in TN status at Vanderbilt should be aware that their current TN status only provides work authorization to work at Vanderbilt University in the job specified in the immigration filing. Therefore, employees in approved TN status at Vanderbilt may only transfer within Vanderbilt to another position in the same specific occupation. If the occupation category changes, employment is possible but will likely require notification to USCIS.

OIS should be contacted prior to any change in employment to review the position change and determine whether federal agency notification is required. Generally USCIS must be notified, and a new TN petition filed, if there are significant employment changes (e.g. change in job duties, substantial salary increase or decrease, change in hours worked). The need to file a petition to provide notification of a significant change in employment will not delay the event (promotion, salary increase, etc.) as long as the TN filing is done in a timely fashion. For that reason, it is important to contact OIS as soon as the changes are agreed upon and before the change in employment occurs.

Extension of TN status at Vanderbilt:

Employees currently in TN status at Vanderbilt, who will continue working at our institution, may file for an extension of TN status up to six months before the current TN expires. To ensure uninterrupted employment, it is essential that the TN extension filing reaches USCIS before the current TN expires. Employees needing to extend TN status in the United States are encouraged to begin the process well in advance.

Filing the TN extension before the current TN expires allows for an automatic 240 day extension of TN status while in the USA. If an employee travels abroad during the 240 day extension period, however, they may have to obtain a new TN visa from a US consulate (Mexicans) or Port of Entry (Canadians) before returning to the USA to resume employment. In addition, if an employee travels abroad after the TN extension is approved, they must obtain a TN visa from a USA consulate (Mexicans) or Port of Entry (Canadians) before returning to the USA to resume employment.

In addition to extending the TN within the U.S. applicants may also apply at a port of entry using the same type documentation required when they initially entered the U.S. in TN status. 

Termination of employment at Vanderbilt while in TN status:

Employees in TN status at Vanderbilt are permitted to work only at Vanderbilt University. Should additional employment be desired, the new employer must file a petition for concurrent TN visa status. 

Employees in TN status and departments employing foreign nationals on TN visas should contact OIS in advance of any termination of TN employment.