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TN Status for Canadian and Mexican Citizens

MIT Administrators > TN Visa Information

Overview of the TN Visa Status

Below is a summary of the TN visa status. Please contact the International Scholars Office (ISchO) for further details on obtaining or extending TN status for a Canadian or Mexican citizen who will be affiliated with MIT through an academic appointment or professional research position.

See the MIT Personnel Policy Manual regarding eligibility for TN sponsorship under MIT policy.

All new TN scholars must register with the ISchO upon arrival.

Continuing TN scholars should contact the ISchO before traveling to ensure that they have the most up-to-date information and documents required for re-entry to the United States.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) established a TN nonimmigrant visa category for Canadian and Mexican citizens. The TN category enables Canadian citizens (not landed immigrants) and Mexican citizens to be admitted to the United States to temporarily engage in "business activities at a professional level" in certain fields, for one or more specific employers. To be eligible for admission in TN status sponsored by MIT, the individual must satisfactorily demonstrate to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that:

  • He/she will have an academic or research staff appointment. See MIT Visa Sponsorship Policies
  • He/she will engage in employment that is on the list of qualifying professions
  • The position requires the individual to have a degree or appropriate credentials demonstrating status as a professional
  • He/she possesses the requisite educational background and experience for that profession.

TN status may be granted for as long as the employment offer specifies, up to 3 years, and may be extended in increments of up to 3 years. Please note that long-term or permanent employment should be discussed with the ISchO in advance to determine appropriate visa options.

Responsibilities of the ISchO: The ISchO files all TN applications on behalf of foreign nationals changing to TN status within the United States, who are coming to accept academic appointments and professional research staff positions at MIT. The ISchO must also receive notice regarding individuals coming in TN status via the U.S.-Canada or U.S.-Mexico border crossing for such appointments. The ISchO will advise on the most appropriate method of processing and will review the sponsoring department's employment letter for the TN application.

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Obtaining TN Status

Obtaining a TN Visa Stamp before Entry (Mexican Citizens Only)

In order to be admitted to the United States in TN status, Mexican citizens must first obtain a TN visa stamp from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of the United States. More information is available on the Department of State website. Mexican citizens should check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where they will apply for a visa stamp regarding appointment scheduling, processing times, and required documents. They should also consult the ISchO Travel Advisory.

Obtaining TN Status at a Port of Entry (Canadians and Mexicans)

Canadian and Mexican citizens seeking admission to the United States in TN status should apply for admission with a U.S. immigration officer at a “Class A” land border port of entry, at a U.S. airport handling international traffic, or at a U.S. pre-clearance/pre-flight station, and should present the requested documentation sufficiently in advance of actual departure time (if traveling by air) to allow for processing. The applicant may wish to call the CBP inspection station at the planned port of entry ahead of time to verify that TN applications are accepted, since applications are not processed at every U.S.–Canada and U.S.–Mexico border crossing. U.S. port of entry locations. The applicant should present:

1. Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship [and TN visa stamp for Mexican citizens]

2. A letter from the employer on departmental letterhead with an original signature. Please be sure to provide a copy to the ISchO for our records. The letter should include:

  • The profession of the applicant, as listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 (see list of qualifying professions).
  • A description of the professional activities, including a brief summary of daily job duties, if appropriate, that the applicant will engage in for MIT
  • The applicant’s educational qualifications or appropriate credentials, that demonstrate that he/she has the professional level status and the qualifications needed for the position
  • The anticipated length of appointment/employment (not to exceed 3 years, though possible “reapplication” for TN status if appointment is extended may be indicated)
  • The specific arrangements for remuneration during the time period requested (annual salary from MIT, amount and source of Canadian or Mexican funding with equivalent in U.S. dollars, etc.)
  • If required by state or local law, that the Canadian or Mexican citizen complies with all applicable laws and/or licensing requirements for the activity in which he or she will be engaged

3. Proof of degree, such as an original diploma or degree certificate. Documentation not in English must be accompanied by a translation. Also, it is recommended that degrees, diplomas, or certificates from educational institutions not located within Canada, Mexico, or the United States be accompanied by an evaluation from a reliable credential evaluation service that specializes in evaluating foreign credentials.

A Canadian or Mexican citizen who qualifies for TN status will be issued Form I-94 (arrival/departure record) if entering through a land port of entry, or given an admission stamp in the passport if entering through an air or sea port. The Form I-94/admission stamp should be marked with the notation "TN" and the date of expiration (not to exceed 3 years), along with the notation "multiple entry."

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TD Status for Dependents

The spouse and unmarried minor children (under age 21) of a TN scholar are eligible for TD status for the same period of admission as the TN scholar. Proof of family relationship is necessary. If the TN scholar and dependents travel separately, proof of the scholar’s TN status (such as a copy of the scholar’s Form I-94 OR admission stamp in the passport and admission record printed from CBP.gov/i94) may also be required. Each dependent who is a Canadian citizen must present proof of Canadian citizenship. If a dependent is not a Canadian citizen, a valid passport with a TD visa stamp from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate must be presented.

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Change to TN Status while in the United States

Canadians and Mexicans already in the United States in another nonimmigrant visa status may be eligible to apply to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for a change to TN status from within the United States. Consult with an advisor in the ISchO for specific forms and guidelines. The ISchO will submit these applications on behalf of scholars who will be affiliated with MIT through an academic appointment or professional research staff position. These applications may take several months to process.

NOTE: Former J-1 Exchange Visitors who are subject to but have not complied with the 2-year home country residence requirement are not eligible to change to TN status in the United States. However, it is possible to travel and reenter the United States in TN status. Obtaining TN status does not remove the 2-year residency requirement.

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Extension of TN Status

TN status is renewable in any increment up to 3 years, depending on the length of the MIT appointment. If the applicant plans to remain in the United States beyond the end dates currently authorized, he/she will need to either travel back to Canada or Mexico before the expiration of the TN status with proof of continued employement and other original documentation (see Obtaining TN status, above) OR file a petition for extension of status with USCIS before the expiration of the current authorization date. Several months' advance notice is needed for the ISchO to file the petition in a timely manner.

Please consult with an advisor in the ISchO for more information on extending TN status.

If TN status is extended through travel, a copy of the new I-94 card or admission stamp in the passport must be provided to the ISchO upon return.

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Request for Change or Addition of U.S. Employer

If a scholar who is in the United States in TN status wishes to change or add a U.S. employer, this may be possible under certain circumstances. Please consult with an advisor in the ISchO for more information.

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Travel outside the United States and Readmission in TN Status

In general, a scholar in TN status may leave the United States and be readmitted for the remainder of the period authorized on Form I-94 or admission stamp in the passport if the original intended professional activities and employer(s) have not changed. If the scholar no longer has Form I-94 but the period of initial admission has not lapsed, documents may be presented such as the original fee receipt for admission as TN or a previously issued admission stamp as TN in a passport, and a confirming letter from the U.S. employer(s). In addition, Mexican citizens must have a valid TN visa stamp in their passports. Please contact an ISchO advisor prior to travel, as our advice may vary depending on your particular situation and travel plans.

ISchO Travel Advisory
Travel and Visa Renewal Information

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Comparison between J-1 and TN Status for MIT Appointments

Please consult the ISchO for assistance and information on the appropriate visa and visa processing procedures for prospective appointees. A chart highlighting some of the main features of TN and J-1 status follows.

TN Status J-1 Exchange Visitor Status
$57 fee required upon entry; $325 fee for change of status or extension within United States. SEVIS fee of $180;
$290 fee for change of status within the United States.
May be extended through travel or by ISchO filing a petition with USCIS. Several months' advance notice is needed to file petition in a timely manner. ISchO may extend by issuing an extension DS-2019. At least 30 days advance notice is needed to issue extension DS-2019 in a timely manner. Travel not required to extend.
Income allowed for specific, authorized position; no other income without USCIS/CBP authorization.*

(*May work for more than one TN employer if authorized by USCIS/CBP.)
Income and funding from various sources allowed for specific authorized position; compensation for additional, short-term lecturing or consulting may be authorized in limited situations.
Tax status: resident alien (includes FICA) Tax status: in general, nonresident alien for two years (does not pay FICA tax); also, may be eligible for exemption through tax treaty
Maximum stay in U.S.: renewable indefinitely in increments of up to 3 years. However, TN is NOT a permanent visa. Maximum stay in U.S.: 5 years
Spouse may not work Spouse may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for work permission
See list of required documents Requires Form DS-2019 from J-1 program sponsor with details of academic objectives and financial support
Note that not all occupations qualify for TN classification Most persons with an MIT academic appointment, advanced degree, and adequate, reliable funding qualify
  May be subject to 2-year home country residence requirement if funded by United States or Canadian/Mexican government

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Last Updated: March 2014

77 Massachusetts Ave, Room E38-219, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | Telephone: (617) 253-2851 | Fax: (617) 253-6624 | E-mail: iso@mit.edu