Law Blog

IMMIGRATION: TN-1 Program (Canadian citizens)

The 1992 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the U.S., Canada and Mexico created a special TN nonimmigrant classification.  The TN-1 nonimmigrant classification was created for and applies exclusively to Canadian citizens who are temporarily entering the U.S. to engage in “business activities at a professional level.”  

Specifically, the TN-1 classification is available only to Canadian citizens who intend to work in the U.S. in certain professions. The NAFTA list of approved professions includes accountants, engineers, attorneys, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers.  For a full list of elegible professions, click here.

One primary benefit of the TN-1 classification is the rapid processing time.

An application for TN status can be made in person at the port of entry to the U.S., either by land, sea or at an airport, typically at designated “Pre-Flight Inspection stations” located within major Canadian international airports prior to departing Canada. An application for TN status is typically approved on the same day it is made. By contrast, USCIS processing times for most non-immigrant classifications, including H-1B and L-1 classifications, range from several weeks to several months.

Other significant benefits of the TN-1 are that it does not have an annual cap and there is no limitation on how long a person can remain in the U.S. in TN-1 status by extending the initial 3-year period.

An indefinite number of TN-1 classifications may be issued in any given year.  TN-1 status can be approved for an initial three-year period, and may be extended in three year increments for an indefinite period of time. A TN-1 status holder, however, must intend to return to his or her foreign residence at the end of the authorized period of stay. A prolonged stay in the U.S. in TN-1 status may give rise to a presumption that the TN-1 status holder intends to remain in the U.S. as an intending “immigrant,” and could lead to the denial of future applications for TN-1 extensions of stay.  For more on extending TN-1 stay, click here.

Spouses and children of TN-1 workers are eligible to obtain TD (“Trade Dependent”) status in order to accompany the TN-1 holder for the duration of the stay in the U.S.

TD status holders are not authorized to work in the U.S.   However, a spouse in TD status may independently apply for TN-1 status and, if approved, obtain permission to legally work in the US.

For more information on immigration topics, please access the many online articles published by HLA’s immigration attorneys here:

~ Jeff Harrington, Esq.