Skip to main content


Overview and Eligibility

Under the provisions of the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, formerly "NAFTA"), Canadian and Mexican citizens who will be employed in certain professions (PDF; scroll to 16-A-2-1) by a U.S., Mexican, or Canadian employer for prearranged business services to a U.S. entity may be temporarily admitted to the U.S. in TN status. Teaching staff and researchers with baccalaureate degrees qualify for TN status; physicians qualify for TN status only for teaching and/or research; no element of patient care can be involved.

TN status is employer- and job-specific; to be "employed" at UC San Diego (either being paid by or by providing prearranged business services), the TN must be admitted to the U.S. using the department invitation letter or, if currently in the U.S. in TN status and wanting to change employers without departing the country, must have ISEO file an I-129 petition to change employers. Multiple employers are allowed, but only if the TN has been admitted to the U.S. with invitation letters from both employers, or has an approved I-129 petition with the employer(s).

Unlike the J-1 classification, the TN employee will become a resident alien for federal tax purposes upon meeting the Substantial Presence Test and subject to tax on worldwide income.

TN status is valid for up to 3 years (depending on the length of the job offer) and may be extended in increments of three years indefinitely.  However, it is a nonimmigrant intent status and, after many years in TN status, it may be difficult to continue proving nonimmigrant intent, and the department may wish to consider sponsoring the individual in H-1B status.

The TN status is a nonimmigrant status which requires that applicants' entries be temporary and, if required, prove at the time of entry that they have no immigrant intent (tenure-track positions should NOT use the TN).

For questions on eligibility or processing, please contact the TN advisor, Nallely Garcia.

Processing Time and Cost

TN employees can obtain or extend TN status in two ways, by applying for admission to the U.S. at a port of entry with an invitation letter from the department, or by filing an I-129 petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Travel: The department may issue a letter on letterhead addressing specific requirements (see template below). The prospective TN will use this letter to apply for a visa stamp (Mexican nationals only; Canadians are exempt from visa requirements) and then apply for admission to the U.S.  No cost to the department is associated with this route.

Petition: The department and scholar must submit TN requests through iServices. ISEO internal processing time, from submission of complete request packet, is 10 business days. The petition will need to be adjudicated by USCIS, which can take several months. There is an $1,125 recharge for ISEO services and a $510 USCIS filing fee(check). Please contact advisor for more information.filing fee for USCIS adjudication. Premium Processing fee for USCIS is $2,805.

Obtaining TN Status through Travel

Prospective TNs are allowed to request admission to the U.S. in TN status within the 10-day period immediately preceding the anticipated start date of the TN employment.  The following documentation must be presented at the port of entry (Mexican nationals will also need a valid TN visa stamp; Canadian nationals are exempt from all visa stamp requirements):

  • Evidence of citizenship
  • Letter from the chair of the academic department which must state:
    • The activity to be engaged in, including a detailed job description
    • The specific TN profession to which the job offer corresponds (see list)
    • The anticipated length of stay (up to 3 years) and statement that it is temporary
    • The amount of funding, including benefits
    • Confirmation that the position requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a specified field of study (note that some professions on the list do not require bachelors degrees)
    • Confirmation of the person's educational/experiential credentials that meet the position's minimum requirements
  • Original diploma or transcript of the highest academic degree earned (and foreign credentials evaluation of it if the degree is not from a Canadian, Mexican or U.S. institution); if diploma does not indicate field transcripts will be required
  • Copy of professional license, if license is required for the position
  • Copy of resume or Curriculum Vitae, including membership in professional organizations
  • Application fee of $50 (Canadian nationals only)

I-9 Procedures

USCIS' Handbook for Employers, M-274, does not specifically address the TN category.  Since TNs can be admitted to the U.S. with an employer's invitation letter or employers can file I-129 petitions similarly to the H-1B category, there are a variety of ways for TNs to obtain employment authorization.  Either the I-94 or the USCIS I-797 receipt/approval notice documents should be annotated with the sponsoring employer.  Please contact if you have any questions.

TN Template Letter

U.S. Embassy or Consulate [Mexican TN applicants only]

U.S. Port of Entry/Preclearance Inspection Center

To Whom It May Concern:

We would like to employ Dr. ________    _________  temporarily as a Postdoctoral Scholar-Employee [NOTE: please refrain from any references to "students," including Visiting Graduate Student appointments, as the federal official may deny entry thinking the applicant should be entering the U.S. in a student status], beginning October 1, 2019  through September 30, 2022.  Dr. _____'s appointment corresponds to the occupation "Biologist" found on the specified occupation list in Chapter 16 Appendix 2 of the USMCA (formerly "NAFTA"). Dr. _______'s annual salary will be $_______, paid through the UCSD payroll system; he will be benefits-eligible.  Dr. _______ has extensive experience on the application of molecular biological techniques to study brain ion channels, the critical molecules which underlie the electrical excitability of neurons.  Dr. _______ will use the following specific techniques [insert very detailed description of techniques as being used in the research].  Dr. __________ will use the following methodologies [insert very detailed description of methodologies as they relate to the research field, as applicable].  [WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU PARSE JOB DUTIES/RESPONSIBILITIES BY PERCENT EFFORT HERE AS WELL SINCE U.S. CBP OFFICIALS ARE NOW ASKING TO SEE THIS IN INVITATION LETTERS].  Dr. _______’s expertise will accelerate the progress of our programs on the structure-and function of brain ion channels and to acquire insights into the alteration of channels in mutants of channels we have previously identified which are relevant to inherited forms of human epilepsy.  

Criteria for appointment at this level include possession of the Ph.D. in _____________ or related field or equivalent and ability to make original and significant contributions to a research program. University and public service are encouraged, but not required.  Dr. _________ meets the minimum requirements for this position, and possesses a Ph.D. in the field of __________.

We are truly excited about having Dr. ________ join our research team, and respectfully request that he be granted TN status.


[Dept. Chair]

Register with ISEO

We highly encourage all scholars to register with ISEO, even scholars who obtained their TN status by applying for admission to U.S. at port of entry without ISEO processing. Registering with ISEO, allows ISEO to send programming, immigration, and other helpful information. 

TN obtained without ISEO assistance: ISEO processed TN:

TN Completion

The TN status allows for a grace period of up to 60 days or the authorized validity period, whichever is shorter, from the date of "cessation of employment." There is only one grace period per authorized validity period, and it may be eliminated or shortened at the discretion of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (US DHS). The grace period does not grant employment authorization, but may be used, for example, to apply for a change of status, prepare to depart the country, or have another employer sponsor one for employment authorization in an appropriate nonimmigrant classification.


Submitting this departure form to ISEO indicates that the international scholar is ending their appointment/job at UCSD on the completion date selected. 

TN obtained without ISEO assistance:
ISEO processed TN: