Sponsoring TN Employment

Step 1: UH job offer
Step 2: Determine TN eligibility
Step 3: Determine how to apply for TN status
Step 4a: Apply for TN entry or Step 4b: File TN petition


Step 1: UH job offer

UH may sponsor a prospective employee for TN employment after a job offer from a UH department has been accepted. That is, TN sponsorship may be initiated only if an employment agreement exists between a UH department and a foreign national. Once a job offer has been accepted, the department must determine whether the individual is eligible to work in the U.S. If the person does not already have employment authorization for the UH job, proper authorization will need to be secured before employment can begin. The TN classification may be an option for work authorization if the initial eligibility requirements are met.

UH does not classify stipend or fellowship recipients (e.g. post-doctoral fellows) as employees so it may not be possible to seek TN classification for non-salaried appointments. In such cases, J-1 may be the most appropriate option.

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Step 2: Determine TN eligibility

UH may pursue TN sponsorship if the following minimum requirements are met:

  • The foreign national is a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • The foreign national has accepted a temporary or non-tenure track job offer from UH;
  • The job falls within one of the NAFTA professions;
  • The foreign national possesses the required education and skills for the NAFTA profession; and
  • The position requires an individual in that professional capacity.

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Step 3: Determine how to apply for TN status

After the UH department determines that TN classification is appropriate, the department and prospective employee should determine the method by which the worker will acquire TN status. There are two ways this can be done: (A) the worker applies for entry to the U.S. from abroad with required documents or (B) UH files a petition with USCIS while the worker remains in the U.S.

(A) TN entry (B) TN petition
This option is most appropriate when the employee is either currently outside the U.S. and will enter to start TN employment or when they are in the U.S., but plan to travel abroad and reenter in TN status. UH does not need to file a TN petition with USCIS before a foreign national can apply for TN entry.

The department does not need to submit a prior TN request to FSIS to proceed with this option.

Canadian citizens do not need to apply for TN visas at U.S. embassies or consulates.

Mexican citizens are required to obtain TN visas from U.S. embassies or consulates. Departments should consider the waiting periods for visa interview appointments and visa issuance. Plan ahead to allow enough time for the employee and any family members to obtain the necessary visas to enter the U.S.

See Step 4a: Apply for TN entry for the next steps.

Use this option when the employee is already in the U.S. and cannot depart and reenter to begin UH TN employment. FSIS will prepare a TN petition that must be submitted to USCIS before the intended employment start date.

Submit this type of  request to FSIS through the college/school HR specialist no later than two months prior to the requested TN start date. Please note:

  • USCIS must receive a TN petition by the business day on or before the employee’s current status end date.
  • UH can submit a petition to USCIS up to 120 days prior to the intended TN start date.
  • UH can request up to 3 years on TN petitions.
  • Consult with FSIS if the worker is:
    • Planning to travel abroad while a TN petition is pending; or
    • An F-1 student whose F-1 status will end more than 60 days prior to the intended TN start date; or
    • A J-1 exchange visitor whose program will end more than 30 days prior to the intended TN start date; or
    • Still subject to the 2-year residence requirement after being in J-1 or J-2 status. UH can’t file a TN in-country change of status petition in this case, so the only option is TN entry.
  • Ask the TN worker about family members who may require a TD change of status or extension; if needed, include their documents in the TN request packet.

See Step 4b: File TN petition for the next steps.

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Step 4a: Apply for TN entry

The information in this section applies to situations where an employee will acquire TN status by applying for TN admission at a U.S. port of entry.

To facilitate TN entry, the UH hiring unit should send the employee a copy of the offer letter or a TN support letter. The employee should follow the steps below to apply for a TN visa (if Mexican) and TN admission to the U.S.

1 Apply for a TN visa.

Canadian citizens can skip this step and proceed to “2. Apply for TN admission at a U.S. port of entry” below.

Mexican citizens must have valid TN visas in their passports to apply for TN admission at U.S. ports of entry. Individuals who already have TN visas that will be valid on the date they arrive in the U.S. do not need to apply for new ones and may proceed to “2. Apply for TN admission at a U.S. port of entry” below.

To apply for a TN visa, the employee should visit the U.S. Department of State’s U.S. embassies and consulates website to view the visa application requirements and to make an appointment for a visa interview. It is best to try to apply at the U.S. embassy/consulate having jurisdiction over the place of residence, though they may apply at any U.S. embassies/consulates worldwide that permit third country nationals’ applications. Anyone who was ever a visa overstay in the U.S. must apply for the visa at a consular office in their country of nationality.

TN visa application requirements differ by embassy/consulate, so the employee should check directly with the specific U.S. embassy/consulate on the requirements for the visa application if there are any questions.

Generally, all TN visa applications must include the following:

  • DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application confirmation page;
  • Visa interview appointment confirmation page;
  • Proof of payment of visa fees;
  • A passport-style photograph that meets DOS’s nonimmigrant visa photo requirements;
  • Proof of Mexican citizenship (e.g. passport, birth certificate, etc.)
  • UH offer letter or TN support letter that includes:
    • UH job description
    • Anticipated length of employment (duration may not exceed 3 years)
    • Qualifications needed for the job
    • Terms of employment (salary, hours, worksite(s), etc.)
  • Evidence of any applicable licensure requirements for the position;
  • Diplomas, transcripts, etc. as evidence of educational qualifications (if degree was received from an educational institution outside Canada, Mexico, or the U.S., a foreign credential equivalency statement issued by a reliable evaluator must be attached); and
  • Any other documents required by the specific U.S. embassy or consulate.

If the worker has any family members who will come to the U.S. as dependents, they should follow the TD entry procedures.

2 Apply for TN admission at a U.S. port of entry.

The employee should bring the following items to a U.S. port of entry to apply for TN entry up to 10 days prior to the start date on the UH letter/approval notice:

  • US$50 application fee (Canadians only);
  • Valid TN visa in passport (Mexicans only);
  • Canadian or Mexican passport valid for at least 6 months beyond the intended employment end date (if the passport will expire earlier, a shorter period of stay may be granted, so it is best to renew the passport before entry);
  • Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship (if no Canadian or Mexican passport);
  • UH offer letter or TN support letter from a UH department;
  • Documentation of license (if required for the job or NAFTA profession); and
  • Evidence of qualifications (diplomas, transcripts, etc.). If degree was received from an educational institution outside Canada, Mexico, or the U.S., it must be accompanied by an evaluation from a reliable service that specializes in evaluating foreign educational credentials (see NACES or AICE member lists).

Also present TD admission documents for any accompanying family members.

Individuals are not guaranteed entry to the U.S. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry will review all documents and ask each person about the purpose of the visit. These officers have the discretion to admit a person in TN status and any family members in TD status and may refer them to a more detailed secondary inspection.

When the TN employee is admitted into the U.S., all documents should be returned and an admission date stamp should be placed in their passport with the notations “TN” (worker) or “TD” (dependents) and a date indicating the period of authorized stay in the U.S. The CBP officer should instruct each person to access and print an I-94 arrival record on CBP’s I-94 website. The admission stamp with notations and the I-94 printout are proof of admission to and legal immigration status in the U.S. In some cases, a person may be issued a paper I-94 card at entry, but CBP is phasing those out. If anyone is issued a paper I-94, that card is evidence of legal status in the U.S.

TN employees and TD family members should keep copies of their passport biodata/expiration pages, visas, admission stamps, and I-94 records permanently in case any of these documents are lost or stolen.

3 Send copies of entry documents to FSIS.

After the TN employee is admitted into the U.S., send Isis the following documents so we can update our records and check their admission:

  • Completed Contact Information Form;
  • Copy of offer letter or TN support letter;
  • Copy of I-94 from CBP’s I-94 website;
  • Copy of admission stamp with notations in passport;
  • Copy of TN visa in passport (if Mexican);
  • Copy of passport biodata page (if new/renewed); and
  • Copies of I-94, visa, and passport biodata page for each TD dependent (as applicable).

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Step 4b: File TN petition

The information in this section applies to situations where an employee will acquire TN status via a petition filed with USCIS.

These are the procedures to obtain TN petition approval for an employee:

1 The UH department initiates a TN request.

The UH department should work with the TN employee to obtain necessary information and documentation for the TN request packet. The department should complete/gather its portion of the documents listed on the TN Request Form.

If any document is not written in English, provide a translation and a translator’s certification.

2 The HR specialist reviews the TN request and attaches documents.

The UH department should forward its portion of the TN request packet to the HR specialist for the college/school/unit. The HR specialist reviews these documents and attaches any additional documents.

The HR specialist should send the complete request packet to an Immigration Specialist at FSIS.

3 FSIS emails the TN petition filing fee amounts and USCIS mailing address options to the HR specialist.

The college/school/department (as appropriate) should request the filing fee checks, indicating that the checks be returned to the unit. The unit should hand-deliver the checks and one of the following mailing materials to FSIS as soon as possible:

  • Pre-paid FedEx mailing label;
  • Pre-paid USPS Priority Mail mailing label; or
  • Two mail bar code labels for mailing by USPS Certified Mail (Manoa units only).

Note: The TN employee may pay for the filing fees and/or for mailing.

4 FSIS processes the request.

Once we receive the request from the HR specialist, we will review it. As long as all requirements are met, we will complete the following:

  • Prepare USCIS Form I-129 Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker;
  • Prepare a cover letter for the TN petition;
  • Prepare USCIS Form I-907 Request for Premium Processing Service (if requested); and
  • Review Form I-539 for any TD dependents (if applicable).
5 FSIS mails the petition to USCIS.

After receiving the filing fee checks and mailing label/bar codes, FSIS will mail the petition with the fees to USCIS. FSIS will file-drop a copy of the petition to the HR specialist and to the employee.

6 USCIS accepts the petition and issues a receipt notice.

USCIS will conduct an initial review to ensure the petition is being timely filed with the appropriate fee. If USCIS determines the petition has been properly filed, they will mail a receipt notice to FSIS and we will provide a copy of it to the HR specialist.

Please note the following regarding the different types of TN petitions:

Petition type UH employment International travel
Change of TN employer Employment may begin after USCIS approves the petition. See important information about traveling abroad while a petition is pending.
Concurrent TN employment Employment may begin after USCIS approves the petition. See important information about traveling abroad while a petition is pending.
TN amendment Changes to TN employment may take place after USCIS approves the petition. See important information about traveling abroad while a petition is pending.
TN change of status Employment may begin after USCIS approves the petition. Employment may begin prior to approval if the beneficiary has another type of valid work authorization. See important information about traveling abroad while a petition is pending.
TN extension Employment may continue for up to 240 days after the prior TN authorization end date, provided the petition was timely filed, until USCIS renders a decision on the petition. See important information about traveling abroad while a petition is pending.
7 USCIS adjudicates the petition & FSIS sends the notice to the HR specialist.

Under regular processing, it generally takes USCIS 2-4 months to adjudicate petitions filed between November through March. However, petitions filed in April through October can take 4-6 months.

If premium processing service is requested, USCIS will act on the petition within 15 calendar days. (“Act on” = approve, deny, request further evidence, or notify of intent to deny.) USCIS offers this service for an additional fee.

While the petition is pending, departments can check its status using the receipt number and view average processing times on USCIS’s case status website.

If the petition is approved, USCIS will mail a TN approval notice (Form I-797A Notice of Action) to FSIS. FSIS will send the following documents to the HR specialist for distribution:

  • Memo to the employee;
  • Original approval notice for the employee; and
  • Contact Information Form (only for new employees), which the employee should complete and return to FSIS after starting employment.

TN status should automatically begin/continue upon the TN approval notice start date. The employee should not need to leave the U.S. and reenter to begin/continue TN employment unless a Form I-797B has been issued. However, in the event this happens, FSIS will explain the necessary next steps in the memo to the employee.

Cancellation of employment

If TN employment is cancelled for any reason, the HR specialist should notify an Immigration Specialist immediately so we can withdraw the petition.

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