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  Frequently Asked Questions  
When is "TN" classification available?

TN (standing for the Trade NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement) status is available for citizens of Canada and Mexico who are coming to the U.S. to perform work that falls within a specific list of professional occupations. The list includes accountants, graphic designers, computer systems analysts, scientists in many fields, and engineers.

The list also includes two occupations that are somewhat anomalous, because they do not necessarily require college degrees: scientific technicians and technologists, who must ordinarily possess at least two years of training in a relevant educational program; and management consultants, who must have a degree or be able to document at least five years of experience in this occupation or in a field of specialty relating to the consulting agreement. Applications for positions in these two occupations have their own very specific requirements, and are examined with considerable scrutiny.

The TN classification is attractive because, for Canadians, application may be made directly at a port of entry (i.e. airport or many large land border crossing points). Thus, there is no petition to an immigration service center required, and no wait while the petition is processed. Mexicans must apply for a visa to obtain TN status, but they are also exempt from the petition requirement.

A drawback is that TN status is granted for only one year at a time. Another, related limitation is that one must demonstrate that one is coming to the U.S. to perform services on a temporary basis. As stated in the regulations, "the alien must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the inspecting officer that his or her work assignment in the United States will end at a predictable time and that he or she will depart upon completion of the assignment." Thus, while there is no limit on the amount of time one may remain in the U.S. as a TN visitor, it tends to become more difficult to get the one-year extensions the longer one has been in the U.S. For this reason, it is not unusual for a person who enters the U.S. in TN status, to later change the classification to H-1B. This becomes a usual procedure where it is decided to apply for permanent residence.

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