The TN visa is a wonderful business visa for professional workers from Canada and Mexico. As outlined under NAFTA, there are 65 listed professions which may be used in order to obtain TN status ranging from Interior Designer and Accountant to Soil Scientist and College Professor. Advantages of this category are many: being able to apply at any time of year; minimal government filing fees; 65 job categories and not having to satisfy prevailing wage requirements. The TN visa may be given in three-year increments and applicants may apply for numerous extensions, although there are circumstances where switching to an H-1B or other visa is advised.
I have obtained TN visas under many TN categories including Management Consultant, Computer Systems Analyst, Engineer (including many computer software positions), Hotel Manager, Scientific Technician/Technologist, Recreational Therapist, Interior Designer, Urban Planner and Teacher.
Is a Bachelor Degree Required? (Not if you qualify as a Management Consultant or Scientific Technician/Technologist)
Most TN positions do require a bachelor degree from Canada, Mexico or the United States. Unlike the H-1B category, an applicant must have an actual college degree and may not use equivalent education plus experience to meet the bachelor degree requirement. But don't despair! There are two fantastic TN categories that can be used creatively to support a number of TN employment positions. These two categories are the Management Consultant and Scientific Technician/Technologist.
The Management Consultant must have five years experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement. Management consultants provide services which are directed toward improving the managerial, operating, and economic performance of public and private entities by analyzing and resolving strategic and operating problems and thereby improving the entity's goals, objectives, policies, strategies, administration, organization, and operation. Management consultants are usually independent contractors or employees of consulting firms under contracts to U.S. entities. Depending upon what the professional will actually do at the company AND if the company can demonstrate that the TN applicant will not act as a typical employee (meaning that the position would not be one normally held at the company), this is a great option. Three examples of cases I have handled include, "Athletic Compliance Consultant" "Management Consultant" for a start up enterprise with one US employee, and "Real Estate Business Consultant".
The Scientific technician/technologist must have possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics; and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research. The ST/Ts theoretical knowledge should have been acquired through the successful completion of at least two years of training in a relevant educational program. Such training may be documented by presentation of a diploma, certificate, or a transcript accompanied by evidence of relevant work experience. The person's supervisor must also meet criteria as a professional and employment must be inter-related with that of the supervisory professional. Specifically, the ST/T's work must be managed, coordinated, and reviewed by the professional supervisor, and must also provide input into the supervisory professional's own work. This is a GREAT category for talented IT workers who did not obtain a college degree. I have done many TN positions for software and computer engineering positions using this category.
Eligibility Requirements for a TN Visa:
Basic factors determining an applicant's eligibility include:
- Offer of temporary employment or agreement for business services from a U.S. company
- The employment should be temporary in nature (under three years), however the status may theoretically be renewed each term without limit
- The applicant must meet the minimum requirements for their position, as listed on the NAFTA list
- The applicant must demonstrate his or her intent to depart the United States when the authorized stay expires
- Must be a citizen of Canada and Mexico
Difference between an TN and H-1B Visa:
Some people prefer this visa to an H-1B because:
- In certain cases, a person is not eligible for an H-1B but can still apply for a TN because some TN positions do not require attainment of a bachelor's degree
- A person has already exhausted their six year limit in H-1B status
- The applicant is in J status but cannot apply for an H-1B due to the two year home residency requirement
- The DHS filing fees are much lower for a TN than for an H-1B
- There is no limit on the total number of TN admissions that can be granted per year
- The H-1B prevailing wage requirements do not apply
- Qualified applicants can apply for the TN visa at a port of entry (expedited service) or through the Vermont Service Center (avoiding intense scrutiny at the port of entry).
Application Procedures for a Canadian and Mexican TN status and Visa:
I have worked with Canadian and Mexican TN visa applicants and handled cases through US consulates, Ports of Entry and also change of status applications in the United States. Factors such as nationality, immigration history, TN category and employment start date will all impact the best method for obtaining TN status.
The application procedures are different for Canadian and Mexican citizens. Canadians submit their applications at the land, sea or air port of entry. Canadians do not need to obtain a TN visa from the U.S. Consulate prior to entry. A Mexican citizen applies directly to the U.S. Consulate for the TN visa and for approval of the underlying TN petition.
Canadian citizens can extend their TN status by mailing in an application to DHS or may re-apply for admission at a U.S. port of entry. Mexican citizens may also extend TN status via mail if present in the United States. However if applying for an extension from abroad, must re-apply for a visa from the U.S. Consulate.
Other Business Visas Which Might Apply:
In addition to TN visas, DHS also grants business immigration visas to foreign workers with bachelor's degrees, investors, intra-company transfer employees and applicants seeking on-the-job training. Some categories require a bachelor's degree, but several work visas exist for those lacking a four year college level degree. For more information about these business immigration visas, please read these articles:
- B-1 and B-2 VISAS: Business and Pleasure
- F-1 VISA: Employment Options for Students
- E-2 VISA: Investors
- H-1B Visa: Speciality Employees
- H-3 Visa: Training Visa
- J-1 VISA: Trainee and Intern Exchange Visitors
- L-1 A and L-1B VISA: Managers, Executives and Specialized Knowledge Employees
- O VISA: Persons of Extraordinary Ability
- P Visa: Internationally Recognized Athletes, Artists, Entertainers and Culturally Unique Entertainers