TN Visa: Working in the US
For a Canadian applying for a job in the US, the most daunting question is not what are you greatest strengths and weakness, but rather when can you start? Before answering, the candidate should have spoken with an immigration attorney and gotten specific advice tailored to his or her situation. Nevertheless, the good news is that generally the candidate can answer next week and have enough time to secure a TN Visa. The main benefit of the TN Visa is that the application package can be prepared relatively quickly and Canadians can apply at a port-of-entry (airport/land border) with no processing time. Meaning, you apply for the TN and receive it the same day. So, let’s review the TN Visa requirements and some noteworthy points.
The TN Visa is specific to Canadian and Mexican nationals and can provide status for an initial stay of 3 years (and is thereafter renewable). The main qualifications for a TN Visa are 1) the work must be in a profession listed in NAFTA Appendix 1603.D.1 and 2) the applicant must possess the corresponding credentials.
Regarding the first criteria. There are almost 70 different TN professions. So, it is likely that the work falls within one of the professions. However, some categories are more closely scrutinized than others on this point. For example, the “Management Consultant” category does not require a bachelor’s degree to qualify and as such, is generally reviewed quite closely. Similarly, the “Economist” category attracts some extra attention as the category has been subject to abuse for years by those who are not in fact Economists. Officers will usually consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine if an applicant’s proposed job duties match up with the requested category.
To meet the second criteria, the applicant will typically need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in the relevant field — a Canadian three-year bachelor’s degree program satisfies the degree requirement. Original diplomas and transcripts will be required to prove that the applicant possesses the educational credentials.
Some categories do not have any specific educational requirements. For example, the “Scientific Technician/Technologist” category requires only the possession of 1) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics; and 2) 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.
An applicant cannot qualify for a TN Visa to establish a business or practice in the United States in which he or she will be self-employed. Entrepreneurs should consider either an E-1 (treaty trader) or E-2 (treaty investor) for such endeavors. Canadians who qualify for an E-1 or E-2 can secure work authorization for an initial period of 5 years.
Another crucial TN Visa requirement is that the applicant must be entering the US to work for a US entity. The US entity can be owned by foreign nationals but must be located and legally operating in the US.
There are many professions that lend themselves to working for multiple employers (ex: Management Consultant) and as such, the TN category allows for an individual to work for multiple employers at the same time. More than one employer can be included on a single TN Visa and each employer should be annotated on the Visa.
If a TN Visa holder wants to change employers, he or she may do so by filing Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker with USCIS. However, practically. it is usually easier to leave the US and apply for readmission at the border.
Most TN applicants choose to apply at the border as opposed to mailing in their application to USCIS. It is cheaper and faster. Applying for a TN Visa at the border could be a lengthy process, so be sure to factor in additional time to your travel plans. During the visa interview, applicants should be able to discuss their proposed position and duties in depth, answer questions about previous work and travel history and about their educational credentials.
TN to Green Card
The TN Visa does not come with dual intent. Dual intent refers to an alien’s ability to secure a temporary visa while simultaneously applying for a green card. As such, TN Visa holders will usually switch to a visa that comes with dual intent (example: H-1B) before applying for a green card. However, there are some circumstances that will allow for the direct transition from a TN to green card.
Social Security Number
In order to get a US social security number, an applicant will require (among other documents) an updated copy of their i-94. An up to date i-94 will also likely be needed for i-9 compliance. Visa holders can find their most recent i-94 here.
The TN category was establish by the North American Free Trade Agreement (commonly known as NAFTA). The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will supersede NAFTA as the controlling trilateral agreement between the nations. The new agreement has not yet been ratified, however it is expected that the TN category will remain unchanged.
The TN Visa remains one of the most popular Visa options and for good reason. It can be a great tool to help you further your career. If you are considering applying for a TN Visa and have any questions about the TN visa requirements, book your free consult here!