TN Visa Roadmap

The TN classification is well-suited for Canadian and Mexican citizens seeking a U.S. work permit and whose occupation is on the list of professional occupations under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on July 1, 2020. Professionals involved in IT, engineering and consulting frequently use the TN category. The eligibility criteria for the TN classification are generally the same for Canadians and Mexicans; however, the application and admission procedures for Mexican citizens are slightly different.

To be eligible for the TN classification, a Canadian or Mexican professional should meet the following qualifications:

  • The applicant must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico.
  • The applicant must intend to engage in temporary employment in an approved TN profession and have an offer of employment. For a list of occupations associated with this class, click here for Appendix 2 on page 12.
  • The applicant must possess the necessary credentials to be considered a TN professional. A bachelor’s degree or higher is usually required for all approved professions on the list. If the profession requires licensing, then the applicant must possess the requisite license. However, for some categories, a TN application cannot be denied just because the applicant does not yet have a license to practice in the U.S.
  • Management consultants must either hold a bachelor’s degree or higher in the field of consultancy they are providing or demonstrate at least five years’ experience in management consulting or in a field relevant to the consulting engagement they will be performing in the U.S.
  • While the USMCA seems to exclude individuals who possess a specific formal educational degree that is not on the list (e.g., visual arts degree), USMCA regulations provide expanded opportunities for both degreed and non-degreed applicants to obtain a TN work visa based on the TN category and its requirements.

The minimum documentation required for a TN application are Proof of Canadian or Mexican citizenship, credentials (degree, transcripts, letters of experience) and a detailed job offer letter, along with basic information about the U.S. company.

Canadian TN applicants have several filing options. If the applicant is already in the U.S. in a different valid nonimmigrant status and wants to change status to TN, the prospective U.S. employer submits an I-129 petition via mail to the USCIS Service Center, and if premium processing is requested for an additional fee, the government will expedite processing. The same fees apply where a prospective U.S. employer wishes to file the I-129 petition in advance on behalf of a Canadian citizen who is currently abroad. Additionally, Canadian citizens have the option to submit their TN application in person at the U.S. border for a $56 processing fee.

Mexican TN applicants who are already in the U.S. in a different valid nonimmigrant status can also change their status to TN by having their U.S. employer submit Form I-129 to USCIS. However, Mexican citizens who are currently outside the U.S. must apply for a TN visa at a U.S. consulate in Mexico. They cannot apply at a U.S. border crossing or airport like Canadian citizens can do.

The TN work permit is generally valid for up to three years and can be renewed indefinitely. For TN applications submitted by a Canadian citizen in person at the U.S. border, the processing time may be as little as one hour.

The TN worker’s spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21 are eligible to apply for TD status in order to accompany or join the TN applicant in the U.S. Spouses and children in TD status are not permitted to work while in the U.S.; however, they may attend school part-time or full-time.

Some Creative Strategies that can be helpful to a TN applicant:

Degreed TN Professional in an Allied Field

USMCA allows applicants possessing a degree in an allied field to qualify for TN status under certain circumstances. For example, a professional seeking to fill a graphic designer position for a U.S. company may have a visual arts degree, but not a graphic design degree. The visual arts degree is not specifically listed in the occupations. However, an evaluation of the person’s transcript may disclose classes taken where the knowledge gained could be used to perform graphic design work. Consequently, a TN application could be prepared and presented requesting TN status as a graphic designer.

TN Management Consultants

Management consultants are usually independent contractors or employees of consulting firms under contracts to U.S. entities. They may only be salaried employees of U.S. companies to which they are providing their services when they are not assuming existing positions or filling newly-created positions. As a salaried employee of such a U.S. company, they may only fill supernumerary (extra) temporary positions. On the other hand, a management consultant could be coming temporarily to fill a permanent position with a U.S. management consulting firm.

Canadian or Mexican citizens may qualify as management consultants by holding a baccalaureate degree or higher, having five years of experience in the field of management consulting or by having five years of experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement. For example, the U.S. job opportunity may be to head the sales and marketing department for a new company, or an existing company that has experienced poor sales over the past year. The position requires the applicant to develop and implement a new sales and marketing program, to write policies and procedures for that new program, to develop training manuals and to train employees in the department with the goal to improve the company’s sales. The applicant may have never headed a sales and marketing department before but held increasingly responsible positions with various prior employers, including consultant on sales processes, whereby enough experience was gained to demonstrate that success in the prospective U.S. position is obtainable. This applicant would be eligible for TN status as a management consultant.

TN Scientific Technicians/Technologists

The Scientific Technician/Technologist category provides another avenue for Canadians and Mexicans who may not possess a degree to work in the U.S. USMCA defines a Scientific Technician as: A business person [who] must be seeking temporary entry to work in direct support of professionals in agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics. The individual must have possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of the discipline; 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.

A Scientific Technician must also work in direct support of one of these degreed professionals. While no degree is necessary to be classified as a Scientific Technician/Technologist, an understanding of the particular discipline must be demonstrated by previous education and/or training.

IT professionals, particularly software engineers and systems analysts, who do not have the formal education required under USMCA for the occupations of “Engineer and Systems Analyst,” can use this category.

The following evidence is generally required to be included in the TN application for an IT professional who will be performing software engineering services as a Scientific Technician/Technologist:

  • A letter from prior employer[s] stating that the applicant possesses the theoretical knowledge of the software engineering discipline, or a transcript demonstrating the applicant completed courses relating to computer science, engineering and/or mathematical analysis;
  • A letter from the U.S. employer stating that the applicant’s job duties include solving practical problems in the software engineering discipline, and that the applicant will be working in direct support of a professional (degreed) software or computer engineer;
  • The name, position, and educational credentials of the applicant’s direct supervisor, along with a copy of the supervisor’s bachelor’s degree; and
  • An educational and/or experience evaluation issued by a professional credential evaluator or professor from a university’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (or Computer Sciences) confirming that the applicant possesses the (a) theoretical knowledge of the software engineering discipline; and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in the discipline, based upon the applicant’s education and work experience.

Legal and policy sources:

Immigration policies and regulations are complex and frequently subject to change. The information contained in this posting is not intended to be legal advice and should not be used as such. It is intended to provide you with a general overview and may not address your circumstances and immigration needs. Serotte Law will assist you with the application and documentation process and answer any questions you may have about the TN classification. Request a consultation or give us a call at 888-875-8110. 

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