You’re excited because in your hands, you hold a letter from a U.S. employer offering you the job of your dreams. You know that as a Mexican or Canadian citizen, you can lawfully enter the U.S. as a TN nonimmigrant and accept the position.
But before you sprint to the U.S. border, you might want to make sure that your employer’s offer letter will stand up to the scrutinizing eyes of a U.S. immigration officer. To apply for TN status, you and your employer will have to satisfy immigration officials that your job meets all of the legal requirements for the TN. Let’s look at how you can make sure your offer of employment letter is up to snuff.
The law says that in order to qualify for TN nonimmigrant status, your proposed job in the U.S. must be a “professional” position. Thankfully, the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, clearly defines the requirements for this.
The NAFTA lists specific professions in which Mexican and Canadian citizens can work under TN status. This list is found in Appendix 1603.D.1 of Chapter 16 of the NAFTA; you can also find this list under Section 214.6(c) of Chapter 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Upon reading the list, you will immediately notice that the NAFTA requires specific types of occupations as well as specific levels of education and experience in order to qualify for those occupations.
For example, the NAFTA identifies “Scientist” as an acceptable profession and then lists various sub-categories from Agriculturalist to Zoologist. The NAFTA says that to qualify for a scientist position, the job must require at least a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree from an accredited college, university, or the equivalent. And, to be sure, the degree must be in a relevant field, such as agriculture or zoology, for those respective categories.
The “graphic designer” profession, on the other hand, must be a position requiring either a Baccalaureate/Licenciatura Degree or a Post-Secondary Diploma or Certificate and three years of experience.
Immigration officials will be checking your offered position against this list. Your employer can help greatly by identifying which specific NAFTA profession your job matches and describing, in detail, why the duties of your job line up with that NAFTA profession. Your employer should list and break down the duties of the job and explain, in clear, layman’s terms, how those duties are typical of the specific NAFTA profession. One resource to find standard job descriptions for various occupations is the Department of Labor’s O*Net Online database.
Your employer should also explain, in layman’s terms, precisely why your job requires the particular degree and/or experience required by the NAFTA. These requirements have to make sense; a scientist position would not require a degree in fine arts, nor would a graphic designer position require a degree in biology! Your employer can also list other positions similar to yours where they have required the same or similar degrees or experience.
The law says that TN workers may enter the U.S. for up to three years. However, U.S. immigration officials will look for some indication from your employer as to how long your specific job will take. Based on this information, U.S. immigration will admit you as a TN worker for the matching period of time.
To help immigration officials, your employer’s offer letter should provide a target start date and note how long your position is expected to last. Just like the NAFTA education and experience requirements, the time your job will take has to make sense. A short contract job for one project likely won’t last longer than a year, but a research position on a long clinical trial might take three years or longer. Your employer should clearly explain why your job is expected to last for the amount of time that it, and you, need.
Even though you have been offered a U.S. job that fits into one of the NAFTA categories, this does not mean you have proven to U.S. immigration that you have “the right stuff.” You will still have to show immigration officials that you have the necessary education (and experience, if required) for the NAFTA position.
Your employer can aid you here by explaining in your offer letter exactly why you are the right person for the job. Your employer should discuss, in layman’s terms, why your education and experience meet the employer’s specific needs and also meet the level of the NAFTA requirements. This could be as simple as your employer explaining that it needs personnel with your particular degree and/or experience. What is important is that your employer’s reasoning makes sense and is understandable by someone outside of your field.
Your employer’s offer letter can be a powerful tool in meeting the requirements for admission to the U.S. as a TN worker. Speak with your employer or an immigration attorney if you have questions on your specific employment.