International Travel Changes for Economist TN Visa Holder

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On December 18, 2017, USCIS issued clarifying guidance on NAFTA TN status eligibility for economists. USCIS specified how to interpret its policy memo dated November 20, 2017 and the specific work activities its officers should consider when determining whether an individual qualifies for TN nonimmigrant status as an economist.

What is the TN Visa?
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Treaty National (TN) nonimmigrant status allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the U.S. to engage in specific professional activities. TN nonimmigrant status allows a limited number of professionals and specialists to work temporarily in certain specifically identified occupations in the United States.  The TN Visa, allows citizens of Canada and Mexico, as NAFTA professionals, to work in the United States in prearranged business activities for U.S. or foreign employers. 

What are the requirements?
You may be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, if:

  • You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
  • Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
  • The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
  • You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer; and
  • You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

What professions are covered?
Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, dentists, economists, engineers, graphic designers, interior designers, lawyers, pharmacists, physicians, registered nurses, scientists, teachers and veterinarians.  Click here for a complete list of professions covered under the NAFTA and minimum education requirements and alternative credentials.

Why has the policy changed for economists?
This is because NAFTA does not define the term economist, resulting in inconsistent decisions on whether certain analysts and financial professionals qualify for TN status as economists. The policy update clarifies that professional economists requesting TN status must engage primarily in activities consistent with the profession of an economist.

This means that individuals who work primarily in other occupations related to the field of economics — such as financial analysts, marketing analysts, and market research analysts — are not eligible for classification as a TN economist.

I'm a TN Visa holder under the Economist category. How will this affect me?
It is important to remember that everyone who is not a citizen entering the United States at a port of entry is requesting admission to the country. This means that it is up to a customs and border official's discretion whether or not to allow a person into the country.

If you are a non-citizen, particularly if you're an Economist TN visa holder, it is important to seek immigration counsel before international travel. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may revoke the TN status of previously approved individuals encountered at ports of entry who are seeking readmission in TN status as Economists. CBP is trained to refer to the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) as a tool for determining whether the applicant meets the requirements for the occupations listed in the regulations.

Please note that CBP has the authority to refuse admission to anyone it deems inadmissible to the United States, including those who fail to present proper documents. This could be used to deny admission to individuals with previously approved TNs who are classified as Economists and, upon review, are considered Financial Analysts, Market Research Analysts, or Marketing Specialists.

If you are affected by these developments and would like information about the process, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.


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