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Does My Job Title Need to Match the TN Occupational Classification List?

Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), qualifying Canadian and Mexican nationals can work in the United States under the TN nonimmigrant visa classification. In 2020, a new agreement, the United Sates-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, took effect and replaced NAFTA. Although the agreement changed, the requirements to qualify for the TN visa have remained the same with the adoption of the USMCA. One of those requirements is that the foreign national must be coming to the United States to perform work for a U.S. company in any of the sixty-three professions listed under USMCA Chapter 16 Appendix 2.

A common question among TN applicants is whether their proposed job title must be identical to one of the professions on the USMCA list. There is no requirement that the job title a company uses matches exactly to a USMCA occupational classification. Companies should instead focus on the job duties of the proffered position and the nonimmigrants qualifications to determine if the position qualifies.

Although the nonimmigrants job title does not need to match the TN occupational classification list, the position at hand does need to align with a position on the list. Visa applicants need to be explicit in explaining which USMCA position their job most closely relates to and must prove they qualify under an occupation on the USMCA list. The regulations governing TN visa status do not specifically define the job duties permissible under the TN occupational categories. Nonimmigrants should therefore refer to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) or the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine for guidance on job duties in order to make this determination. For example, a nonimmigrant who wants to apply for a TN visa to work as a Chemical Engineer would review the OOH and/or O*NET and likely determine the position qualifies under the Engineer occupation on the USMCA list. The TN visa applicant does not need to change their proposed job title to simply “Engineer” to apply for the TN visa but rather needs to prove that all of the related requirements are met for the designation.

In addition to listing the broad range of designated professions, the USMCA lays out the minimum education, licensing, and/or experience requirements the candidate must possess in order to qualify for the profession. While there are some exceptions, almost every profession listed requires a bachelor’s degree as an entry-level requirement. If a bachelor’s degree is required, experience cannot be substituted for that degree; however, some professions do allow an alternative to a bachelor’s degree. For example, the Computer Systems Analyst position requires either (1) a baccalaureate or licenciatura degree; (2) post-secondary diploma; or (3) post-secondary certificate and three years of experience. Visa applicants must possess the requisite education and/or experience at the time of applying for TN status.

Although the regulations do not provide guidance on the type of degree suitable for a particular occupational category, immigration officers do require a specific degree in the occupational field in order to qualify for TN visa status. To determine the appropriate degree for a TN occupation, visa candidates should refer to the OOH. In order to qualify for an occupation that requires a degree, the TN applicant should possess a degree in a field closely related to the proffered position. For example, a nonimmigrant applying to work as a Chemical Engineer should have at least a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering or a closely related field. It is unlikely someone with a bachelor’s degree in communications or another unrelated field would qualify for the Chemical Engineer position since the Engineer position requires at least a bachelor’s or licenciatura degree or a state/provincial license.

Although job title is not determinative, it is important to ensure the nonimmigrant will be performing work in one of the USMCA professions. Companies must also make sure the visa candidate possesses the requisite education, license, and/or experience for the position at the time of application. To find out if you qualify for a TN visa, please contact a qualified immigration attorney.

By: Ashley Thomas

Ashley Thomas is an Senior Associate Attorney at Reddy Neumann Brown PC who focuses on employment-based non-immigrant visas. Ashley’s practice covers all phases of the visa process including filing petitions, responding to Requests for Evidence (RFE), and drafting motions and appeals. She has completed over 200 RFE’s to date in response to H-1B, L-1, I-140, and OPT petitions.