Q. Our software company is considering hiring a Canadian citizen for a computer systems analyst position. Does the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) allow us to hire this individual?
A. Under NAFTA, a Canadian citizen may work in a professional occupation in the United States if three criteria are met:
- The job must be on the list of NAFTA-approved occupations.
- The individual must possess the designated qualifications for the position.
- The job must require “professional” skills.
Qualifying Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa. Instead, they receive “TN” status from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when they enter the United States. This status may be granted only on a temporary, one-year basis. However, it can be renewed for additional one-year periods at a local USCIS office or at the border. Although there is no limit on the number of times a Canadian can renew TN status, the purpose of the U.S. stay must continue to be temporary. If an individual with TN status files for permanent residency to remain in the United States indefinitely, it will be very difficult to renew his or her TN status.
“Computer systems analyst” is a position on the NAFTA list. Qualified individuals must have: (1) a baccalaureate or licenciature degree or (2) a post-secondary diploma or certificate and three years of experience.
If the Canadian meets these criteria, he or she can apply for TN status at the border. The worker will be required to provide a passport or birth certificate establishing Canadian citizenship, show a copy of the college degree or employment records that establish his or her qualifications for the computer systems analyst job and pay a $110 fee.
You should also provide a letter to present to USCIS officials offering the individual the position, describing the job duties and stating the terms of employment.