Published: Jan 13, 2022
As a Canadian, you might think “Companies in the US won’t want to hire a Canadian when they can simply just hire an American” or “You can only get a job in the US if you’re a developer”. Both of these are incorrect and limiting beliefs I held for many years myself. As a Canadian myself, I applied, interviewed, and reached the final round interview at a few US-based companies. With the following methods, I have successfully broken this common misconception.
You may want to land a US job to increase your compensation (not only $ amount but currency wise), the ability to take on a unique opportunity a caliber above what you can find in Toronto, or maybe just the desire to live in a new city to enrich your life. For me, it was all three reasons above which drove my decision.
During my time applying to jobs, I was delighted to discover something.
US employers don’t care about your citizenship, they care if you are top talent. During your interviews you will generally be treated the same as a US Candidate, because there is no language barrier, and very minimal cultural differences from a work perspective.
Apply To US Jobs – Ignore Job Postings Visa Requirements
The first step is to apply to US job postings. If the job says, US applicants only, or New York City candidates preferred – just apply! Don’t let the location aspect hold you back. If the job application says “Do you require company sponsorship to work for the company?” – just put no. The purpose of those questions is to filter out people applying from random countries that require company sponsorship. remember, TN-1 is NOT sponsorship.
Real life example: My friend Jake went from being a Consultant at Deloitte Canada to a Product Manager in California. He used the exact same strategy above.
If your resume is good and tailored, you’ll land an interview. Three of the companies I directly applied to on AngelList and landed an interview.
You May Have To Educate The Employer On The Process
Larger companies, often have dedicated HR or legal teams that specialize in global mobility, who handle all visa applications on behalf of the company. Smaller companies on the other hand may require some educating on the visa process, as they do not go through this process very often. In my case, I was applying to companies with less than 100 people who have never done a TN-1 Visa before.
Script To Say During the Interview
On the first call, the recruiter or hiring manager will usually be up front and ask you directly. “We noticed your resume says Toronto, you are aware this is a New York job right?”
That’s your cue to clearly explain your intention and also help them relieve any confusion they have about visas.
An example of a key phrase you you should follow as a general guide is:
“It’s my goal to work in the US for x y z reasons. I do not require company sponsorship, I can come down as part of the TN-1 Visa. Have you heard of the NAFTA agreement? (They will most likely say yes) – Right, as a Canadian we have a special visa that allows us to work on the US without much hassle. All I require is a job offer and a letter of intent. We can discuss those details later on in later interview rounds. Does that sound okay?”
If you reach the offer stage and they counteroffer “Ok, we’ll hire you as a Canadian employee and transfer you down through the L1 Visa” – Tell them no, that’s not how the TN-1 Visa works. You need to come in as a US Employee, so US Job Offer with the salary in USD.
How The TN-1 Differs from The H1-B Visa
The H1-B visa and he TN-1 visa have differences. The H1-B visa, the company actually sponsors you, they work with lawyers to submit your application into a lottery of some sort which comes back with a result. With a H1-B you are eligible to get a green card (permanent residency status) and then eventually apply to become a US citizen.
The TN-1 Visa is strictly a work visa that has a duration of 1-3 years. It does not grow your eligibility for a green card. That’s generally why I feel like it’s easier to obtain.
The TN-1 visa lists 40 job codes which are eligible for the program. The top ones for business people are “Management Consultant” “Computer Systems Analyst” and “Accountant”. You will have to explain and match your job offer to the job code and listed criteria. Sometimes it can be a bit of a stretch, but many have done it. These job codes seem to be from the 2000’s so are outdated and are ‘up to interpretation ‘
TN-1 Visa Application Process
Step 1) Get a US Job Offer
Step 2) Figure out if your company has a legal team that helps with Visas.
I received offers from multiple US companies with different levels of familiarity and support with the process and saw some differences.
Big companies have in house lawyers. They’ll handle everything. Mature companies will have a law firm on retainer they have an ongoing relationship with. Startups may have no legal team, and so either they can pay an immigration lawyer to manage your case ($1500USD) or ask you to figure it out yourself.
Step 3) Prepare your application and get a lawyer to look over it before submission day.
Step 4) Submit your application through the direct entry method or by the filing method.
You can either submit by going to a port of entry i.e. US Border like Niagara Falls or Pearson Airport or you can submit by mailing a package directly to the UCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Department).
I would try the direct entry method first and if that fails, filing directly. Filing is free if you want to wait 5 weeks but if you are willing to pay $1500 they can give you a 15 calendar day expedited option.
After a strong interview process, I received a written job offer. I signed the offer and my company put me in touch with their lawyers on retainer via email.
My lawyers prepared an application for me under the “Computer Systems Analyst” job posting.
I started the job the following week, even before my visa was processed. This is possible because it’s a remote job, and my company wanted me to start ASAP. I think this was in my favor, because if my visa had failed I would have already proven my value to the company, so they would be more likely to find an alternative method to keep me on e.g. hire me as a contractor.
The lawyers asked me to submit photos of various information like passport, second piece of ID, university transcript, diploma, the job offer, job posting, and more.
They complied a 20 page package of all the above. Here is what the first page looked like.
I drove down from Toronto to Peace Bridge in Buffalo. I pulled my car over to go into the visa office. I was called to the counter by a grumpy old man right off the bat he started asking direct questions – what job are you applying for? What did you study in school, etc.
Unfortunately he explained my application would not be accepted based on the job description being too ambiguous for him.
I brought the results back to the lawyer and he said he will file directly with UCIS and asked my company to pay the $1500 processing fee which they agreed to.
We filed and it was not accepted again. We received an RFE (Request For More Evidence). They wanted more clarity on how my job matched that of a computer Systems Analyst. My lawyers rewrote the letter to show how each specific job responsibility matched the requirements.
After this additional revision, and applying a third time, it was accepted. It was certainly not an easy process for me during these last two months. Most people only have to apply once or twice, but “third time was the charm” for me.
Niroojan moved from Toronto to NYC under the Management Consultant job code to work for PwC. PwC had an in-house legal team he worked with but faced the exact same challenge I did. At the Buffalo border he was met with harsh negotiation and the visa officer was unconvinced about his job description meeting the official job code.
Shortly later his legal team filed with the UCIS and it passed.
In conclusion I hope this article helps you navigate the TN-1 Visa process. Like many things in life you don’t know it’s possible until you see it done, and I hope this inspires you to know you can do it. It takes dedication and a strong desire to make it happen, but when there is a will, there is a way.
Reddit Case Study
Boundless Blog – TN Status Explained
Reddit Story from first hand successful TN-1 Visa Applicant as Computer Systems Analyst
Advice From Immigration Lawyers
Here are quotes directly from Immigration Lawyers I spoke with.
Immigration Lawyer Kelly Sullivan
“I have a flat fee of $1500USD. OR, if your case is near completion and you just need a very small amount help we could also work on an hourly basis. If we submit to UCIS I can monitor the case. If you do not get accepted and they ask for an RFE (Request For More Evidence) I will take care of that for you.
Immigration Lawyer Brown Immigration
Our team has processed over 5000 TN-1 Visas so we are familiar with the process.
For your port of entry, you can go to Pearson Airport, Niagara Falls “Rainbow Bridge”, Buffalo “Peace Bridge”, etc. I specifically recommend going to the Buffalo Peace Bridge POE as we have seen the most success with applicants there.
For the timing, we recommend you 9am-5pm Monday-Friday because that’s when the most senior officers are there, who will know the TN-1 Visa process there the best
Results From This Blog Post
I had some people reach out and let me know the blog post has been helpful. Thank you for letting me know!
See my sequel post: How To Manage Your Banking & Health Insurance When Moving to the US