Educational Requirements for Scientific Technologists - TN Visa

Educational Requirements for Scientific Technologists - TN Visa

The scientific technologist category is one of the most heavily scrutinized categories for TN Visa status. This is because the overwhelming majority of TN categories require a bachelor's licenciatura degree or a state/ provincial license. Below we will discuss the educational requirements for scientific technologists looking to apply for a TN visa. 

Sometimes individuals possess years of experience and training but no degree. Their experience makes them highly desirable and employable in United States but obtaining a TN visa can be more complex. 

What are the educational requirements for scientific technologists applying for a TN visa? 

NAFTA, now called USMCA, states that the requirement for a scientific technologist is, 

  • a theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics; and
  • the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research.

It does not list any educational requirement beyond what is outlined above. However, a government memorandum referred to as the "Williams memo", which provides guidance to immigration officers on evaluating the qualifications and eligibility of an individual applying for a scientific technology TN has caused some confusion related to the educational requirements. Namely, that memo states

The Scientific Technician's theoretical knowledge should have been acquired through the successful completion of at least two years of training in a relevant educational program. Such training may be documented by presentation of a diploma, a certificate, or a transcript accompanied by evidence of relevant work experience.

This language used is problematic because it makes it appear, and has been applied by some border officers to add specific educational requirements associated with the scientific technologist category. However, note that the language used is "should" rather than "must". Therefore, individuals who do not possess any post-secondary education, therefore, may still qualify as scientific technologists if they have sufficient documented theoretical knowledge through work experience or other educational/ certification programs. 

The standard to be applied is not the same as the standard for degreed professionals. 

How can I prove that I have the requisite theoretical knowledge required for a scientific technologist TN visa? 

Below are some examples of the evidence that scientific technologists can use to prove theoretical knowledge: 

  • Transcripts, diplomas, and training certificates (if available) 
  • Industry experience documented by reference letters from previous employers or experts in the field 
  • A letter from your prospective U.S. employer noting and documenting your previous experience 

Our firm recommends being able to document at least three to five years of theoretical knowledge acquisition. 

What other requirements do scientific technologists need to be eligible for a TN Visa? 

First, individuals for whom scientific technicians/technologists wish to provide direct support must qualify as a professional in their own right in one of the following fields: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics.

Secondly, the offer of employment must demonstrate that the work of the scientific technologist will be interrelated with that of the supervisory professional. The work of the Scientific Technologist must be managed, coordinated, and reviewed by the professional supervisor, and must also provide input to the supervisory professional's own work. 

Finally, the U.S. authorities will rely on the Department of Labour's Outlook Handbook (OOH) to establish whether the proposed job functions are consistent with those of a scientific technologist. Here is an example of the OOH job duties description for an Industrial Engineering Technologist and Technician

Immigration lawyer for Scientific Technologist Visa Application 

Our immigration lawyers are based in Troy, MI and Windsor, ON and can assist you in preparing your Scientific Technologist TN visa application. To get started, please schedule a strategy session. During the strategy session, you can ask questions about the process and we can review your proposed job and background to give you an opinion on eligibility.  

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