I wanted to share my personal experience securing TN visa work authorization. A “TN” visa is a nonimmigrant classification that permits qualified Americans, Canadian, and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the other countries to engage in business activities at a professional level.
In 2017, I accepted a job offer from an employer in Detroit, Michigan. Although the job wasn’t in legal practice, I was hired because I was a dual licensed lawyer with a solid understanding of professional regulations and immigration requirements in both Canada and the United States. As a Canadian citizen, I required work authorization in order to work in the United States. My employer agreed to sponsor me for a TN visa.
The Trump Administration had been in power for approximately six months at this point, and my employer was seeing the first-hand cooling effects of this on both employee and student immigration. For that reason, they retained an immigration lawyer to handle the TN process for me.
Having an immigration lawyer made the TN application process feel very simple. My application was prepared under the “Lawyer” category, which is a qualifying profession under the USMCA regulations. The lawyer required some information and documents from me - for example, my CV, degree transcripts, and a scan of my passport - and she worked directly with my employer to prepare the Sponsor Letter required by customs officers. We spoke on the phone in advance of crossing the border, and I was prepped for what to expect at the TN visa interview. Once my application was ready, I crossed the border at the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel port of entry with the application and all of my supporting documents.
When I approached the customs booth, I told the officer that I was there for the purpose of applying for a TN visa. The officer slapped a Post-It note indicating the purpose for the visit on the corner of my windshield, and I was directed to proceed to secondary inspection.
The officers at secondary inspection told me where to park, and advised me to leave my car keys on the dashboard. I had to leave all of my belongings inside of the car, including my purse and cell phone. The only things I could bring inside were my wallet, passport, the aforementioned Post-It note, my TN application, and supporting documents (including my degrees, in their frames and all!). My car and personal items were thoroughly searched by CBP officers while I was inside for the TN interview.
I entered a waiting room, where an officer took my name and the Post-It note from my dashboard. I then proceeded to sit and wait for my name to be called. There were many people in the waiting room, and several were holding their framed degrees. There were also many people in the waiting room who were crossing the border for visitor purposes, and were flagged for some reason or another by customs officers. Most people in the waiting room seemed nervous, bored, or a combination of both.
Once my name was called by an officer, I proceeded to the desk for my interview. The officer asked many questions about my background, job duties, education, law licenses, and criminal background (or rather, lack thereof). Many questions were based on the Occupational Outlook handbook, but not all - many questions seemed to be asked for the sole purpose of determining if I was being truthful in general. I was nervous, but made sure that I answered every question truthfully. I was glad that the lawyer had prepared me for the interview in advance. Eventually, the processing officer was satisfied that my job qualified for a TN visa under the “Lawyer” category.
After the interview, I had to wait several minutes while the officer typed away on his computer. Once he was finished with his reporting, I was called back to the desk. At this time, they took digital scans of my fingerprints and I received my I-94 card listing my entry date, port of entry, and status (TN). The I-94 card cost about $6, and I was able to pay via credit card.
All in all, the process of getting a TN visa was very quick. My application was prepared within approximately a week, and the TN was processed at the border on the same day I applied for it. Getting the TN visa was the first (and very important) step to legally working in the U.S. Having the work authorization allowed me to take the next important step: securing a Social Security Number.