Everyone living in Windsor, Ontario knows an engineer (or four!) that commutes to Detroit, Michigan for their job. The opportunities for all types of engineers - including mechanical engineers, chemical engineers, automotive engineers, and others - in the Detroit area are vast. These abundant job opportunities, combined with the strength of the U.S. dollar, make commuting from Windsor to Detroit an extremely attractive option for engineers.
As immigration lawyers, we are often asked:
What visa does a Canadian engineer need to work in the U.S.?
A few different visa options exist for engineers, but the most popular visa option for Canadian engineers is the TN visa. A TN visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows qualifying Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. Some of the main reasons why the TN visa is popular includes:
- It is the quickest visa option. Canadian citizens seeking to work in the United States may get the visa processed same-day at a port of entry such as the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, Ambassador Bridge, or the Blue Water Bridge (Sarnia-Port Huron);
- It is relatively inexpensive to apply for. Compared to other employment visas, the fees for applying for TN status at a port of entry are relatively inexpensive. In addition, legal fees for preparing the application tend to be less expensive. This makes the TN visa the most affordable option for applicants.
- It can be renewed indefinitely. Although visa renewal is never guaranteed, the TN visa can be issued for up to three years. In addition, it can be renewed indefinitely. For engineers who live in Windsor and commute to Detroit for work, it is common to hold TN status for their entire working careers.
- Your spouse and dependent children can live in the United States with you. Your spouse and unmarried, minor children may live with you in the United States, although they will not be issued open work permits.
- No labor certification (PERM) is required. The employer does not have to prove that there are no qualified U.S. citizens who can do the job, making the immigration process much simpler and more employer-friendly.
To read more on TN Visas, please check out our Canada & U.S. TN Visa Guide.
What is the immigration definition of “engineer”?
When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was first signed, the drafters took a narrow view on what engineers actually do. Only engineering occupations such as Civil Engineer, Chemical Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, and other traditional engineering fields were considered and included. Since then, the definition of “Engineer” for immigration purposes has been broadened to include computer-related engineering occupations.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an Occupational Outlook Handbook. This Handbook is considered the primary source for career guidance on hundreds of occupations, and is used by the U.S. government in considering employment immigration applications. Per the Handbook, the profession of engineer includes approximately 20 engineering occupations, including automotive engineers, solar energy systems engineers, agricultural engineers, and rail yard engineers.
When an applicant applies for a TN visa under the “Engineer” profession, they will need to demonstrate that their job duties align to their field of specialization in order to qualify.
TN Visa Eligibility for Engineers
The Engineer profession is listed under the USMCA professions list as a qualifying profession, meaning Canadian and Mexican citizens with an offer of employment from a U.S. employer as an Engineer might qualify for a TN visa.
To qualify, the applicant must:
- Be a citizen of Canada or Mexico - permanent residents of either country are not eligible for TN visas;
- Be seeking temporary entry, not permanent entry. This means that the applicant must satisfy the examining officer that they will leave the United States when their employment concludes;
- Have a valid job offer from a U.S. employer or be servicing a contract with a U.S. client;
- Perform duties consistent with the Engineer profession, as defined by the Occupational Outlook Handbook; and
- Hold a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, or a State or Provincial License.