In our last blog, we reviewed some of the visa options for Canadians looking to conduct business in the United States, including B-1 visas for temporary business visitors, E-1 visas for treaty traders, and E-2 visas for treaty investors. Below, we set out other visas available to entrepreneurs eyeing business opportunities with our neighbours to the south.

TN Visa: Professional Status (NAFTA)

The TN visa was created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which allows Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the U.S. to conduct professional business activities. The visa holder must have a “non-immigrant intent”; i.e., the person seeking TN Professional Status must not intend to move permanently to the U.S. but instead wishes to move there to work for a temporary time before returning to their home country.

Applying for a TN visa

A Canadian national seeing TN Professional Status does not need to seek a visa before entering the United States. Instead, the person usually applies at the time of their border crossing (although they can apply in advance with a $500 USD application fee).

Employers in the United States can also file for TN Professional Status on behalf of a Canadian citizen through Form I-129. In this process, the Canadian citizen only needs to present proof of citizenship and approval notice from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for Form I-129 to gain TN Professional Status.

Duration of a TN visa

Once granted, the TN Professional Status visa lasts for three years, after which time the person will need to re-apply if they wish to stay longer.

Eligibility requirements for a TN visa

Professions that are eligible for TN visas are divided into four groups: general, medical, scientific, and education.

Examples of professions included within each group include:

General group

  • architects
  • accountants
  • engineers
  • graphic designers
  • hotel managers
  • lawyers

Medical group

  • dentists
  • nutritionists
  • pharmacists
  • psychologists
  • veterinarians

Scientific group

  • astronomers
  • biochemists
  • epidemiologists
  • meteorologists
  • physicists

Education group

  • college professionals
  • university professionals
  • seminary study professionals

Documentation requirements for a TN visa

The following documentation for obtaining TN Professional Status must set out or include the following:

  • Proof of Canadian citizenship;
  • A letter from the applicant’s prospective employer outlining the professional capacity in which the applicant will work in the U.S. and the purpose of their employment;
  • The length of proposed stay; and
  • Educational qualifications and satisfaction of licencing requirements in Canada.

L-1 Visa: Intra-Company Transfer

Many Canadians work for international companies that have operations in the United States and, as a result, may be required to work in the U.S. for a period of time. L-1 visas allow employers of companies with cross-border operations to send Canadian workers to the U.S.

Eligibility requirements for an L-1 visa

To qualify for an L-1 visa for entry into the United States, Canadian applicants must meet certain career qualifications. The applicant must:

  • Have worked for the company in Canada for at least one year in the three years leading up to their L-1 visa application;
  • Have worked for the company as an executive, manager, or in a specialized knowledge capacity; and
  • Be moving to the U.S. to work for a subsidiary, branch, or affiliate of the company in Canada.

For companies that are expanding into the United States for the first time, the company must also have a physical location for the new operation in the U.S.

“Specialized knowledge capacity”

As stated above, if the L-1 visa applicant is not an executive or manager, they must work in a specialized knowledge capacity with the company. A “specialized knowledge capacity” means the applicant has knowledge about the organization’s:

  • Product;
  • Service;
  • Research;
  • Equipment;
  • Techniques;
  • Management; or
  • Other interests.

The applicant must also understand the application of the subject matter of their knowledge to international markets.

Blanket L-1 visa petitions: Companies with substantial immigration requirements can submit a blanket petition to make their L-1 intra-company transfers more efficient. However, it does not guarantee entry for any individual applicant.

To be eligible for a blanket petition, a company must:

  • Be engaged in commercial trade or services;
  • Have an office that has been doing business in the U.S. for at least one year;
  • Have at least three domestic and foreign branches, subsidiaries or affiliates; and
  • Be able to satisfy one of the following criteria:
    • It has secured at least 10 L-1 visas within the previous 12-month period;
    • It has U.S. subsidiaries or affiliates with combined annual sales of at least $25 million; or
    • It has a U.S. workforce of at least 1,000 employees.

Dependents allowed under an L-1 visa

An L-1 visa holder’s spouse and children under 21 years of age are generally permitted to accompany the visa holder to the United States for the duration of their stay.

Contact Garson Immigration Law in Toronto for Comprehensive U.S. Immigration Services

Garson Immigration Law is dedicated to helping Canadian workers and entrepreneurs conduct business in the United States with as little bureaucratic hassle as possible. Our team of knowledgeable immigration lawyers assists clients in obtaining all forms of U.S. business visas, including E-visas, TN Professional Status visas, and L-`1 visas. We also provide trusted advice on inadmissibility issues. To schedule a consultation with a member of our team, please reach out online or call 416-321-2860.

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