Canadian seeks TN status.
February 1, 2007 7:05 PM   Subscribe

TN status super seven! Seven questions from a Canadian teacher & arts professional- of course, there's --

okay. thanks to some great askmefi advice, i'm off to the US this week to teach my first-ever college course in my specialty. i'm gonna try to get TN status in order to do this. i've researched this quite a lot, but i still have some dumb questions. thanks in advance .

i need to apply for this visa at my "port of entry".
i'm canadian. i'm flying out of canada this sunday, in a 2-part flight: a 30-min layover in [large american city airport#1], then a flight to my teaching city [smaller american city airport #2].
so, um, where do i go ask the nice lady for my visa? in canada, or when i first land in the states, or in my destination city?

i'm worried i'll get turned down for the visa.
you need a baccalaureate degree (huh?)- i have an honours BA and a college certificate, both in the subject i'll be teaching. i also have 8+ years' documented professional experience in the field. but... i am not a certified teacher. i worry that i'll be turned down because they'll see me as an "artist" (artists usually need O1 or H1B visas, which take months to get), and not a "teacher" (teachers need TN visas, which are granted at the border).
i do have a 2-page letter from the inviting college that clearly states my qualifications and the courses i'll be teaching and why they think i'm an expert (ie, because i'm well trained, have professional credits & peer respect, and i'm broadly experienced).
any advice? do you think i'll be turned down, hive mind?

i could bring an assload of proof that i'm a practicing artist- press clippings, and a bunch of reference letters from other artists from awards & grants, dating back about 6 years. will these help? --or will they make me seem like more of an "artist", and less of a "teacher"?
i could also try to make my resume focus on the education-related jobs i've had in the past- but this is my first time officially teaching in a college setting. most of my teaching has been with kids.
is it better to present myself as an artist, or a teacher?

i'm crossing the border on sunday- leaving canada around 10 am, landing in destination city around 4pm on superbowl sunday. obviously these are both bad times of week to do a bureaucratic crossing.
i plan to be very chipper and professional and dress nicely.
i'll arrange the letter of invitiation from the college, and my citizenship documents, references, and press clippings, in a nice looking folder and have it all prepped & organized.
i'll have the number for a professor from the college handy, so we can call him on his cel and he can vouch for me if need be.
what else should i do to be approved?

if the unthinkable happens and i'm rejected, what do i do?
the gig is on tuesday. i have no time or money to go home & start over.
can i still get on the plane and go to the city? i have relatives in the same city, so i was gonna stay with them for a visit anyway. i can still go there, right?

if i get turned down, how bad is it to just teach the class anyway? how would they catch me? how dumb is this, given that i want to get a green card in the next couple years?

is there anything of importance that i haven't considered?

thank you very much for being smarter than me, hive mind.
posted by twistofrhyme to Law & Government (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. Dude, you're never going to make it through step one in 30 minutes, and the staff there will have the least bit of concern for your connection. The good news is that you can do the immigration stuff in Canada if you're flying from a major Canuck airport (YYZ, YUL, etc.)

2. Bring a copy of your CV, but just one copy, in addition to the stuff you mentioned.

3. See 2.

4. I strongly suggest getting an immigration lawyer on a waiver, so that if things are looking bad you can call him up for some quick advice. Might be the best money you ever did/didn't spend.

5. No, I doubt they'd let you through.

6. You don't think that after stopping you at the border for an hour and rejecting you that they aren't going to put it in their computer system?

7. The lawyer. Also maybe speak to American consulate beforehand to see if they can give you additional advice. Also I've heard they often require records that prove the employer can afford to provide a real salary for you (and it's not just a front company) although if the school is well recognized you should be fine in that respect.

Good luck!
posted by furtive at 7:47 PM on February 1, 2007

And by waiver I mean retainer, and by get a lawyer I mean at least have the phone number of a lawyer who might help in this sort of situation.
posted by furtive at 8:27 PM on February 1, 2007

Best answer: Here are my best guesses. I've hired a lot of H1's and one TN, and came to the US from Canada on an L1 myself, but have never crossed the border as a TN.

1) Your port of entry is where you go through US immigration. Most of the time if you're leaving from Canada by plane, you go through immigration at the Canadian airport.

You can see a list of ports of entry here:

Look at the menu on the right and pick Appendix E - Port Codes. This will open a word doc. Search on Canada and see if your city is on the list.

2) You have everything you need. A border official has pretty broad latitude to not let you in, but you have everything you need, so I think it would be unusual for you not to make it.

Technically since you're coming in to teach you don't really need the TN, since you would be coming in as a NAFTA professional - you just need the BA. The main thing they'll look at will be the letter and your identification. They may ask you some easy questions about what you're coming in to do, and why you're qualified. I assume you've made sure the letter has all the items in it they want to see.

Teacher certification is not as big a deal here as it is in Canada, so don't worry about that at all.

3. You should bring a resume or CV, but neither is a requirement and the difference between them won't matter. If you want to focus it, focus it on being a teacher, since that's the basis on which you're trying to get in.

4. If you want to prove your experience, it's supposed to be in the form of letters from previous employers, not a resume or CV.

5. If you're rejected my guess, and this is only a guess, is that they won't let you cross the border at all. You would have to cross at another time.

6. They probably wouldn't catch you, and you could always drive acriss later, but it probably is a poor risk to take if you want to get a green card later.

7. Nothing I can think of, but someone else probably will!
posted by lockedroomguy at 8:42 PM on February 1, 2007

1. You do it at the airport. I made it through in less than 30 minutes at YVR on one Saturday afternoon; I got my flight bumped up gratis. You may not be so lucky.

2. Where were your credentials granted? If they are Canadian credentials, they should have been evaluated by an American institution (eg, Trustforte) to show the US equivalent of your Canadian degree. Also, I am surprised they did not have a criminal background check done, this document is handy. Again, the background check should be done by Americans.

3. What is the TN category you wish to qualify for? The TN category has a well-defined job title associated with it. Spin your experience on your resume towards the targeted TN job title. Your work materials are not necessary.

4. Skip the press clippings. You need the original copy of your bachelor's degree and original transcripts. Bring your resume. Again, you should also have the credential evaluation and background check; however, it is probably too late to get those things done.

5. I was rejected for a TN once, I was given the option to go north or south. This is at the discretion of the border officials, a friend of mine was turned back. For what it's worth, I am a Canadian citizen and US resident at the time who had just gone out of TN status and slightly screwed up my renewal. I was granted the TN about an hour later by a different official at the same port of entry. All is not lost if you are rejected, but it would probably be impossible to reapply in the same day at the airport (it is easier to do by road).

6. It's bad. Don't do it. When you get to your place of employment, they will ask you to fill in a W-9, which requires a SSN. You can't apply for an SSN without a visa. Your employer probably will not be cool with paying you under the table (since it probably receives government funding in some way) and your employer will probably terminate you, and may be required to report your illegal alien ass.

7. A TN is a temporary visa. When they ask you how long you are going to be working at this job, say one year. Your offer letter should also say that it's for one year (although you should sign a separate contract with your employer if you are actually being hired for indefinite employment). Make it sound like you're going back to Canada when you're done. That means you should mention some ties to Canada to which you will return (relatives, property, etc).

DO NOT say anything about aspirations for a green card. A green card is contrary to the temporary intent of the TN visa.

Also, make sure you tell them you are going directly to work, and NOT to your relatives' house. They are getting sticky on this. A TN is a working visa, not a playing visa, and they want to grant it as close as possible to your start date.

And by the way, check your expectations on the green card. You will need an H-1B before you can apply for a green card. You must have your H-1B visa application prepped by April 1 for an October 1 2007 visa start. The labor certification process is quick these days, but the wait for a green card in the EB3 category is about 5 years. That means you will be waiting about 6 years for a green card.

If your letter of invitation does not clearly state the TN visa category for which you are applying and the reasons your credentials satisfy the criteria for this category, then your letter must be rewritten or you will be turned back at the border.

It is very clear you need legal advice on this matter. You seem a bit underprepared. I don't know how you will find a qualified immigration attorney at this late date. Good luck, you will need it.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:55 PM on February 1, 2007

Response by poster: hey, it's twistofrhyme. thanks for the advice so far.
a few points that maybe i can clarify:

1. where to get the visa?
what i meant to ask by this Q was: i'm nervous about getting hung up in immigration and missing my flights- but hey! my destination city IS a port of entry- thanks, lockedroomguy! that's a relief.

2. credentials
my credentials are canadian, but from internationally-known schools. i will bring original transcripts- thanks for that advice- i was planning to bring copies.
i'll also make it an educational resume. thanks for that advice, crazycanuck.

i'm applying to be a TEACHER at a small US college. i think the letter is pretty clear about what i'm gonna teach and why they consider me qualified.
i do have some reference letters from previous employers. they're from old grant applications, but they show i had jobs and was good at them. i'll bring them.

5 & 6. being sneaky
scary stuff. fingers crossed i get in, otherwise i'm screwed.
but on consideration, the job offer really isn't good enough to jeapordize a green card- so thanks for the scaring, i won't be sneaky. if i don't get in, too bad for me. it's true, the school's not paying under the table, so i won't risk it.

7. staying in the US?
the job offer is literally for 2 days- i fly in on sunday, i teach mon/tues, fly out on wednesday. i have a return flight booked, and a contract from my current canadian employer that proves i'm coming back home to a nice little canadian job.
i did speak to the US consulate to check all this stuff. they have an expensive 1-900 number, which told me i seemed to be fulfilling all the requirements, but refused to promise anything, of course.
i do want a green card down the road, but i won't mention it to the immigration people. i know that green cards and TN visas don't mix. luckily, my letter is very clear that i'm looking for TN status for a 2-day job. if i could just get a 2-day TN visa, i'd take it.

thanks, all, for your help so far- much appreciated.
i'll be checking this thread obsessively all weekend, so more insights will be very gratefully considered!
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:41 PM on February 1, 2007

I applied for a TN, was turned down, went back to the border a couple of days later with the exact same paperwork, but got a different customs agent and was approved. It is 100% customs agent discretion. If you get turned down you will probably be denied entry, because it's pretty clear that if you do go across, it would be for work, even if you say it's to visit a relative. So be prepared with a backup plan. Once you have the TN you can come and go as you please, as long as your work in the US is for the same employer. Once you get into the USA you will need to apply for an SSN, which could take a month or two, depending on processing times. If you do decide to stay, make sure you apply for your renewal 6 months before your TN expires, if you don't want to go back to the border and reapply.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:05 PM on February 1, 2007

Oh, and make sure your job offer letter lists the title of the position you're going for, and that it is EXACTLY what is on the list of approved TN visa approved job titles.

Also, no phone call to anyone, including your employer will do anything for you. Have it in writing, or you've got nothing.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:07 PM on February 1, 2007

Best answer: 1. Just to clarify, you will apply for your TN in the city you clear customs and immigration. You mentioned your destination city is a Port of Entry, but from what you described, this will not be the place to apply. As mentioned, some of the larger airports have preclearance. If this is the case you will apply in your departing airport. If not, you will apply in the location you touch down.

2. As others have stated, for the category you are applying under has a description of the job requirements and your offer should closely match these requirements. Assume your interviewer has no knowledge or interest in your field. As in Blue Beetle's case the interviewer did not see the differnce between an Analyst and a Programmer.

4. You should bring your original degree and certificate with you, and a copy of your transcripts for both. These should be certifed copies. Also it may help to have the fee in US cash.

5. As others have said you may be allowed to enter or be forced to return. For a 2 day job and depending on how you will be paid you may not even need the permit (although I would assume you do.) As far as your flights go, you may want to check with your airline on their policy on what will happen if you get denied. Usually they are pretty good if you end up missing a flight because you are held in immegration, but it may be good for you to know the procedure ahead of time if you have to return to your destination.

It may be worth your time getting a consultation with an immigration lawyer. Possibly even checking with the colleges HR department to see how they normally handle this (mostly with respect to how they will pay you) since you will likely not have time to apply for a Social Security Number.
posted by Yorrick at 11:04 PM on February 1, 2007

Agreed with others that your offer letter must state the job title in a way that matches WORD FOR WORD some category that's in the customs agent's book (ie in the letter of the law that creates the TN visa). I was refused a visa because the agents didn't know enough about academia to know the similarities between a post-doc and a visiting professor; the guy also didn't know what a "dissertation" was. Don't assume that the agent will be willing or able to connect any dots in your application -- you need to get those dots connected in writing for him/her. Don't assume they'll know anything about colleges, universities, etc. (Another point, your offer letter should be original, on letterhead from the place that's hiring you.)

Similarly, don't assume that the agent will know anything at all about Canadian schools -- you say your graduating institution is internationally-known, but don't count on that pulling any weight. Most Americans haven't heard of McGill, Queen's, Simon Fraser, Dalhousie, or any other prestigious Canadian school. (I suppose border agents may be an exception)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:02 AM on February 2, 2007

Best answer: 2. Also: A BA is a baccalaureate degree. A.k.a. a bachelor's, an undergraduate degree, in Canadian "a university degree", in American "a college degree".
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:05 AM on February 2, 2007

Best answer: hey folks-
it's twistofrhyme, now the proud holder of TN status, with a concluding chapter:

i made up a very geeky, very organized booklet of all my documents- a clear plastic report cover (so professonal looking!). every document was in a plastic slip, each clearly labelled with a post-it note (using jargon off the amcits website). i was an office temp for years, and it shows.

my booklet contained:
US employment letter (original & copy)
photocopies of my passport, license, birth cert.
photocopies of my degree & diploma
original transcripts from college and university
resume (submitted as a biography, so it was dense and impressive-looking)
current canadian work contract (to prove i'm coming home)
assorted freelance work contracts, jury invitation letters, and reference letters from old employers, most of which were addressed to committees for award and grants, all dating back a few years (to prove professional credentials & history).

i had a separate portfolio of press to show professional acknowledgement in my field.
nobody cared.

i wore red, white, & blue, displayed friendly, submissive body language, batted my eyelashes, and generously buttered my mouth with pink lipgloss.
nobody cared.

well, nobody *acted* like they cared. but i'm pretty damn irresistible, blinking like a camel with hanks of hair stuck in my lipgloss. they were probably impressed. but you know, they act all tough.

the preliminary inspector terrified me by saying that they sometimes ask for actual diplomas (who the hell un-frames their college diploma and crumples it into a suitcase? not me. come on, america. i need those on my office wall to impress the cleaning lady).

the actual inspector barely glanced at me or my document booklet. he did comment that it was "hefty", then blocked it with his body and asked what year i graduated university. he asked if i'd ever taught before, and why this contract was so short. he was annoyed that i didn't know the address i'd be staying at (i had plans to stay with family who were picking me up at the airport), but he accepted their name and phone number in lieu of an address, and warned me to prep that info next time. then he fingerprinted me (on their filthy fingerprint scanner, eew), and waved me through.

15 minutes. (this was 7am on a sunday morning.)

in fact, it took longer for the department of security theatre to pat me down and ascertain that i wasn't carrying a bomb in my bra. what they didn't realize was that i always have TWO bombs in my bra:
ba-bam and ba-boom. yeah, you heard me.

$ 50 USD later and i'm a legal alien.


know where you're staying!
addresses, zip codes, phone numbers!

look cute and make nice!
or look nice and make cute!

do lots of geeky prep work!
as soon as they saw that clear plastic report cover with its diligently-included photocopy of my heartbreakingly unattractive passport photo, i could feel their homeland security tough-guy hearts melting. they probably only passed me because they felt sorry for my obviously empty life and obsessive-compulsive post-it-note overapplication. i'm an office depot immigrant, and that's fine by me.

thanks for all your help, hive mind!
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:48 AM on February 5, 2007

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