The TN technical visa is a special entry visa for the United States issued to professionals of NAFTA countries that permits the entry of technical specialists into the US for business purposes. Given the US job market since 1998, this visa is easiest to obtain privately if you are a professional in the information technology sector.

As of early 2000, there has been talk of information technology sector lobby groups to try and influence US policy on the volume of TN1 visas offered to foriegn nationals due to serious personel shortages across the United States.

The TN1 technical visa is a classification given on the I-94 Departure Record - a form stapled into your passport.

To come and work at many companies in the US from a NAFTA country as a computer professional, you'll need a TN1 Technical Visa. To obtain this document the following is required:

  • Proof of Citizenship in a country participating in the NAFTA agreement. This is given as either a passport, birth certificate or a citizenship card.
  • Proof of your status as a computer professional. This is proven by the following:
    • A diploma from an accredited university for the completion of a four year program in a technical discipline. If the diploma supplied is for a program of less than four years, there are special restrictions on the reference letters which must also be supplied (see below).
    • Grade transcripts from the program.
    • 3 reference letters. These can not be from relatives or employers. These must document at least 3 consecutive years of employment in a technical field if the diploma does not meet the four year requirement given above.
  • A supporting letter from your employer, which details the position which you are to fill, the date of hire, and a copy of the offer letter signed by both the employer and the employee.
  • An annual report from your employer's company.
  • A $50.00 US filing fee, plus a $5.00 US issuance fee for the I-94 arrival/departure card.
  • If your spouse and unmarried minor children are applying for TD visas ("Trade Dependent"), marriage and birth certificates will be required. The filing fee will be waived for TD visa applicants accompanying a TN visa holder.

In addition to the documentation, at the point of departure from your country of citizenship, a customs officer will interview you to determine if your professional designation matches what the company is bringing you over for. Nothing too detailed, but be prepared to describe generally what it is you have done and what you will be doing.

The preceeding is the official word on what is needed. Like most transactions with US customs officials, indiviuals who have almost unlimited power to fuck with you once you are at a point of entry, this will almost assuredly not be all that is required. Be prepared for one or more of the following:

  • In the official literature, photocopies of the above documentation (degree, transcripts, etc...) is sufficient. The customs offical can, at their discretion, ask to be presented with the originals. Have em handy.
  • Ditto for the transcripts - have the official ones with you.
  • At Toronto's Pearson international at 7am, when I crossed over, there was three officials on duty to handle the interview and documentation approval process. To do four people took a little over an hour and a half. The average interview was about 10 minutes. These people are not in a hurry to help. Come early and prepare for a wait.
  • It helps immensely to have all the required documentation and fee payments organized ahead of time. The number one rule of bluffing applies - look like you know what you are doing and few people will bother to check on you. Don't get cocky though. Officials hate that and these people have a right to check the contents of your bum.
  • It should be noted that the more traffic a customs office sees, the less enamored the officials become with their powers. Go for a higher volume port if possible, and try to ensure that your hiring company has lawyers available to call if the port officials give you a hassle. They may be able to help in some cases.

Once the TN1 technical visa is obtained, it is good for a period of 1 year, after which it can be renewed, or you can go for a green card. Unlike a green card application, which will include a complete physical and can include a drug test, the TN1 visa does not include any health related requirements.

Once in the states, attempt to obtain a social securty number card (SSN card) as soon as possible. This piece of identification will be required on almost every form you'll be filling out.

Good luck!

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