TN for Technical Publications Writer category without an English Degree.

Question: Can I get a TN as a Technical Publications Writer even though I do not have a B.A. in English? I have a job offer as a Technical Writer and I have a lot of technical writing experience (in health sciences, not engineering). I have a Bachelor’s degree, but my major wasn't in English. I did take a lot of humanities-type courses (which meant a lot of writing!). My Master of Science degree is in the health sciences. I'm concerned that despite my experience, I'll be denied because of the education fit!

Answer: In any case where you do not have an exact match between your degree and the proposed TN occupational category, you can expect to face some resistance in obtaining an approval for TN status. But this doesn’t mean that you must have an exact match. In most cases, the degree possessed by a TN applicant “should be in the field or in a closely related field.” Michael D. Cronin, Memo to Regional Directors, Guidance for Processing Applicants under NAFTA, in 77 Interpreter Releases 1556-57 (Oct. 30, 2000). Inspecting officers may consider whether a degree in an “allied field” may be acceptable for the particular TN category and are instructed to use “good judgment” in this determination. Id. You need to show a reasonable relationship between your degree and the occupational category.

Whenever I am faced with a mismatched TN case, the first place I turn to is The Occupational Outlook Handbook, a reference used by U.S. immigration in adjudicating TN applications. The OOH provides that "Most jobs in [writing] require a college degree in communications, journalism, or English, although a degree in a technical subject may be useful for technical-writing positions." The OOH further states that "[i]ncreasingly, technical writing requires a degree in, or some knowledge about, a specialized field—for example, engineering, business, or one of the sciences."

Based on this language, you could make an argument for eligibility under the Technical Publications Writer TN category based on your Master’s degree. However, simply submitting your TN application just with your degrees and without any explanation or argument isn’t a good idea. You will have to clearly state in the TN application how your degree qualifies you for a position as a technical writer. You should highlight all your writing intensive courses. An expert opinion, stating that you are well qualified for a technical writing position because of your degree, could also help.

Mismatched TN applications, where the applicant’s degree is not clearly related to the proposed TN occupational category, are difficult and quick to draw the wrath of an inspecting officer. Before going to the border with a “mismatched” TN application, individuals should consider speaking with an attorney in order to obtain a professional opinion on the merits of the case.