Technical Writer TN for Freelance Health /Science Writer?

Question: I am a Canadian writer and editor. My specializations are health, nutrition, and science, as I have degrees in nutrition and journalism. Is there any way for me to get a TN or other visa to work in the U.S. as a freelance health /science writer? I would be offering my services to various companies and publications, essentially being my own business. Otherwise, what are my best available visa options? Thank you!

Reply: I see two potential issues for a TN: First, whether your work as a freelance health /science writer would fall under the Technical Publications Writer TN category. Second, whether the TN category is suitable for freelancing.

The TN category for Technical Publications Writer is best suited for positions of a technical nature as described in the Occupational Outlook Handbook:

Technical writers put technical information into easily understandable language. They prepare product documentation, such as operating and maintenance manuals, catalogs, assembly instructions, and project proposals. Technical writers primarily are found in the information technology industry, writing operating instructions for online Help and documentation for computer programs. Many technical writers work with engineers on technical subject matters to prepare written interpretations of engineering and design specifications and other information for a general readership. Technical writers also may serve as part of a team conducting usability studies to help improve the design of a product that still is in the prototype stage. They plan and edit technical materials and oversee the preparation of illustrations, photographs, diagrams, and charts.

You can also see more information on the types of duties suitable for a Technical Writer at O*Net. The OOH and O*Net may not provide significant support for the argument that a Technical Writer prepares materials for the health /science field. I would anticipate some scrutiny from U.S. immigration officials on this issue. You may have to turn to other authorities such as industry materials or expert opinions to make your case.

Most non-immigrant worker categories do not easily allow the freedom and flexibility associated with freelance work. Most, including the TN, require the sponsorship of the employer you provide services to. This means that each company you provide services to would have to file a separate application for a TN on your behalf. If there is an agency or third-party contractor that can hire you to provide technical writing services to its clients, then you may only need to obtain a TN through this company. Although U.S. immigration authorities have reservations about this arrangement, I do not believe they are warranted.

You cannot open up your own business in the U.S. and have that company sponsor you for a TN. The E-2 investor visa, which allows an individual to enter the U.S. to develop and direct the operations of a business investment in the U.S., may be a more appropriate vehicle for you. I would recommend engaging an attorney to learn more about the requirements for an E-2 and to determine whether the E-2  will best suite your needs.