Can Speech-Language Pathologists Qualify for a TN visa?

Question: Are Speech-Language Pathologists able to obtain TN visas?

Reply: Not likely. First, the occupational title Speech-Language Pathologists is not on the NAFTA TN visa list of available occupational categories. Second, Speech-Language Pathologists has its own entry under the Occupational Outlook Handbook, a Department of Labor reference guide used by U.S. immigration inspectors to review the validity of temporary worker visa applications. The OOH does not indicate that this type of position falls under another occupational category, which may be eligible for TN visa status.

The OOH does indicate that Speech-language pathologists are related to occupational therapists, physical therapists, psychologists, and recreational therapists (occupations eligible for TN visa status). But if the principle job duties are those normally performed by a Speech-language pathologists, as described in the OOH, then the position would not qualify for a TN under one of these categories.

However, because Speech-language pathologists are primarily employed in preschools and elementary and secondary schools, an opportunity may exist under the H-1B visa. The H-1B visa is a popular nonimmigrant worker visa for individuals possessing a bachelor’s degree or higher who have a job opportunity in a position that requires a bachelor’s degree or higher. While there are only a limited number of H-1B visas issued each year, and they have run out until October 2009, certain employers are exempt from the numerical limitation. For example, non-profit entities related to a university are exempt. Elementary and secondary schools may qualify for this exemption if they have a student teaching program with a university.

Note: Speech-language pathologists must obtain a Visa Screen Certificate prior to obtaining work authorization in the U.S.