Meeting Your Burden on the TN Visa Diploma Requirements

Question: I’m interested in applying for TN visa status under the Hotel Manager category. I know that I can qualify for this TN based on experience and a post-secondary diploma. How do the inspectors at the border know that the post-secondary diploma is in fact from a 2 year program?

Reply: The burden of proof in establishing eligibility for an immigration benefit (such as TN visa status) always falls solely on the petitioner or applicant. The government does not need to prove ineligibility. Adjudicator’s Field Manual § 10.3 (e).

Only certain post-secondary diplomas and/or certificates will satisfy the requirements for a TN occupational category permitting this alternative educational credential. Generally, an individual must have earned his or her diploma/certificate after completing at least two years of post secondary school. One year programs do not qualify. U.S. immigration will only accept post-secondary diplomas or post-secondary certificates issued from educational institutions located in a NAFTA country. NAFTA provides separate definitions for diplomas issued in Canada and Mexico. More on Diplomas/Certificates.

A Post Secondary Diploma is defined as “a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.” 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (c). A Post Secondary Certificate is defined as “a certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.” Id.

All the inspector has to do is question whether the diploma is a qualifying two-year post-secondary diploma from an accredited school. If you cannot document this (e.g. with transcripts showing two-years of schooling and proof of the school’s accreditation), then you have not fully met your burden for the TN and the inspector can deny you.

The issue of whether a credential meets the post-secondary diploma or certificate requirements of NAFTA comes up frequently at the border – specifically with respect to the two-year and accreditation requirements. Individuals relying on diplomas or certificates for a TN visa application should always be prepared to document that their credential meets these requirements. Otherwise, your application can be subject to questioning, and perhaps denial.