TN Visa Approval: Chemist / Engineering Degree / Prior Denials

The applicant here had initially obtained TN visa status under the Chemist category for a one year period. The employer filed an I-129 petition to extend the applicant’s TN visa status. However, due to a death in the family, the applicant had to depart the U.S. while the I-129 petition was pending.

During her absence from the U.S., the applicant’s initial TN visa status had expired. She could therefore not re-enter the U.S. until her I-129 petition was approved. Rather than wait, the applicant applied for a new TN at a U.S. port-of-entry. Despite her prior approval, the inspecting officer refused to issue a TN because the applicant had only provided copies of her I-129 petition paperwork. The officer also questioned the relationship of the applicant’s degree in Polymer Engineering to the Chemist TN visa category. The applicant returned to the port-of-entry with an original, one-page employer letter. The officer refused to issue a TN because the letter was not specific enough and also lacked a salary.

The applicant then contacted our office for assistance with her TN application. We recommended that the employer withdraw its pending I-129 extension of TN status petition, which it did. We then prepared a more detailed employer support letter, which fully described the employer’s business, the applicant’s credentials, job duties, and terms of employment. We also prepared a legal brief explaining how the applicant qualified for TN visa status as a Chemist. We believed the applicant’s education was the more contentious issue with CBP as she did not have a specific degree in Chemistry.

Many inspectors believe that an individual must possess a specific degree in the field to qualify for TN visa status. With one exception, this is not an accurate interpretation of the law. In our brief we explained that the TN visa regulations at 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (c) did not state what types of degrees were suitable for TN status as a Chemist. We then referred to a legacy INS memo, which stated that the Hotel Manager is the only TN category that requires a specific degree under NAFTA. According to this guidance, all that is required is that “[t]he degree should be in the field or in a closely related field.”

The brief then cited the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (“OOH”) to illustrate the types of degrees suitable for a Chemist position. We pointed to specific language in the OOH to support our contention that an individual with a degree in Engineering could qualify for a Chemist position. We also provided additional research showing that Chemist positions frequently call for an individual with a degree in Chemistry or Polymer Engineering.

Returning to the port-of-entry with these materials, the applicant was approved for TN visa status as a Chemist for a three year period.