Potential Issues When Applicants Change TN Visa Occupations / Careers

Question: Can an individual in TN visa status under one occupational category file an application to work in another TN visa occupation? For example, if an individual has been in TN status in a certain category for a number of years with different employers and seeks TN status under a different category.

The reason for the change could be many but let's say for arguments sake that the TN visa worker recently obtained a professional license or a degree in a different field unrelated to the current TN category but would like to be employed in the new category. This change could possibly be with the current employer or possibly a new one. Would such a change raise the border inspector's suspicions or do they treat it as simply a new application and adjudicate based on its merits and proper documentation?

Reply: It would be an atypical TN application, and thus CBP may review the application more carefully. If the applicant has a new degree or other credential establishing eligibility for the new TN occupation, and the position offered falls under this TN occupational category, then CBP should not have reservations over issuing the TN. Nevertheless, at the border there is always the possibility for problems.

CBP may ask about the circumstances surrounding the career change. But if the applicant establishes that the new credential qualifies him/her for the new TN category, then the reasons for the change in career field should be immaterial. CBP may also be curious about the need for this new position at the applicant’s current employer. This may be a more reasonable inquiry especially if the company is small or there is a drastic change in positions. The argument for a TN as a Lawyer for an individual who previously held a TN with the same company as an Engineer may lack credibility for a small engineering firm. The application should explain, and document if possible, the need for the new position at the current employer.

Another issue is if the TN category the applicant wanted to apply under required job experience (e.g., the applicant wanted to obtain a TN as an Interior Designer based on a new post-secondary diploma and 3 years experience). It may be difficult to argue that the applicant’s prior experience as an Engineer qualified him/her for the 3 years experience needed for TN visa status as an Interior Designer.