USCIS Clarifies TN Visa Category for Economists

On November 20, 2017, USCIS issued a policy memo clarifying the types of duties permissible under the TN visa category for Economists. 

In its memo, USCIS noted that because the TN regulations did not provide a description of the duties acceptable for an Economist, there had been “inconsistent adjudications about whether certain types of analysts, and persons engaged in other occupations, such as financial analysts, market research analysts and marketing specialists qualify under the economist profession.” USCIS clarified that to qualify for TN visa status as an Economist, a position must be consistent with the description of an Economist as provided in the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) and the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. 

This reference to the OOH is not exactly new policy. What is new is USCIS’ specific exclusion of 3 roles, which while related to economics, are defined elsewhere in the OOH and SOC: financial analysts, market research analysts, and marketing specialists. Of particular importance is the exclusion of financial analysts. Historically, individuals have often sought and successfully obtained TN status under the Economist category for financial analyst type roles. Citing the OOH, USCIS now specifically differentiates financial analysts from economists stating that “financial analysts primarily conduct quantitative analyses of information affecting investment programs of public or private institutions.”

With the issuance of this new policy memo, it can be expected that Economist TN visa applications including extensions and renewals will now be subject to more heightened scrutiny. While issued by USCIS, it is likely that USCBP, which adjudicates TN border applications for Canadians, and U.S. consulates, which adjudicate TN visa applications for Mexicans, will follow this policy memo. TN visa workers who may be performing financial analyst-related tasks or who are working at businesses that traditionally employ financial analysts should re-evaluate their eligibility for TN visa status and consider the following:

  • Avoid traveling until more is known as to how this new policy will be implemented.
  • If travel is necessary or you are planning to renew your TN status, be prepared to explain and document to immigration officials how your job falls within the Economist category. 
  • Consider alternative visa options, if possible.