Can I Apply for a TN Instead of Pursuing OPT?

Question: I am an F-1 student graduating this May with a Doctorate of Pharmacy degree. I have secured a pharmacy residency position starting July 1. I applied for OPT, and am afraid that it won't arrive in time by my start date. I was wondering if I can transition from F1 to TN without completing OPT and when I can apply.

Reply: An individual is not required to complete OPT. A person can instead apply for a TN provided they meet the requirements for a TN, e.g. the job qualifies for a TN and the person possesses (and can evidence) the requisite credentials.

A person can apply for a TN by mail generally up to 6 months in advance of their start date, but may need to utilize premium processing in order to ensure approval by the start date. There is some ambiguity as to when a Canadian citizen can apply for a TN at the border. Some port-of-entries allow filing 1-2 weeks in advance. Others require applying for the TN on the start date. Applicants can contact the port-of-entry to determine if any specific filing policies exist. (If applying at the border, the OPT application should be withdrawn right before applying for the TN, and proof of the withdrawal be made available to CBP, if needed.)