The Narrowing of the NAFTA Visa Category for Canadian and Mexican Citizens Classified as Economist - a Warning Shot to Employers

January 2, 2018

On December 20, 2017, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) publicized a policy memorandum it originally released on November 20, 2017, narrowing the scope of those eligible for the TN Economist visa classification. The memorandum stated that applicants qualifying for the profession of Economist must "engage in activities consistent with the profession of economist," which marks a departure from how occupations that fell under this visa category were interpreted until the release of this guidance.

TN work authorization, which was created as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 (NAFTA), is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens with certain educational or licensing backgrounds and in specific professional categories. Until release of this guidance, the TN occupational category of Economist was broadly defined. Now, according to the memorandum, "activities that constitute a broad range of other professions related to economics, such as activity performed by financial analysts, market research analyst and marketing specialists do not qualify for TN status." To be eligible in this category, the Canadian or Mexican applicant was required to have a "baccalaureate or licenciatura degree" in economics or a closely related field.

This memorandum served to remind adjudicators - whether they are Customs and Protection Officers at U.S. ports of entry from Canada or officers at the USCIS Vermont Service Center - not to err and adjudicate TN visas or petitions if core duties might be considered to veer from the new definition of the profession of economist.

More concerning, however, is the fact that foreign nationals already holding TN visa classification as economists could be challenged during future travel and requests for entry at U.S. ports of entry regarding their eligibility to maintain this legal status, even if no formal petition or request to extend stay might be pending with government authorities. Applicants for admission to the United States who have held this classification with no issue for many years might be stopped and questioned regarding their job duties. An 'on the spot' assessment of eligibility to continue working in the United States in the visa category could arise and ultimately TN visa request for admission might be denied.

The full policy memorandum can be found here.

It would be appropriate to contact your lawyer if the TN category of Economist is one that might affect any NAFTA visa holders classified as Economist.

  • share with
Name Title Direct Dial Vcard
Levine, Roxanne H. Partner Partner 212.216.1122 VCard

Privacy Policy

We have updated our privacy policy. Click here to view.

I agree