One of the best ways for Canadians to get work visas for the United States is to apply for them under the USMCA free trade agreement. The same holds for Americans who want to work in Canada. The USMCA agreement particularly facilitates work visa applications for American and Canadian professionals who want to work in the adjoining country. By “professionals” we are talking about individuals who have attained at least a bachelor’s degree in a relevant occupation, with a few minor occupational exceptions. An excellent list of the occupations, and what is required under the agreement for applicants to qualify, can be found here. The most important aspect of these jobs is the expedited way they are dealt with at the border.
Applicants such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer systems analysts, interior designers, hotel managers, and others listed in these professional occupations do not have to apply for work visas at internal immigration offices and external consulates. This is important because there are lengthy delays currently at U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) processing offices and at U.S. consulates. Consulates in particular are significantly backlogged in processing applications due to the after- effects of the pandemic and shortages of trained staff. Current processing times for such work visa applications entail two weeks with premium processing at the USCIS, followed by six months to one year at U.S. consulates abroad. But these USMCA professional applicants can avoid all that and simply need to appear at a border crossing or at a pre-flight inspection post and apply there to get their work visas on the spot.
It may help applicants to briefly review what is required when arriving at the border, what should be avoided, and how American rules differ slightly from Canadian ones in this area.
What Is Required At The Border?
As far as what you should bring to your interview at the border, use the U.S. Customs and Border Protection checklist provided here. It would be hard to provide a better summary of what is needed. The checklist indicates applicants need to provide proof of citizenship, what should be included in the job offer letter, what should be provided by way of qualifications, what mandatory evidence must be provided, and what evidence is needed to establish who is in the family coming with the applicant.
Some Top Reasons For Denials
There are a wide variety of reasons why you could be denied a visa at the border. One key one is contradictions in your materials – your resume says one thing but your academic record says another for example. It is important to be truthful and specific about what you want to do. Dress to look like the part you are applying for, that is, do not wear jeans and a T-shirt if you are applying as a management consultant. Also, you may simply lack credibility because you are presenting yourself as capable of qualifying for everything that they ask about instead of honing in on one occupation on the list.
Here are some other reasons:
The job does not fall under the list of approved occupations, or the applicant has applied under the wrong occupation. A good example is a manager applying as a management consultant. More about that later.
The applicant does not have the academic credentials or is presenting unacceptable equivalent credentials. A good example is a three-year associate’s degree instead of a four-year bachelor’s degree or an equivalency determination based not on strict education but including work experience as part of the credential.
The applicant needs a waiver of inadmissibility due to previous border problems, or trouble with criminal matters. Examples include a previous finding of misrepresentation at the border or a criminal record that makes the applicant inadmissible such as a conviction for possession of cocaine.
The applicant is lying about his or her credentials or about the purpose of the trip or length of intended stay. Examples are claiming to have run a hotel when the applicant’s employer denies the claim when contacted, or claiming to want to work for company A but in fact, planning to work for company B once approved. Or admitting interest in staying permanently.
These are only some of the many reasons one can be denied. But it is hard to deny someone telling the truth about entering the USA to work in a specific profession on the list of occupations. Honesty is always right.
Most Difficult Occupations To Apply Under
There are a number of occupations that are more difficult to qualify under.
Some of these are:
Economists when an applicant’s previous experience was in fields like financial planner, marketing executive, or financial analyst.
Computer systems analysts when applicants are really software designers or other IT professionals.
Management consultants when applicants find out they do not qualify elsewhere and try instead to present themselves under this category. Often Managers apply under this category because there is no “manager” category. However, a management consultant does not manage anything. Instead they advise management on how to manage more efficiently, effectively and economically. In other words, they share their know-how with management. If you have no experience as a consultant in the past, this is a difficult category to qualify under.
Technical publications writer because applicants think this will cover any kind of writing and not actually what it does involve which is technical ‘how to’ manual-type writing.
If you are considering applying under one of these categories you may want to consult an attorney before doing so.
What About Americans Coming To Canada?
The same rules listed above pretty much apply to Americans coming to work in Canada. The same documents are required. However, Canada also requires employers to apply for an employer compliance certificate before a foreign worker comes to the country. That procedure is simple and it opens the door for the worker to come to the border to apply for his or her work permit. But without proof of the employer applying for a compliance certificate applicants will not be allowed to enter Canada.
Hopefully these comments may help you if you are considering making an application for a TN work visa under the USMCA or for a professional visa for Canada. Canadians call the agreement CUSMA by the way. While Mexicans are also covered by the USMCA, they are unable to access the U.S. without a consular visa, although they do have visa-free access to Canada.