Canadian actuary moving to United States TN-1 Visa Status

When I was first moving to the the US from Canada as an actuarial analyst, I was eager to find as much information as I could on how the TN-1 visa process works for Canadians. In particular I wanted to find out how it works for Canadian actuarial analysts (I had 4 SOA exams completed at the time and was moving to work in an actuarial role).

What is a TN-1 visa status?

For Canadians, it’s actually not a visa. It’s a status that you enter the US with that allows you to work for ONE employer and you obtain it at the border when you cross over. You have to be working in an approved classification, which for actuaries is the “Mathematician” classification. There are a list of centers that the US Customs and Border Control (CBP) prefer you cross at, such as Toronto Pearson, but you can cross at any approved location.
For Mexicans, you need to apply for a TN-1 visa, schedule an appointment, etc.

Background on TN-1 Visa Status

(from USCIS)
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created special economic and trade relationships for the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN nonimmigrant classification permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to seek temporary entry into the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level.

Among the types of professionals who are eligible to seek admission as TN nonimmigrants are accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and teachers. You may be eligible for TN nonimmigrant status, if:
You are a citizen of Canada or Mexico;
Your profession qualifies under the regulations;
The position in the United States requires a NAFTA professional;
You have a prearranged full-time or part-time job with a U.S. employer (but not self-employment – see documentation required below); and
You have the qualifications to practice in the profession in question.

TN-1 Visa Status Process

What’s the process for entering the US on TN status? It’s actually quite simple for Canadians.
1) Obtain job offer and get employer support letter
2) Bring support letter and other documents to the border
3) (Hopefully) get TN-1 visa status and pay $50
4) Voila! You now have an American work permit 🙂

My TN-1 Visa Story

I was rejected my first time crossing the border so I’m writing this so all of you can cross on your first attempt. The information written here is my personal information and opinion only, please consult the US CBP website and an immigration attorny or immigration law firm for confirmation.
When I first crossed the border, I was told my TN-1 employer support letter was in the wrong format. It was essentially my job offer letter, but CBP wants it in a special format. Be careful of this!
Fortunately I was told that since my application seemed honest (ALWAYS BE HONEST WITH THE BORDER CONTROL PEOPLE!), I can come back and try again with an updated letter.
Two days later and a lot of stressing out, I went back to the border with a revised letter and additional documentation (such as SOA exam slips) that I didn’t need, just in case. This time they let me in! And now I’m in the US working as an actuarial analyst! Yay!

Paperwork and Documentation

Documentation Required for TN-1 Status:
-degree (ORIGINAL COPY REQUIRED)
-support letter (ORIGINAL COPY REQUIRED)
-resume (may not be required)

Documentation Suggested:
-transcripts (original)
-experience records – these are letters from prior employers confirming your experience
-etc.

I managed with just the degree, support letter, and resume. It is incredibly important for the TN-1 visa process that the degree and employer support letter be ORIGINAL COPIES. I got rejected the first time because the support letter was emailed to me and printed out (amongst other things).

TN-1 Visa Employer Support Letter

The Employer Support Letter must be in a specific format.
Requirements:
-must be original copy
-must be addressed to the US Customs and Border Patrol
-must be requesting TN-1 status for you under a specific category
-must include your salary and office location
-must indicate a period of not more than 3 years – it’s renewable but TN is supposed to be a non-immigrant temporary visa status

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