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TN Visa Basics

TN Visa Educational Requirements - Degrees, Diplomas, & Certificates


1. Introduction.

The majority of the TN visa occupational categories require some form of educational credential. Most require a bachelor's degree, while some also offer as an alternative for qualification possession of a post-secondary diploma and three years of experience. Two categories do not have an expressed educational requirement: the Management Consultant and the Scientific Technician categories. The following outlines the nature of the educational requirements under the TN visa classification.

2. Bachelor/ Licenciatura Degree Requirements.

Immigration inspectors routinely require a specific degree in the occupational field in order to qualify for TN visa status. This is often contrary to the government's own guidance on the issue. The regulations governing TN visa status generally do not provide any guidance on the type of degrees  or majors suitable for a particular TN occupational category. In these cases, we must turn to U.S. immigration memoranda for more information.

To qualify for TN visa status under a category that requires the possession of a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura degree, U.S. immigration memoranda state that the degree possessed by the TN applicant “should be in the field or in a closely related field.” Cronin, Memo (July 24, 2000). To determine the types of degrees suitable for an occupation for purposes of a TN visa, reference should be made to U.S. Department of Labor publications such as the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH). See Royal Siam Corp. v. Chertoff, 484 F.3d 139, 145 (1st Cir. 2007).

3. Degree Evaluations / Equivalencies.

Where a TN occupational category requires a Bachelor’s or Licenciatura Degree, an individual may satisfy this requirement by possessing a degree from an educational institution outside of the NAFTA countries (i.e., from a college or university outside the U.S., Canada, or Mexico). Cronin Memo (July 24, 2000).

TN applicants who possess a degree from an educational institution outside of the United States, Canada, or Mexico must obtain an academic evaluation by a reliable credentials evaluation service that specializes in such evaluations. 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (d) (3) (ii).

Unlike the H-1B category, an applicant for a TN cannot combine education and experience and obtain a degree equivalency in order to meet the bachelor degree requirements for a TN. See DOS Memo (Jan. 2004), stating that where a bachelor's degree is required, experience cannot be substituted for the degree. The Administrative Appeals Office has also held that this type of equivalency is not permitted under the TN visa classification:

It is a policy of the Service, however, that when a bachelor's or a licenciatura degree is required under TN classification, a combination of education and experience equivalent to a bachelor's degree will not be accepted. Neither the statute nor the regulations allow for the consideration of a "work equivalency” of a bachelor's degree for this nonimmigrant classification. In Re X., LIN 01 176 55040 (AAO July 11, 2002).

4. Post-secondary Diploma and Post-secondary Certificate Requirements

Only certain post-secondary diplomas and/or certificates will satisfy the requirements for a TN occupational category permitting this alternative educational credential. Generally, an individual must have earned his or her diploma/certificate after completing at least two years of post secondary school. One year programs generally do not qualify. NAFTA provides separate definitions for diplomas issued in Canada and Mexico.

A Post Secondary Diploma is defined as “a credential issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education, by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the United States.” 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (c). A Post Secondary Certificate is defined as “a certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of post secondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law.” Id.

U.S. immigration will only accept post-secondary diplomas or post-secondary certificates issued from educational institutions located in a NAFTA country. Cronin, Memo (July 24, 2000). Diplomas and/or certificates from other countries will not satisfy the alternative educational credential for TN visa status.

5. Additional Materials:

6. Reference Materials:

Revised Nov. 24, 2010.