Question: I graduated from a Canadian law school and passed my NY bar exam. My license is still in the process but I have an offer from a US legal consulting firm. We both are unsure how to demonstrate my position as a "Lawyer" on the employment letter even though I don't have my license yet. There are two other lawyers in the firm under whose guidance I will be working but I was wondering whether I meet the requirements for NAFTA or must I wait for my license before I apply?
Reply: An applicant for TN visa status does not need to possess a state license prior to applying for a TN provided he or she otherwise meets the credential requirements of NAFTA.
In order to qualify for TN visa status under the Lawyer category, an applicant must possess one of the following:
1. Bachelor of Laws degree (L.L.B.);
2. Juris Doctor degree (J.D.);
3. Civil Law degree (L.L.L.);
4. Bachelor of Civil Law degree (B.C.L.);
5. Licenciatura degree (five years); or
6. Membership in a state / provincial bar.
As long as you possess one of these credentials, you may qualify for a TN as a Lawyer. You do not need to possess a state license or bar membership prior to securing the TN if you possess one of the other credentials listed. The Department of Homeland Security has specifically stated that "[i]n no case is a license required by the prospective Canadian TN as the absolute primary documentary requirement for entry." 69 FR 60939, 60940 (Oct. 13, 2004). Once admitted to the U.S. under TN status, you must then obtain any license required by state law. See also Hrinyak Memo.
Border inspectors often incorrectly deny TN applications where the individual does not possess a professional license. Applicants should have 69 FR 60939 or the Hrinyak Memo on hand to present to the inspector to avoid a denial on this ground.