TN Visa: Scientific Technician/Technologist


Background of TN Visa Category

The TN visa occupational category for Scientific Technicians / Technologists was first listed in the United States- Canada Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) in 1989. See 54 Federal Register 12 (Jan. 3, 1989). The predecessor to NAFTA, the FTA provided work authorization under TC visa status, which was only available to Canadian citizens. The occupational category for Scientific Technicians / Technologists was carried over and included in the NAFTA list of available occupations in 1994. See 58 FR 69205 (Dec. 30, 1993).

TN Visa Applicant Requirements

To qualify for TN visa status under the occupational category for Scientific Technicians / Technologists, the regulations only require that an individual establish that he/she possesses "theoretical knowledge" in one of the applicable disciplines: agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics. 8 C.F.R. § 214.6 (c).

In clarifying the requirements for Scientific Technicians / Technologists under NAFTA, the legacy INS stated that “no degree or post-secondary diploma [was] required.” M. Cronin, Legacy INS Memo (July 24, 2000). In 2002, the INS provided further guidance by stating that applicants should have acquired their theoretical knowledge through at least two years of training, which may be documented by a diploma, certificate, transcript, or relevant work experience. J. Williams, Legacy INS Memo (Nov. 7, 2002).

TN Visa Job Duties Requirements

Under the United States-Canada Free-Trade Agreement (FTA)-the predecessor to NAFTA-an individual could qualify under the category for Scientific Technicians / Technologists if he/she was working in direct support of a professional in one of the following disciplines: "chemistry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, physics, astronomy, agricultural sciences, biology, or forestry." 54 FR 12 (Jan. 3, 1989). In order to fill "a need in the engineering industry," engineering was added to the disciplines in which a Scientific Technician / Technologist may perform services. 56 FR 11528 (March 19, 1991).

Initially, under the FTA, for a position to qualify under the category for Scientific Technicians / Technologists, it had to involve solving "practical problems" in one of the applicable disciplines, and also applying the "principles of the discipline to basic or applied research." 54 FR 12 (Jan. 3, 1989). However, in order "to provide for expanded accessibility," this requirement was broadened so that a position could qualify based on either scenario. 56 FR 11528 (March 19, 1991).

In 2002, the legacy INS attempted to provide further clarity as to the duties permitted under this category by stating that Scientific Technicians / Technologists should have job functions consistent with those of a Scientific Technician / Technologist, or Engineering Technician / Technologist as provided in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. J. Williams, Legacy INS Memo (Nov. 7, 2002). The INS further stated that positions in the construction trades did not qualify for this category. Id.

One of the main requirements for this TN category is that the individual is working in support of a professional in one of the applicable disciplines. The legacy INS also clarified this requirement in 2002. The individual for whom the Scientific Technician / Technologist is providing support to must qualify as a professional in his/her own right in the applicable discipline. J. Williams, Legacy INS Memo (Nov. 7, 2002). Additionally, the work must be inter-related, i.e. the supervisory professional must manage, coordinate, and review the Scientific Technician / Technologist's work. Id.

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Revised Jan. 3, 2014.