TN Visa or H-1B Visa – Considerations for Canadians

Intro

Canadian citizen professionals often find themselves in a bit of a quandary when initially researching the various United States immigration work visa options available to them. Assuming that they are not transferring from a Canadian company to its United States office, and therefore the L-1 visa is not available to them, Canadian citizen professionals typically find themselves contemplating the TN visa and H-1B visa and the differences or similarities between the two.

When deciding between the TN visa and the H-1B visa, a Canadian citizen may want to consider the following details.

Visa Duration

H-1B visa is granted in three year increments for a max period of six years (unless a labor certification has been pending for at least one year or he/she has an approved I-140). Thereafter, an H-1B visa holder must leave the United States for at least one year in order to avail himself or herself of more time on the H-1B. In addition, any time spent on the L-1 Visa is also counted towards the six year period. TN visa is granted in three year increments for an unlimited period of time.

Ease of Obtaining

The H-1B visa can only be obtained after an employer files a Labor Condition Application and submits a lengthy I-129 application to USCIS regarding the details of employment. The TN Visa can be obtained directly at a port of entry with a detailed letter from the employer concerning the position and evidence from the Canadian citizen concerning how he or she qualifies for the position.

Timing – Initial Applications

Unless the H-1B employment will be at a non-profit research organization or a university, you can only initially apply for the H-1B visa on April 1st. You can apply for a TN visa anytime during the year.

Start Date – Initial Applications

Unless your H-1B employment will be at a non-profit research organization or a university, you cannot start working any earlier than October 1st, following the April 1st application date. You can start working in the TN status as soon as your application is approved at a port of entry.

Quotas/Lotteries

The H-1B visa has a max quota of 65,000 every year for the regular category and 20,000 for the master’s degree category. When this cap fills up as it always has in recent prior years, there is an H-1B visa lottery. The lottery means that some people who apply and qualify for the H-1B visa will not get it due to the large number of people applying, as some applications will not make it through the lottery. There is no quota or lottery at all with the TN visa. If you apply and qualify and have presented a professionally prepared application then you will receive the TN visa (also assumes you don’t have any grounds of inadmissibility).

Government Filing Fees – Initial Applications

At a minimum, the H-1B filing fees are a total of $960 for those who will be working at a non-profit research organization or university. At a maximum, the H-1B filing fees are a total of $3,685 for those who are working at a company with more than 25 full-time employees and filing the application via premium processing. The TN visa has a fee of $56 at the border and $460 for an application mailed to a service center (available only for change of status, extension of status, change of employer, or if some other material fact of the employment has changed).

Renewals/Extensions

Unless a Labor Certification Application has been pending for a year or more or you have an approved I-140, the H-1B visa can only be renewed for a max of six years. In theory, the TN can be renewed indefinitely.

Dual Intent

The H-1B visa allows for dual intent, which means an individual in H-1B status or an individual applying for an H-1B visa can have immigrant intent, i.e. they can have intent to reside permanently in the United States and apply for a green card. One cannot have an immigrant intent when either applying for the TN visa or while in TN visa status.

Transition to a Green Card

The transition to a green card can appear at first glance to be problematic for a TN visa individual because of the fact that the TN visa doesn’t have dual intent, unlike the H-1B visa status. However, there are ways around this issue without transitioning to the H-1B visa status. One of the ways which has been successfully used by many individuals is to consular process their green card in Canada as opposed to adjusting their status in the United States. If one is in the H-1B status, they can adjust status to permanent residency inside the United States.

Occupation and Experience

Depending on your occupation and/or the proposed job and your experience, you may not have the option of choosing between a TN Visa and an H-1B Visa. The TN Visa is limited to only certain occupations (see TN Occupation List), whereas the H-1B Visa encompasses many professional occupations. Additionally, if you do not have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree, you are ineligible for an H-1B Visa. A careful analysis of your background and the proposed position is highly important before pursuing a TN Visa or an H-1B Visa.

Conclusion

As you can see from the above, the TN visa is quite favorable to Canadians who fall within one of the occupation categories of the visa. For the most part, it’s much more sensible than the H-1B visa. One of the only few perceived advantages of the H-1B visa is the dual intent aspect, but, contrary to popular belief, one can properly navigate the dual intent issue in the TN status with the assistance of effective and experienced legal counsel.

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