The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, U.S. and Mexico created a work visa category known as the TN visa. Under this category, Canadian and Mexican citizens can enter the United States to work temporarily in a professional occupation listed in Appendix 1603.D.1 of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Education v. Work Experience
While most of the occupations under NAFTA require the applicant to possess at least a four-year bachelor’s degree, management consultants may qualify if they possess at least five years of work experience in the intended occupational field. Specifically, an applicant for a management consultant TN visa must possess a “Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or equivalent professional experience as established by statement or professional credential attesting to five years experience as a management consultant, or five years experience in a field of specialty related to the consulting agreement.” In other words, to qualify as a Management Consultant under a TN visa, the applicant must have either a bachelor’s degree (or higher) or five years of work experience, in the field he/she is being retained to perform consulting services in the United States.
Example: A Canadian citizen with a two-year college diploma and eight years of full-time IT work experience has been retained by a U.S. technology company to provide consulting services. She would be eligible for a TN visa as a management consultant based on her work experience despite the fact that she does not have a bachelor’s degree. If she has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and three years of full-time IT work experience, she would not qualify because her degree is unrelated to the field in which she is being retained to perform services, and she does not have five years of relevant IT work experience.
As evidenced in the example, a primary benefit to the TN management consultant visa is that the intended field of employment does not have to fall within one of the occupations listed in Appendix 1603.D.1.
Employee v. Contractor
Instead of full or part-time employment, management consulting services are based on a temporary, periodic or fixed consulting nature. The key is that the management consultant is retained by the U.S. company as an outside, independent contractor. This means that the U.S. company should not directly employ the consultant as a salaried employee. Rather, there should be a written agreement between the company and the consultant that clearly outlines the scope of services to be performed, the method of compensation, and the anticipated duration of services. In the alternative, the U.S. company may contract with a Canadian company to provide consultation services. In these situations, the Canadian employees may enter the U.S. on TN management consultant visas to perform services for the U.S. company so long as they are compensated by their Canadian employers and not by the U.S. company.
TN visas may be issued for up to three years and are renewable indefinitely. However, since consulting services are usually of a fixed duration, TN visas for management consultants are often issued only for the duration outlined in the services agreement. Canadians and Mexicans are permitted to have multiple TN visas, so consultants may perform services for more than one U.S. company at a time so long as he/she obtains an appropriate TN visa for each project or agreement.
Learn more about the TN visa for Canadians and Mexicans.