Economists Applying for TN Working Status

USCIS recently issued guidance clarifying economists' eligibility to apply for TN employment status.  The guidance focuses on the specific work activities immigration officers should consider when determining whether an individual qualifies for TN nonimmigrant status as an economist.

The TN nonimmigrant status was created by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to allow qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the U.S. to work in specific pre-defined professions, including the occupation of economist.  Some other common TN professions include accountants, engineers, teachers, computer system analysts, management consultants, architects, industrial designers, hotel managers, landscape architects, lawyers, social workers, interior designers, etc.

According to USCIS, the absence of a definition for economists has resulted in inconsistent adjudication of TN applications.  Hence, the agency issued a policy memo providing the following clarifying guidance on what constitutes an economist under NAFTA, citing several federal authorities:

  • Economists generally specialize in either microeconomics (analyzing the behavior of individuals and firms with the aim of understanding the relationships between supply and demand) or macroeconomics (analyzing aggregated indicators to determine how different sectors of the economy relate to each other).
  • Economists may apply economic analysis to issues in a variety of fields, such as labor, international trade, development, econometrics, education, health, and industrial organization, among other fields.
  • DOL defines economists as people who conduct research, prepare reports, or formulate plans to address economic problems related to the production and distribution of goods and services or monetary and fiscal policy.
  • Economists may collect and process economic and statistical data using sampling techniques and econometric methods.
USCIS specifically identified several professionals which are not eligible for classification as a TN economist including: financial analysts, marketing analysts, and market research analysts. Financial analysts primarily conduct quantitative analyses of information affecting investment programs of public or private institutions which, according to USCIS, are different from economists' job duties.  The occupations of market research analyst and marketing analysts are specifically excluded in the Labor Department (SOC)'s definition of an economist.
Canadian and Mexican applicants who wish to apply for TN status as economists must examine their situation under the new guidance.  Remember, the border immigration officers will focus on the activities that you will be engaged in after entry.  Even TN workers who have been granted approval as economists should also re-evaluate the facts of their cases.  The government may revoke their TN status or deny requests for extension in the future.

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