It’s been almost a month now since I enter the United States under a TN-1 visa status as a systems analyst for the first time. I didn’t know what to expect but I shall describe my experience in case anyone is anxious about getting their TN-1 visa for the first time.
I mainly used the information from this webpage. I was currently working at my American company under the J-1 exchange visa as a recent graduate from the University of Waterloo. The reason of choosing to first go under the J-1 exchange visa and then a TN-1 temporary work visa was because I wanted to start work immediately and one of the requirements of obtaining a TN-1 visa status as a systems analyst is proof of a Bachelor’s degree, which I did not have at the time since my school issues the degrees a month after my end of studies.
Obtaining a J-1 exchange visa was relatively simple and I dealt with the sponsor program my school put me through during my co-op career. The only caveat from participating in CDS’ program is that you’ll have to write a report for them describing your experience in America.
As my J-1 exchange visa approached its expiration date, I started looking into obtaining a TN-1 work visa. While I was at the company, I worked on obtaining a letter stating the required information as stated in the web page above:
- The letter is on a company letterhead and is dated.
- Stated that there are no labour disputes nor are there any anticipating similar problems.
- Stated the start and end date of the job offer, which was no more than one year.
- The start date was stated within two weeks of my flight. In fact, my start date was actually my flight date.
- The position of systems analyst was stated — not software developer, software engineer, etc.
- A summary of my duties was stated.
As a matter of fact, my company simply used the template letter on the web page — nearly word-for-word! When my J-1 exchange visa expired, my company paid for my flight back to Canada so that I can obtain the necessary documents (my official transcripts) and return with a new visa status.
My port of entry was YYZ, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. I arrived with the following:
- The company’s letter.
- An original copy of my Bachelor’s degree.
- An original copy of my official transcripts — left sealed in its envelope.
- My passport (of course).
- Monies (of course).
When I arrived at the customs booth, I told the customs officier that I wanted to apply for a TN-1 visa. Unfortunately, I don’t think he knew what to do so he sent me to secondary screening — I was worried. Well, mostly because I didn’t know how long the process would take and that I might miss my flight.
When I arrived at secondary screening, the officier at the reception took my information and told me sit down. I learned that cell phones are not allowed in this room for “security reasons” so I sat there not knowing what to expect. The officier started processing my information and at one point asked me to provide my fingerprints. Then she told me to go to the cashier and pay the $50 fee, which I could pay by cash or by card.
Interestingly, the officer never asked me questions about my intentions. However, I was prepared to answer that I was intending to stay only temporarily. She didn’t ask for additional information as I apparently had everything although she did tell me that next time, I should bring in both the original copy of my degree and a photocopy of it since she would feel guilty if she accidentally destroyed it while copying it herself.
Then she continued processing my documents. It took a while — maybe around 15 minutes when she finally called me up to her desk and informed me that I’m “good to go”. So off I went.