U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on December 18, 2017 that it is clarifying policy guidance on the specific work activities its officers should consider when determining whether an individual qualifies for TN nonimmigrant status as an economist.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) TN nonimmigrant status allows qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to temporarily enter the U.S. to engage in specific professional activities, including the occupation of economist. The agreement, however, does not define the term economist, resulting in inconsistent decisions on whether certain analysts and financial professionals qualify for TN status as economists.
TN nonimmigrant status is intended to allow a limited number of professionals and specialists to work temporarily in certain specifically identified occupations in the United States. This updated guidance provides USCIS officers with a specific definition of economists allowing them to adjudicate applications in a way that complies with the intent of the agreement.
In its announcement, USCIS clarified that professional economists requesting TN status must engage primarily in activities consistent with the profession of an economist. Individuals who work primarily in other occupations related to the field of economics, such as financial analysts, marketing analysts, and market research analysts, are not eligible for classification as a TN economist.
USCIS noted that this policy update is consistent with the Department of Labor’s (DOL’s) Standard Occupational Classification system. 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. The definition specifically excludes market research and marketing analyst occupations.
In light of the publication of this guidance, U.S. employers who employ foreign nationals in the TN Economist classification should consult with immigration counsel to assess the risks involved in international travel for TN professionals in the Economist classification, and to carefully assess the nature of the proposed duties for new TN cases under the professional occupation of Economist.
To view USCIS’ Policy Memorandum clarifying policy guidelines on NAFTA TN status eligibility for economists, please click here.
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This publication is for general information only. It is not legal advice, and legal counsel should be contacted before any action is taken that might be influenced by this publication.
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