In short, TN applicants who received a degree from an educational institution not located in Canada, Mexico, or the United States must provide an evaluation of their foreign educational credentials.
The TN – or “Trade National” – visa was established as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It is an excellent option for nationals of Canada or Mexico who desire to work in the United States, and who fall within a list of specified professions (including lawyers, accountants, graphic designers, and engineers, among others). The process is relatively simple and straightforward, and no employer sponsorship is required. For more information on the TN visa, see our blog posts here and here.
What is the degree requirement?
One of the typical requirements for a TN visa is that the applicant provide, as evidence of their educational qualifications, proof that they hold a degree in the same or a related subject matter area as the applicant’s profession. For example, an accountant must have a degree in accounting. Note that there are a few occupations listed in the regulations that permit the degree requirement to be substituted with work experience, however this is the exception rather than the norm. You can find a list of the professions and their associated requirements here.
How is the degree requirement satisfied?
To satisfy the degree requirement, the TN visa applicant will typically submit a copy of their degree and transcript with their application to the consulate (if they are applying through consular processing) and bring their original diploma to the interview. This is typically sufficient for applicants who received their degree from an educational institution located in Canada, Mexico, or the United States.
However, if the educational institution is located outside Canada, Mexico, and the United States, only providing the degree and a transcript is not sufficient. Specifically, the regulations require that “Degrees received by the applicant from an educational institution not located within Canada, Mexico, or the United States must be accompanied by an evaluation by a reliable credentials evaluation service which specializes in evaluating foreign educational credentials.”
What is an evaluation of my foreign educational credentials, and how to I get one?
An evaluation of foreign educational credentials is essentially a document that describes your educational institution, your coursework, and your degree, and provides an assessment as to what the educational equivalent in the United States would be. For example, the document might certify that the applicant’s education abroad is equivalent to the U.S. degree of a bachelor’s degree in accounting awarded by an accredited school in the U.S.
There are a number of organizations that provide evaluations of foreign educational credentials. A number of such organizations are listed on the website of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services, here. While we do not endorse any specific organization for this service, we do encourage applicants to search out reliable and credible organizations. Please also keep in mind that it may take a number of days to secure an evaluation, so this should be factored in to your expected timeline for seeking entry to the United States.
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