What is TN visa? Can I be self-employed on TN visa? Can I work as an independent contractor on TN Visa?

By September 30, 2019October 19th, 2020Immigration, TN Visa

Certain professionals who are citizens of Canada or Mexico can apply for TN visa. For example, architects, engineers, lawyers, management consultants, psychologists, and computer system analysts with required qualifications can apply for TN visa. Here are the requirements you have to meet to obtain the TN visa:

  1. You must be a citizen of Canada or Mexico
  2. Your profession qualifies under the TN regulation
  3. The employer in the U.S. requires a TN professional
  4. You have a pre-arranged job with the U.S. employer
  5. You have the required qualification to practice in the profession (education or experience)

Do I have to work full time on TN visa?

The answer is no. You can work either full time or part time on TN visa.

Can I set up a company in the U.S. and work for this company on TN visa?

Self-employment is not allowed on TN visa. Therefore, you cannot work for a company on a TN visa where you are the sole or controlling shareholder or owner. A CBP officer will look at the following factors (among others)  in considering whether you have substantial control: whether you established the enterprise, whether you have the sole or primary control of the U.S. enterprise, whether you are the sole of primary owner of the business, and whether you are the sole or primary recipient of the business income. There is some flexibility when you are under the management consulting category but you should speak to an experienced immigration lawyer to go over those options.

If you want to start a company in the U.S. and then run the company, E-2 visa may be the right visa for you.

Can I work as an independent contractor on TN visa, or do I have to be a W-2 employee?

Most TN visa holders are employees, but it is possible to be working on a 1099 basis.  One category of TN professionals that often work as independent contractors are management consultants. Management consultants provide services that are directed towards improving the managerial, operating, and economic performance of public and private entities by analyzing and resolving strategic and operating problems and thereby improving the entity’s goals.

The question that sometimes arises is whether one can work as an independent contractor if the TN applicant is not a management consultant. There is no clear answer to this question in the TN regulations, but this is generally permitted given there is no explicit requirement in the TN regulations that the TN employees is W-2 employee rather than independent contractor.  That being said, most TN applicants are employees so this may be an expectation (or the norm) with an examiner.  As such, TN applicants who will work in the U.S. as independent contractors should be ready for additional questioning at the border, as the officer may have doubts whether there is a real job that will continue for the TN independent contractor.  Please note that this blog post only analyzed this issue from an immigration law perspective, and the TN applicant should review applicable labor and IRS laws to make sure that he/she can work in the U.S. as an independent contractor.

If you do not qualify for TN visa, please see our blog post discussing work visas in the U.S.

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16 Comments

  • Carlos says:

    Hi, I have a TN visa ands I wonder if I could also work as independent contractor (for example Uber or selling goods for a commission) in parallel to my main employee job.

    thanks in advance for your help.

  • Ramesh Koda says:

    As of today(04/21/2020), Is it possible to renew the TN visa with the same employer at the US Canada border near Niagara Falls port of entry or any other port of entries around Ontario state?

  • Michel MOREAU says:

    Good afternoon
    I have a TN Visa for accountant expiring on April 28 2020, what are my options to renew with the same employeer?
    Can I make a trip to Canada (Montreal or Toronto) and reenter on the same day or can I renew at my current domicile of Miami?
    Please advise,
    Thank you for your advise

    • IanScott says:

      Thank you for contacting us. We appreciate your business and look forward to helping you. Please find attached a link that you can use to set up a 30 minute ($150) or 1 hour ($250) consultation. The system allows you to select a lawyer and a day and time that is convenient to you. If you end up hiring the firm and your bill is greater than $2,500, we will apply this consultation fee to your final bill. Please reach out if you have any questions.

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  • Rachel says:

    If I live in Canada can I still get a TN visa for the states even though the borders are closed? Do the USCIS offices being closed until April 7th impact me being able to apply for the TN Visa?

    • IanScott says:

      You could apply from here for a TN but would have to wait until approved if in the US. If not in the US, you would only be able to cross the border if your job was deemed essential.

    • IanScott says:

      Yes. You can apply for a TN at the border or through USCIS.

  • Dianne Styles says:

    Are all new applications for TN visa at the border on hold? I received an offer. I’m an existing TN visa holder but i will apply for change of employer. I can’t resign yet until the new TN visa is approved.

    Thank you.

  • Diego Edwards says:

    Hi, my wife and I are working in Tx with TN visas (hotel manager and engineer). We are worried that because of the Coronavirus we might be laid off.
    1. I understand we can only be employed by the company that appears on the visa, is this right?
    2. For how long can we stay in the country without a job?
    3. has any of the rules changed because of the coronavirus that could help us stay in the US?
    thank you, hope you can give us some peace of the mind.

  • Ellie says:

    Hello
    I was wondering if my husband as a roofer and Me as a preschool teacher could get TN visa. We are Canadian and both of us have certifications.

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