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All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

How You Can Work in the US as an Independent Contractor

Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Please Note:  The content in this post has not been updated to reflect the current environment between Canada and the United States. As such, information may not be completely accurate. Please consult with a lawyer or accountant for the most accurate advice.

Over the past 4 months, many contractors have asked me if they should consider US contract positions, given the Canadian market.  My advice is always to go where the opportunities are and Eagle has begun to see an uptick in US firms being interested in Canadian IT contractors.  Naturally, the next question I’m usually asked is how difficult it is to secure a work permit for the US.  As long as you qualify under the TN-1 status for which you’re applying, it isn’t too much of a challenge.

The TN-1 status is given to Canadian “professionals” seeking a U.S. work visa and whose Canadian and American flags shaking handsoccupation is on the List of Professional Occupations under NAFTA. Canadian professionals involved in the IT field, engineering, and consulting, frequently use the TN-1 status . Generally, in order to qualify for a TN-1 work visa, you’ll need either one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a U.S. or Canadian college or University; or a foreign degree professionally determined to be the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree;
  • A 3-year Post Secondary School diploma; or,
  • A 2-year Post Secondary School diploma plus at least 3 years experience.

The most common categories that IT professionals enter the US under are either Computer Systems Analyst or Management Consultant.  You can find the full list here (scroll to Section 3.8) and this link from the Canadian government provides additional information about temporary entry into the US under NAFTA.

Once you understand the process, it is important to work closely with your petitioning firm in ensuring you have all the proper documentation to enter the US and petition with the INS for TN Status.  The most common issues I have seen over the years is a lack of supporting documentation.  When petitioning for TN status, it is critical to have the following documentation in hand PRIOR to going to a port of entry (border crossing or at a Canadian airport that has a US immigration office onsite).

  1. Original copy of your degree/diploma plus any relevant certifications, such as PMP.
  2. If the degree/diploma is not from a recognized post-secondary institution in North America, the INS official will ask that the credentials be accredited by a North American institution.  An example of a comparative education accrediting body is the University of Toronto’s Comparative Education Services Group
  3. Current passport (make sure it does not expire within 6 months of your application)
  4. Updated resume with information reflecting on your resume as to why you are qualified for the role in the US
  5. Reference letters from previous firms (especially for the Management Consulting category)
  6. Petition letter from the firm requesting your services in the US
  7. Copy of your work contract/letter of employment that states your compensation and work that is being done in the US

The TN petition process is a serious process and should not be taken it lightly.  In fact, many Canadians have been turned away for not being prepared. There is a lot of information on the Internet about the TN application process — some good but some bad! We recommend using the links above to start gathering information but, more importantly, consulting with a lawyer whose expertise is in securing TN status.   If you do have any further questions or comments that may help other professionals, please leave your thoughts below and we’d be happy to help guide you in the right direction.