New USCIS Guidance on Definition of TN Economist Profession

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a policy memorandum that limits the definition of an economist for purposes of TN classification. Under the new policy, only professionals who are primarily performing the work of an economist, as defined by the Department of Labor Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), may qualify for TN status as an economist. The USCIS will no longer consider professions such as financial analysts, market research analysts, or marketing specialists as economists for purposes of TN classification.

Background: TN Classification for Economists

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) created the TN visa category for nationals of Mexico and Canada who are coming to the United States to work in certain professions, including that of economist. As such, a Canadian or Mexican national with a related baccalaureate or licenciatura degree may apply for TN status to come to the United States to work as an economist. Until now, the term economist was not defined either in NAFTA or by USCIS memorandum.

New Interpretation Limits Acceptable Positions

In the past, the USCIS and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been willing to approve, on a case-by-case basis, TN applications for financial analysts, market research analysts, and marketing specialists, under the economist profession category. However, under this new policy, the USCIS clarifies that economist and financial analyst are two separate professions, and only individuals primarily performing duties of an economist, which may include analyzing the behavior of individual firms for purposes of understanding supply and demand, or collecting and processing economic statistical data, may qualify for TN status.


While this memorandum is only binding on USCIS employees, it seems likely that CBP will adopt this definition of an economist when adjudicating a TN application filed at a U.S. port of entry. It is critical for current or prospective TN economists and their employers to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to evaluate how this new policy may affect them and their ability to work in the U.S. in TN status.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.