TN Visa Degree Requirements

Degree requirements for TN Visa status are set forth in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), formerly NAFTA. Requirements can vary based on profession and are specific to the countries in the agreement. In addition, alternative degree requirements can be used for some TN visa professions. If you were not educated in the United States, Canada, or Mexico, this can make determining your qualifications for TN Visa status complicated. We discuss the specific TN Visa degree requirements under the USMCA here.

What are the TN Visa Degree Requirements?

The USMCA lists several different ways to qualify for TN visa status depending on the profession. Under the USMCA the following are acceptable levels of education:

  • Post-Secondary Diploma – A credential issued, on completion of two (2) or more years of postsecondary education, by an accredited institution in Canada or the United States. 1-year diplomas and diplomas from countries other than Canada or the United States DO NOT meet this requirement.
  • Post-Secondary Certificate – A certificate issued, on completion of two or more years of postsecondary education at an academic institution, by the federal government of Mexico or a state government in Mexico, an academic institution recognized by the federal government or a state government, or an academic institution created by federal or state law. 1-year certificates and certificates from countries other than Mexico DO NOT meet this requirement.
  • Baccalaureate – In the United States, a bachelor’s degree or baccalaureate is an undergraduate academic degree awarded by colleges and universities upon completion of a course of study lasting three to six years. The two most common bachelor’s degrees are the Bachelor of Arts (BA) and the Bachelor of Science (BS or BSc). In countries with qualifications frameworks, bachelor’s degrees are normally one of the major levels in the framework (sometimes two levels where non-honors and honors bachelor’s degrees are considered separately). If you earned your degree outside the United States it must be the equivalent of a US 4-Year bachelor’s degree to meet this requirement.
  • Licenciatura Degree – The official name for a bachelor’s degree in Mexico is “Licenciado” and such studies are referred to as “Licenciatura”.

What alternative requirements can be used to meet the TN Visa degree requirements?

 The July 2000 Cronin memo provides guidance on what degrees and alternative degrees are acceptable for TN Visa purposes under the ANNEX 16-A-1-3 Appendix 2 Professionals:

If there is an acceptable alternative credential to the educational requirement, it is also listed. The degree should be in the field in a closely related field. Officers should use good judgement in determining whether adegree inanallied field may be appropriate. Returning to the”software engineer”example, it is reasonable to require the TN applicant to provide evidence of a degree in engineering just as it is reasonable to require an engineering degree for admission as aTN to perform professional level duties as a civil engineer. Please note that “Hotel Manager” is the only occupation that specifically requires a baccalaurcate or licentiatura degree in Hotel/Restaurant Management or a Post-Secondary diploma/certificate in Hotel/RestaurantManagement plus three years experience. 

It is important to verify your academic qualifications before applying for TN visa status to make sure you meet the minimum qualifications under the USMCA. It is best practice to seek advice from an experienced US immigration lawyer before applying for TN visa status.

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