US Work Visas

For most Canadian work professionals, there are two types of work permits – or visas – you could apply for: TN and H1B.


To qualify for this visa, you need be considered an employed professional as defined by a list of professional recognized under NAFTA. Assuming you fit one of the classifications on the list, you will not need to formally apply for a visa ahead of traveling to the US for employment.  You need proof of employment in the United States but you will not need to have the US employer file a petition on your behalf. Show your documentation at the Port Authority and you will (well, should) be granted entry.

If you are a general business or administrative office worker, and have at least five years of experience, you may be able to qualify under the Managerial Consultant classification. Having said that, from what I’ve read, it is the hardest classification to apply under because it draws the most fraudulent claims. If you want to claim yourself to be a ‘Managerial Consultant’ you better have the papers to prove it or else you wll be turned away at the border. If you do secure a visa as a Managerial Consultant, you will need to renew that visa every three years in order to keep working in the US. Since you applied as a ‘Consultant’, your visa will likely not be renewed if you work under the same employer named in the original application years prior.

While not having to apply for a visa is advantageous, and convenient, it also seems to be a gamble. What if you reach the border and you are denied entry? What do you tell your US employer?


If you wish to work in the United States, but would not qualify for a TN visa, then your other option is to apply for an H1B visa. Only up to 65,000 Canadians can be granted an H1B visa, and applications are accepted in April of each year. The application start date in 2012 was April 1 and apparently the quota was reached by June 11, 2013. Since the quota was reached, you cannot apply for an H1B visa until April 1, 2013.

Unlike the TN visa, an application needs to be submitted by you and a petition (I-129, $325) needs to be filed by your US employer. Only then can an interview be booked with the US Embassy in your area to further verify your application.

Wait times for H1B visa application verification don’t seem long; from what I’ve read, it’s generally anywhere from 4 to 60 days. Having said that – and I’ve been trying to get confirmation on this but keep hitting walls – assuming your visa application is accepted, I don’t think you’d be able to actually start working in the US until October of the same year.

While the H1B visa offers a sense of security (you won’t be turned away at the border or airport), I could imagine finding an employer willing to petition on your behalf would be difficult. Who wants the added paperwork, man hours, and dollars spent on a foreign employee without the guarantee that the visa application will even be accepted?


I was admittedly frustrated upon learning all of this. My recent trip to Chicago, and subsequent love affair I had with the city, left me feeling even more defeated. What about the commercial, with that absurdly catchy melody that was getting so much airtime? What about my dreams?

I understand though: they want our tourism dollars, not us taking their jobs. I get it. Well, Chicago wasn’t that great; their subway smells like piss.

Anyway, if anyone would like add or correct any of the information I’ve provided, please reply and share your thoughts! Knowledge is power.



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