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Working in the United States

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) facilitates the movement of goods and services between Canada, the US and Mexico. Canadian professionals, including certified technicians and technologists, should have an easier time gaining access to the US for employment under NAFTA, provided they follow the proper steps.The category for entry that will probably be most relevant to technicians and technologists is that of ‘Professionals’.

Following are the general criteria that must be met, as well as a list of the supporting documentation needed to work as a Professional under NAFTA:

  • You can apply for entry to the United States as a NAFTA Professional at major ports of entry, international airports, or at airports in Canada where the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service has established a pre-clearance/pre-flight station. No visa is required, but a verbal application for entry must be made before an immigration officer.
  • Upon entry to the US, the NAFTA Professional will receive an arrival record (Form I-94), which can be presented to the Social Security Administration in order to obtain a social security number.
  • Spouses and dependent children of NAFTA Professionals can enter the US with the Professional, or at a following date. They must meet the general immigration requirements for temporary entry, but it is not necessary for them to be Canadian citizens. Spouses and children may attend school while in the US, but they are not allowed to work, unless they apply to, and meet the requirements of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Temporary access under NAFTA allows Professionals and their families to stay in the US for the duration of one year. However, an unlimited number of one year extensions may be granted by the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, as long as ultimately, the stay remains temporary.
  • Within reason, NAFTA business persons may bring certain goods with them to the US, duty-free. These can include the necessary tools of their trade and sporting equipment.
  • Under Appendix 1603.D.1 to NAFTA, the profession of Scientific Technician/Technologist is listed, with minimum education requirements and alternative credentials including: “possession of (a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agriculture sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics, and (b) the ability to solve practical problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research.”
  • A provision to entry of Scientific Technician/Technologist is “a business person in this category must be seeking temporary entry to work in direct support of professionals in agriculture sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology or physics.”
  • Bear in mind these are just guidelines, and should you require more information, you can consult the American Embassy or an American Consulate in your area.
  • As well, the US Department of Commerce offers information on its web site related to NAFTA. The full free trade agreement, along with several useful documents relating to NAFTA can be found on the Office of NAFTA and Inter-American Affairs website
  • Documents considered of particular interest are:
  • NAFTA Facts document 3013 – contains information pertaining to the travel of NAFTA Professionals into the United States, and
  • documents 3012 and 3014 – contain NAFTA employment information
  • Note: This article reprinted from Tech-Can, a newsletter previously published by the Canadian Council of Technicians and Technologists.

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