USCIS Seeks to Distinguish TN Economists from Marketing and Financial Analyst Occupations

Washington DC, December 20, 2017 – USCIS issued guidance dated November 20, 2017 entitled “TN Nonimmigrant Economists Are Defined by Qualifying Business Activity.” The purpose of the new policy guidance was to define the occupation of economist for TN visa petitions. The guidance issued by USCIS seeks to prevent TN economists from working primarily as marketing specialists, market research analysts or financial analysts.

TN Economists

The professional occupation of economist is authorized for TN visas under Appendix 1603.D.1 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (1994) (“NAFTA”). The TN visa category was codified in USCIS regulations at 8 CFR Sectin 214.6(c). The occupation is available to both Canadian and Mexican citizens and requires at least a Bachelor’s degree or a Licenciatura degree. No guidance is provided as to what degree majors qualify as an economist.

USCIS Policy Change

In the past, USCIS has usually made reference to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook to determine the proper scope of the occupation of economist.

The November 2017 policy guidance, however, delves deeper into the related occupations of economist / market analysist / financial analyst. Applying the theory that each of these occupations is considered by the Department of Labor’s Standard Occupation Code system (“SOC”) as separate and distinct, the new USCIS guidance seeks to limit TN economists from working primarily as market research analysts or financial analysts.

Problem to Consider

The problem in reaching workable definitions of these occupations is not readily solved by the November 2017 policy guidance. The key overlapping areas are duties that require data analysis. Data analysis duties appear in all three occupations, and involve similar statistical techniques. Whenever data analysis is the primary duty of these occupations, the job descriptions, duties and data analysis techniques will tend to similar, to the point of being difficult to distinguish.

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