TN – Scientific Technician Designation

Appendix 1603.D.1 of the NAFTA states that an individual is eligible for TN status as a Scientific Technician if he or she possesses:

(a) theoretical knowledge of any of the following disciplines: agricultural 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.

In theory, these criteria appear simple enough to demonstrate to a U.S. immigration officer. In practice, however, the Scientific Technician designation has proven challenging and widely misunderstood by applicants and officers alike.

Why the Disparity?

Most of NAFTA’s occupational designations require a Bachelor’s Degree or a License to establish one’s eligibility. However, as set forth above, the Scientific Technician designation does not provide clearly defined credentials.  In addition, the government has never provided an exhaustive list of acceptable evidence to establish one’s qualifications as a Scientific Technician.

The lack of clarify surrounding this occupational category has caused many ports of entry to develop their own internal processes for assessing Scientific Technician applications.  This has resulted in inconsistent adjudications of these applications across our national borders.

Available Guidance

In its Inspector’s Field Manual (IFM), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers the following guidance about the Scientific Technician designation to adjudicating officers:

  • A Scientific Technician generally does not have a Bachelor’s Degree. Rather, the applicant’s theoretical knowledge should be acquired through successful completion of at least two years of training in a relevant educational program. This training may be evidenced by a diploma, certificate, or a transcript accompanied by evidence of relevant work experience.
  • A Scientific Technician must provide direct support to a qualified professional in the field of agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics.
  • The Scientific Technician’s duties must be demonstrably interrelated with the work of the professional. Specifically, this work must be “managed, coordinated, and reviewed” by the professional, and it must “provide input” to the supervisory professional’s own work.
  • The reviewing officer will refer to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook to verify whether the applicant’s proposed job functions are consistent with the occupational category.
  • An applicant will not be granted status as a Scientific Technician if the proposed work is normally completed by the construction trades (welders, boiler makers, carpenters, electricians, etc.).

Common Issues

  1. Direct Support

At the time of adjudication, the government often questions whether the applicant will, in fact, be working in direct support of a degreed professional. The Scientific Technician cannot function autonomously in the U.S.; rather, he or she must work under the supervision of a degreed professional. The work of the Scientific Technician should aid or further the professional’s work.

If the professional and the Scientific Technician will work in different locations, the “direct support” argument will likely be challenged. In addition, the application will be denied if it lacks evidence that the supervisor is a degreed professional.

  1. Training Evidence

Depending on the applicant’s background, he or she may have difficulty evidencing two years of training in a relevant educational program. Available guidance specifies that this training may be shown by “a diploma, certificate, or a transcript accompanied by evidence of relevant work experience”; the guidance does not state that this training must be shown in one of these forms. Applicants who present unorthodox training evidence should be prepared to advocate for their approval.

Berardi Immigration Law Can Help with your TN Petition

Scientific Technician applications are complex, and submitting them alone before a government officer is challenging at best. At Berardi Immigration Law, our lawyers not only prepare these petitions, but we also accompany our clients at the time of submission. With our help, our clients can cross the border with confidence.