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SDE Job Offer for Amazon Seattle - don't meet TN Visa Requirements - Transfer UW credits towards any diploma?

[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto

SDE Job Offer for Amazon Seattle - don't meet TN Visa Requirements - Transfer UW credits towards any diploma?

I got a job offer for an Amazon Software Development Engineer role in Seattle. I signed the offer letter and began the relocation process (through the service Amazon offers for this) until the immigration law firm that Amazon uses informed me that they wouldn’t attempt to petition me for a TN Visa because I didn’t complete my University of Waterloo Computer Science degree (I have 2 years of CS + 1 Arts semester, leaving with a low-to-mid 80s GPA 7 years ago; don’t ask why – separate story). I also have 4-5 years of professional experience as a software engineer.

The lawyer told me this late Friday (it’s Sunday now) and I have a call with her Monday at 1pm (she kindly offered her availability), with the Amazon software manager who I would’ve been working under and my HR contact there as optional invitees. Amazon said they don’t care I don’t have the degree and asked me how far I am from completing it. In the meantime, they’d try to find a place for me in Canada and hopefully transfer me over in a year to the States under an L1 Visa, but they’re not sure about immigration requirements either and they didn’t seem confident they could find a place in Canada in the very near future (could be 2 months).

Under TN Visa requirements, “Computer Systems Analysts” need either a bachelor’s degree in CS/Software Engineering OR a 2 year college diploma + 3 years professional experience. The lawyer said I need a bachelor’s (she said a 3 year general degree suffices), but I intend to ask her about the 2 year diploma option, with the hope I can transfer my UW credits to ANY other Canadian or American college/university that will get me that piece of paper ASAP. I’m willing to pay almost any amount of money for a sufficient diploma and am willing to do coursework, but it’d be ideal if I can get the paper ASAP. Additionally, there’s a Scientific Technician/Technologist TN category that doesn’t require a degree, but I believe a Software Development Engineer is difficult to map onto this role.

Does anyone know of/recommend any schools in North America who may be able to help me make this kind of arrangement? Or have any other insight/advice?

Thank you.
42 replies
Deal Guru
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Oct 3, 2006
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Why don't you ask a local college how many of your UW credits you can transfer to their CS diploma program? I would imagine a college would be pretty generous with university transfer credits, especially from UW CS.
[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto
Thank you for responding.

That's what I've been doing for the past two days. I've talked to key people (chairpeople, associate deans, academic advisors, etc...) at Seneca and Humber College and my impression is that for a 2-year program, I may be able to transfer 1 year over. For a 1-year (really 8 months), I may be able to transfer one 4-month semester over. Application/transfer deadlines are fast approaching for the September term, key people at colleges can be difficult to reach, the lawyer I mentioned brought my case up with the Global Immigration team at Amazon to see if I'd have a better chance under the Computer Systems Analyst category (because the default is actually the TN Engineering category - didn't expect this), but that would still require a 2 year diploma of me, and she's unsure about the 1-year option but doesn't think it'd suffice (despite my already having 2 years before). She said she'd get back to me about the 1-year option and what the Global Immigration people tell her.

It's really coming down to the wire.
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Nov 19, 2014
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You're at HQ in Seattle for Amazon? You have a few educational options if you want your degree fast. You want to probably look at non-competitive private universities or private accreditted for-profit universities. They'd probably make this as painless as possible if you just cut a cheque. Since you're heading to Seattle, you have two options.

1) Seattle University is in the city and will probably allow you to transfer your credits. You pay private tuition just like an American. With your skills, their program will be a cruise for you. You could probably get with them on the phone now. However, not very reputable.

2) Digipen -- a for profit game design and programmer school. It's actually decently reputable for a for-profit school. Some of there grads land at Amazon and Microsoft, many land at major game studious. They have low entrance standards, but all you really do is code. So, you should have a pretty easy time here with your ability. Again, if you can cut a cheque shouldn't be a problem. You can probably get all the info you need from them in 1 call.

If Humber/Seneca let's you do it fast and it qualifies under the immigration category, that'd be far more economical.
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."
[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto
Thank you. This is helpful: "non-competitive private universities or private accreditted for-profit universities"

I'm not sure if Seattle-based schools offer any advantage at this point. The problem is I can't get into the States because I don't meet the TN requirements for the candidate job categories, so I think getting to the States on an education Visa on such a short time-span is another gamble, although I don't anticipate it's as tricky as getting TN to work.

Another limitation is I only have 6 months before the current Amazon offer expires and I need to do another interview loop. From what I've gathered, it'd be difficult to parlay my education experience to anything shorter than 8 months of study, as of September. Converting work experience to transfer credits is even harder, though I have gained more relevant skills that way, along with my self-study. For a 1 year graduate certificate, it seems the best I can hope for is 1 study semester (4 months), which would work IF

  1. The Amazon legal side is content with 2 years at Waterloo CS transferring to a college resulting in a 1 year graduate certificate
  2. The above point passes the smell-test of an individual border patrol officer
  3. If I'm successful in this, I likely won't have a certificate yet because those aren't printed until spring. I may get an official letter saying I'm due to receive it come April 2018, but that's a gamble with border patrol.
Banned
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Nov 19, 2014
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gbershad wrote:
Aug 2nd, 2017 3:41 pm
Thank you. This is helpful: "non-competitive private universities or private accreditted for-profit universities"

I'm not sure if Seattle-based schools offer any advantage at this point. The problem is I can't get into the States because I don't meet the TN requirements for the candidate job categories, so I think getting to the States on an education Visa on such a short time-span is another gamble, although I don't anticipate it's as tricky as getting TN to work.

Another limitation is I only have 6 months before the current Amazon offer expires and I need to do another interview loop. From what I've gathered, it'd be difficult to parlay my education experience to anything shorter than 8 months of study, as of September. Converting work experience to transfer credits is even harder, though I have gained more relevant skills that way, along with my self-study. For a 1 year graduate certificate, it seems the best I can hope for is 1 study semester (4 months), which would work IF

  1. The Amazon legal side is content with 2 years at Waterloo CS transferring to a college resulting in a 1 year graduate certificate
  2. The above point passes the smell-test of an individual border patrol officer
  3. If I'm successful in this, I likely won't have a certificate yet because those aren't printed until spring. I may get an official letter saying I'm due to receive it come April 2018, but that's a gamble with border patrol.
Yeah, your short-time line makes the process rough. On the brightside if you've passed the tech interview you can pass another (though I'm guessing you find spending a day answering whiteboard questions is annoying). The benefit of being on a student visa in Seattle is, since you sound like you're a decent programmer, you can actually take a lot of interviews while you're there completing your program (and maybe up your pay offers).

I'd avoid any U.S. state school or competitive private university, especially University of Washington. They poop out programmers that land at Amazon and that program is going to be far more work than you want (elite students, elite competition). You'll face many of the same roadblocks you get in Canadian university where classes will be full, there will be waitlists that delay your program. Plus, applying is going to be annoying, it's all more work than you need (they might make you take entrance exams, even at the community college level).

You should probably give Digipen a call. They're very tied to industry. They also have schools internationally, they'd probably give you some ideas as I'd guess they deal with international students frequently. Your benefit with non-competitive private schools and for-profit private schools is usually the student body is small, so you're almost guranteed a certain timeline. But the tuition is going to cost you $. On the plus side, with your existing skills, you'll probably get to knock off some interviews with big time game studious while you're there.

Schools like BCIT have short programs you could look into, if immigration approves it: https://www.bcit.ca/study/programs/5500dipma

https://www.bcit.ca/study/programs/699ccertt
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."
Newbie
Aug 22, 2013
21 posts
2 upvotes
Windsor
gbershad wrote:
Jul 30th, 2017 2:38 pm
I got a job offer for an Amazon Software Development Engineer role in Seattle. I signed the offer letter and began the relocation process (through the service Amazon offers for this) until the immigration law firm that Amazon uses informed me that they wouldn’t attempt to petition me for a TN Visa because I didn’t complete my University of Waterloo Computer Science degree (I have 2 years of CS + 1 Arts semester, leaving with a low-to-mid 80s GPA 7 years ago; don’t ask why – separate story). I also have 4-5 years of professional experience as a software engineer.

The lawyer told me this late Friday (it’s Sunday now) and I have a call with her Monday at 1pm (she kindly offered her availability), with the Amazon software manager who I would’ve been working under and my HR contact there as optional invitees. Amazon said they don’t care I don’t have the degree and asked me how far I am from completing it. In the meantime, they’d try to find a place for me in Canada and hopefully transfer me over in a year to the States under an L1 Visa, but they’re not sure about immigration requirements either and they didn’t seem confident they could find a place in Canada in the very near future (could be 2 months).

Under TN Visa requirements, “Computer Systems Analysts” need either a bachelor’s degree in CS/Software Engineering OR a 2 year college diploma + 3 years professional experience. The lawyer said I need a bachelor’s (she said a 3 year general degree suffices), but I intend to ask her about the 2 year diploma option, with the hope I can transfer my UW credits to ANY other Canadian or American college/university that will get me that piece of paper ASAP. I’m willing to pay almost any amount of money for a sufficient diploma and am willing to do coursework, but it’d be ideal if I can get the paper ASAP. Additionally, there’s a Scientific Technician/Technologist TN category that doesn’t require a degree, but I believe a Software Development Engineer is difficult to map onto this role.

Does anyone know of/recommend any schools in North America who may be able to help me make this kind of arrangement? Or have any other insight/advice?

Thank you.
You need a completed four year bachelor's degree to be eligible for a TN visa because part of the application requires you to purchase an original copy of the diploma from your school (I think most schools charge around $50 to reprint the paper).

Also, no school will ever allow a student to transfer 100% of courses from another school just to get the piece of paper. They want you to take a certain percentage of courses at their school. Even if all your courses are 100% transferrable, all school policies will require you to still take some of their own courses at their school to be eligible to earn their credential. The only exception is if a college student wants to earn a higher credential from a certificate/diploma to a degree that they can transfer and certain schools have transfer agreements that allow students to transfer 100% of their earned course credits.

And why would you want to move to the United States? Aren't Canadians praising how great Canada is compared to the south? I thought Toronto is becoming the next silicon valley? Isn't the Trudeau government bringing enough jobs Face With Tears Of JoyFace With Tears Of JoyFace With Tears Of Joy
Banned
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Nov 19, 2014
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And why would you want to move to the United States? Aren't Canadians praising how great Canada is compared to the south? I thought Toronto is becoming the next silicon valley?
No. Many Canadian city tries claiming that or that they have a booming tech industry (Vancouver, Kelowna, Victoria, Calgary, Waterloo, Toronto).

Seattle is most likely to be the "next silicone valley." Austin (Texas) and New York City both also have more signifigant industries than Toronto within North America.
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."
[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto
dangittman wrote:
Aug 3rd, 2017 1:56 pm
You need a completed four year bachelor's degree to be eligible for a TN visa because part of the application requires you to purchase an original copy of the diploma from your school (I think most schools charge around $50 to reprint the paper).

Also, no school will ever allow a student to transfer 100% of courses from another school just to get the piece of paper. They want you to take a certain percentage of courses at their school. Even if all your courses are 100% transferrable, all school policies will require you to still take some of their own courses at their school to be eligible to earn their credential. The only exception is if a college student wants to earn a higher credential from a certificate/diploma to a degree that they can transfer and certain schools have transfer agreements that allow students to transfer 100% of their earned course credits.

And why would you want to move to the United States? Aren't Canadians praising how great Canada is compared to the south? I thought Toronto is becoming the next silicon valley? Isn't the Trudeau government bringing enough jobs Face With Tears Of JoyFace With Tears Of JoyFace With Tears Of Joy
3 year bachelor's suffices as well, according to the immigration law firm. Under the Computer Systems Analyst TN category, the same is true for a 2 year college diploma/certificate with 3 or more years of professional experience, which I have. The most optimistic route at the moment is to find a 1 year graduate certificate and transfer over the second semester or succeed in meeting the requirement via Prior Learning Assessment. That way, I'd only have to do semester 1 of courses and lock down the certificate by December.

This is still far from desirable because though I have 2 years of education before, the program itself is technically only 1 year, so that's likely to cause problems. Additionally, colleges don't print certificates and diplomas until spring usually, so even if all pieces fall into place, the best I can hope for is a "certificate-promissory" letter or email, which too is risky because the CBP officer wants to see the original paper. I have found a couple of candidate programs at Seneca, Humber, and Centennial, and I've already ruled out the Seneca one.

Another possibility is to find a 3 semester program that started in January 2017 and somehow convince them I only need to do the fall semester, but that too is a 1-year or 1.5 (if you count 1 year = 8 months), and I haven't found any such suitable programs, ignoring the difficulty of transferring/challenging 8 months worth of credits.

Yes, Seattle is definitely better for developers than Canada.

What really gets me about TN requirements is that the Engineering job category is the most surefire route, and I only know of UW as a Canadian university that offers that degree. Apparently, a B. CS. is risky territory as well. A bachelor's in computer engineering presents less risk for an SDE, which is completely backwards because it's a different field. When I was applying for schools in grade 12, I got admitted to both Software Engineering (Engineering faculty) and Computer Science at UW, and I was convinced by a professor that computer science is the more mature program and offers a better theoretical foundation. And he was right. He said at the time that Software Engineering was UW's effort to squeeze computing into an engineering discipline, resulting in a clunky and incomplete program. But I knew of a few kids who were elite performers on the computing competitions, and they chose Software Engineering as their major; I'm realizing now that this was likely because they foresaw that they wanted to work for Google in the States and knew of Visa regulations even back then. Ridiculous. Wish I had that foresight.
[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto
I've shifted my focus towards Canadian and American institutions that offer 2 year online diploma/associate's degree programs. The requirement for TN Visa category "Computer Systems Analyst" requires of me "either a bachelor's degree or post-secondary diploma (a credential issued upon completion of two or more years of post secondary education by an accredited academic institution in Canada or the U.S.)." I'm unable to get any more information from the legal side on my case, generally speaking or with respect to a specific college program I've raised.

I found this easy program that sounds like it might fit the bill: https://www.pennfoster.edu/programs-and ... ate-degree

Does anyone have any opinion as to whether this will fly with the immigration law firm to progress with my petition, and later with the border patrol officer? It doesn't look likely that I'll be able to get any degree of certainty before actually completing a program and submitting it to the law firm. I'm only looking for opinions; I won't hold you to it. Remember, the officer is likely to view course titles with the word "computer" as effectively the same.
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Aug 16, 2017
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'Post-Secondary Diploma and three years of experience' is the requirement for the CSA category. Since you have the experience part down, you gotta do what you can to get yourself a diploma. If some xyz college would give you that, go for it! The border agents would want to see your actual diploma and all your transcripts including your Waterloo ones. Don't overthink it. You seem like you know what you're doing. From my TN experience, a lot depends on the immigration officer looking at your case. Good luck!
[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto
MapleColouredRaptor wrote:
Aug 17th, 2017 4:13 pm
'Post-Secondary Diploma and three years of experience' is the requirement for the CSA category. Since you have the experience part down, you gotta do what you can to get yourself a diploma. If some xyz college would give you that, go for it! The border agents would want to see your actual diploma and all your transcripts including your Waterloo ones. Don't overthink it. You seem like you know what you're doing. From my TN experience, a lot depends on the immigration officer looking at your case. Good luck!
Thanks for responding.

I learned that particular school would be considered a "diploma mill", which is why I've moved towards ones slightly more reputable. I have Thompson Rivers University in my cross-hairs at the moment - a Diploma in Information Technology and Management (unsure how feasible timely completion is) and a Diploma in General Studies (with my computing courses transferred over - doable) - both online. The General Studies one is worrisome because there's no mention of IT or Computing in the name.

I've concluded the same about a lot depending on the officer, but I also have to appease the immigration law firm and they could still kibosh the petition after I submit the diploma + transcript. Amazon also has to sign off on it, but I'm assuming with the Amazon Global Immigration office's approval, the major "pre-officer" hurdle is the immigration law firm's internal review, and it's difficult to get information whether a particular program will fly, ahead of time.
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Mar 23, 2008
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What a gong show... I still have nightmares about trying to sneak across the border on a TN visa with my 6 month old Computer Systems Technology diploma. I worked with a local lawyer to craft my resume and documentation to make my experience seem more relevant, but standing in line at the Immigration desk of the airport was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I can remember. Especially it took my college instructor (who got me the job in the US) 3 tries to get across the border...

Good luck!

C
[OP]
Newbie
Oct 26, 2013
22 posts
Toronto
CNeufeld wrote:
Aug 17th, 2017 6:04 pm
What a gong show... I still have nightmares about trying to sneak across the border on a TN visa with my 6 month old Computer Systems Technology diploma. I worked with a local lawyer to craft my resume and documentation to make my experience seem more relevant, but standing in line at the Immigration desk of the airport was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences I can remember. Especially it took my college instructor (who got me the job in the US) 3 tries to get across the border...

Good luck!

C
Thank you!

Luck's certainly a much larger part of the equation than I would like and I need as much of it as I can get.

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