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Canadian Software Developer looking to move to US ...

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  • Aug 15th, 2015 2:03 am
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[OP]
Newbie
May 11, 2015
4 posts
Waterloo, ON

Canadian Software Developer looking to move to US ...

Hi everyone, my first post on the forums here. I wanted some advice and I hope I came to the right place :)

So I've been reading that as a Canadian software developer, if you want to work in the US then besides a job offer, you also need to get a TN-1 Visa at the US border. However there's all this confusion regarding 'Software Engineering' vs 'Computer Systems Analyst' in regards to getting the TN-1 visa. From what I know, the border people DON'T allow software engineers to work in the US ? :/ ... Some people say that you need to file under the 'Computer Systems Analyst' category and give proof that you're an engineer, while also stating that your job does NOT involve any programming ... !? :confused:

All of the above is very confusing to me, and I'll be grateful if someone can clarify all of this for me.

Please note that I currently do NOT have a US based job offer, but am rather just assessing the situation right now.
23 replies
Deal Addict
User avatar
Oct 10, 2005
2649 posts
49 upvotes
Bay Area
styler247 wrote: Hi everyone, my first post on the forums here. I wanted some advice and I hope I came to the right place :)

So I've been reading that as a Canadian software developer, if you want to work in the US then besides a job offer, you also need to get a TN-1 Visa at the US border. However there's all this confusion regarding 'Software Engineering' vs 'Computer Systems Analyst' in regards to getting the TN-1 visa. From what I know, the border people DON'T allow software engineers to work in the US ? :/ ... Some people say that you need to file under the 'Computer Systems Analyst' category and give proof that you're an engineer, while also stating that your job does NOT involve any programming ... !? :confused:

All of the above is very confusing to me, and I'll be grateful if someone can clarify all of this for me.

Please note that I currently do NOT have a US based job offer, but am rather just assessing the situation right now.
You need an H1-B visa if you're going to be a software developer. TN is out of the question.
Member
Dec 25, 2006
370 posts
62 upvotes
Waterloo
Lawyer of the company you are hired for will prepare all the documents and will take care of which category you fall under. You need to take that job offer letter and your educational certificates to the border and obtain TN.

For more details, you can see http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/e ... nafta.html
[OP]
Newbie
May 11, 2015
4 posts
Waterloo, ON
bramptonmt wrote: Lawyer of the company you are hired for will prepare all the documents and will take care of which category you fall under. You need to take that job offer letter and your educational certificates to the border and obtain TN.

For more details, you can see http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/e ... nafta.html
Thanks. But will it be a straightforward procedure, or is it still a game of chance somehow ? What about that "Computer Systems Analyst" thing that I referred to in my original question ?
andrew2good4u wrote: You need an H1-B visa if you're going to be a software developer. TN is out of the question.
Why do you say that ? Isn't TN meant to be for Canadians looking to work in the US ? Getting a H1-B will be very difficult now I think because of all the people competing for it.
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Mar 31, 2005
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Calgary
A TN Visa isn't for people who are hired by US companies, it's for people working for Canadian companies that are doing work in the US.
Newbie
Apr 30, 2013
85 posts
9 upvotes
To the OP:
If you have a software engineering degree, you can go in under the engineer category. If you have a CS degree, you must go in as a CSA. It's also very important that you don't mention the word programming (or programmer) at the border. They have a very misguided idea as to what programming is, your lawyer should also tell you this.

Most decent companies would start you off on a TN (very quick and easy to get, relatively speaking), then transition you to an H1B (slow process with a lot more paperwork and a lottery).
TotallyKiller wrote: A TN Visa isn't for people who are hired by US companies, it's for people working for Canadian companies that are doing work in the US.
You're thinking of an L1, not a TN.
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Mar 31, 2005
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ObsidianTriangle wrote: To the OP:
If you have a software engineering degree, you can go in under the engineer category. If you have a CS degree, you must go in as a CSA. It's also very important that you don't mention the word programming (or programmer) at the border. They have a very misguided idea as to what programming is, your lawyer should also tell you this.

Most decent companies would start you off on a TN (very quick and easy to get, relatively speaking), then transition you to an H1B (slow process with a lot more paperwork and a lottery).


You're thinking of an L1, not a TN.
Could be, but then I'd have to assume they overlap a bit as I've only ever had TN and have only ever worked in the US for US clients that hired the Canadian firm. Had the letters drafted by the client and my employer saying why they couldn't get the work done with US personnel, etc. Not sure what the difference would be between that and what the L1 gets you.

Update: Figured it out. As my work was always temporary (a year or less) it's likely that this is what was applicable to me: "Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa, but instead receive "TN" status with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at their Port of Entry. Please note that the "TN" status will only be granted if the period of stay is temporary."
[OP]
Newbie
May 11, 2015
4 posts
Waterloo, ON
ObsidianTriangle wrote: To the OP:
If you have a software engineering degree, you can go in under the engineer category. If you have a CS degree, you must go in as a CSA. It's also very important that you don't mention the word programming (or programmer) at the border. They have a very misguided idea as to what programming is, your lawyer should also tell you this.

Most decent companies would start you off on a TN (very quick and easy to get, relatively speaking), then transition you to an H1B (slow process with a lot more paperwork and a lottery).
Thanks. Well I have one undergraduate degree and two Masters degree. My undergraduate degree is in 'Computer Engineering, and the first of my two Masters is in 'Electrical & Computer Engineering' (this is also from a US university named Georgia Tech). My second Masters is from University of Waterloo in MMath Computer Science.

So given the above, as I have degrees in CE and ECE too, does that make things any easier ?

Also, what if they point blank ask me if my job will involve computer programming ? I've heard that if you lie, they'll deny you the visa, and if you say yes, the result is the same :/
Member
Aug 1, 2012
253 posts
232 upvotes
Vancouver
TotallyKiller wrote: A TN Visa isn't for people who are hired by US companies, it's for people working for Canadian companies that are doing work in the US.
No it's not. TN Visa is for any Canadian to work in the US. No restrictions on company ownership. However, it is VERY limited in careers.
styler247 wrote: Thanks. But will it be a straightforward procedure, or is it still a game of chance somehow ? What about that "Computer Systems Analyst" thing that I referred to in my original question ?



Why do you say that ? Isn't TN meant to be for Canadians looking to work in the US ? Getting a H1-B will be very difficult now I think because of all the people competing for it.
As I said up there. It's limited in careers and Software Developers isn't one. You'll be denied outright when they see programming on your job description.

With that said even though Software Engineers aren't included in the Engineer or Computer Systems Analyst, some border agent do give it do Software Engineers if the job description highlights 'Software Design' instead of programming, but again you'll be at the mercy of the border agent.

Also, I don't recommend applying ahead of time as you'll most likely get denied and it'll be on your record which will stop you from getting a TN.
[OP]
Newbie
May 11, 2015
4 posts
Waterloo, ON
LeafsFan91 wrote: Also, I don't recommend applying ahead of time as you'll most likely get denied and it'll be on your record which will stop you from getting a TN.
Don't understand what you meant when saying the above.
Newbie
Apr 30, 2013
85 posts
9 upvotes
styler247 wrote: Thanks. Well I have one undergraduate degree and two Masters degree. My undergraduate degree is in 'Computer Engineering, and the first of my two Masters is in 'Electrical & Computer Engineering' (this is also from a US university named Georgia Tech). My second Masters is from University of Waterloo in MMath Computer Science.

So given the above, as I have degrees in CE and ECE too, does that make things any easier ?

Also, what if they point blank ask me if my job will involve computer programming ? I've heard that if you lie, they'll deny you the visa, and if you say yes, the result is the same :/
I suspect you can probably do either, I've personally only done CSA, but I knew people with engineering degrees that went under that category for software jobs. The important thing is to have an offer letter from the company that is written to match the job description of your chosen category. For a CSA, it'll say something to the effect of doing design, analysis, etc etc. As for whether it will involve computer programming, it's okay to say yes, if you also say it will only take up a small percentage of your time, the rest of the time you'll be doing systems analysis, <insert rest of the keywords>. Unless it's very obvious that you'll be doing programming, in which case, the offer letter was badly written, how would they even know if you're lying or not?
Newbie
Apr 30, 2013
85 posts
9 upvotes
LeafsFan91 wrote: For a TN Visa you can apply at port of entry (more airports have this, but you'll need to double check that the airport deals with TNs). So, you basically bring the required documents and apply at your port of entry.

http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/e ... nafta.html
You can't really do it ahead of time since you need to already have the job offer as part of the required documentation. Unless you mean ahead of time as in at a different port of entry.

@OP: It's actually recommended to drive over to the land border at Niagara to get a TN since the people that work in Pearson are complete asses. That's assuming you're crossing in the GTA, which I assuming you will since you have Waterloo listed. Then you just do a U turn, go back into Canada, and fly to your actual destination.
Newbie
Apr 30, 2013
85 posts
9 upvotes
TotallyKiller wrote: Could be, but then I'd have to assume they overlap a bit as I've only ever had TN and have only ever worked in the US for US clients that hired the Canadian firm. Had the letters drafted by the client and my employer saying why they couldn't get the work done with US personnel, etc. Not sure what the difference would be between that and what the L1 gets you.

Update: Figured it out. As my work was always temporary (a year or less) it's likely that this is what was applicable to me: "Canadian citizens are not required to obtain a visa, but instead receive "TN" status with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at their Port of Entry. Please note that the "TN" status will only be granted if the period of stay is temporary."
AFAIK, the L1 is for cases where your company is multinational and you're employed on the Canadian side, but going on assignment to the US side for awhile. But you did bring up a good point about the temporary thing though.

@OP: If they ask you how long you'll be staying, give the length of the status, which is 3 years right now. Say that you'll head back after that. Be firm that your employment is temporary, and don't say that you're planning to immigrate, regardless of what your actual plans are.
Member
Jan 6, 2008
295 posts
48 upvotes
Op, just an observation - things will be much clearer if you actually get a job offer first...the company will figure it out for you. If you have a TN/H1B/L1 you will also have a letter from the company stating your actual position, with which they got you a visa to start with. Just use that. Anything else at this point is just a waste of electrons ;) . Ok, a waste of electrons changing states.
Member
Aug 1, 2012
253 posts
232 upvotes
Vancouver
ObsidianTriangle wrote: You can't really do it ahead of time since you need to already have the job offer as part of the required documentation. Unless you mean ahead of time as in at a different port of entry.

@OP: It's actually recommended to drive over to the land border at Niagara to get a TN since the people that work in Pearson are complete asses. That's assuming you're crossing in the GTA, which I assuming you will since you have Waterloo listed. Then you just do a U turn, go back into Canada, and fly to your actual destination.
No, I mean at a US consulate. You can apply there as well beforehand. Mexicans have to apply at an embassy, but for Canadians it's optional. If they deny at the consulate, they keep a record of it. Which may hurt your chances even at a port of entry.
Member
Dec 25, 2006
370 posts
62 upvotes
Waterloo
You should apply to companies and contact recruiters in US. If they are interested in your work profile, they will invite you to interview and if selected will take care of TN visa category or H1B visa, etc., provided you have basic qualifications required under NAFTA for that particular category for TN or whatever the rules are for H1B.

TN visa comes under NAFTA agreement which is signed between US, Canada and Mexico. So no use of blaming US alone.
Deal Guru
Oct 3, 2006
10472 posts
790 upvotes
Toronto
mofesto wrote: Because of the recent CAD fail, I'm looking to work for a US company again. I'm a senior software developer and find it perplexing as to why they make it so hard for me to move to the US for work.

I won't even bother with the TN category, because it's clearly not applicable for developers. And H-1B has a tremendous backlog which results in a long wait and a lottery.

And I have to ask -- why do they make it this hard? I can just as well work remotely full-time from Canada (or anywhere in the world), charge my clients in USD anyways... so the US Government is shooting itself in the foot. Because instead of IRS getting my income tax, it's going to the Canadian government.

It makes NO SENSE to make it this hard for professional developers to migrate from Canada into the US.
If you're working remotely from Canada for a US client, the US cannot tax you since you are not a US resident for tax purposes. You actually need to be physically present in the US for a certain amount of time to be considered a US resident for tax purposes. In this situation, they would simply lose tax revenue compared to if the US company hired a US based developer.
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Nov 19, 2014
910 posts
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mofesto wrote: Because of the recent CAD fail, I'm looking to work for a US company again. I'm a senior software developer and find it perplexing as to why they make it so hard for me to move to the US for work.

I won't even bother with the TN category, because it's clearly not applicable for developers. And H-1B has a tremendous backlog which results in a long wait and a lottery.

And I have to ask -- why do they make it this hard? I can just as well work remotely full-time from Canada (or anywhere in the world), charge my clients in USD anyways... so the US Government is shooting itself in the foot. Because instead of IRS getting my income tax, it's going to the Canadian government.

It makes NO SENSE to make it this hard for professional developers to migrate from Canada into the US.
Have you been offered a job with a US company yet? If you have been, it's not that hard, the companies lawyers will take care of everything for you.
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