Canadian students working in the US

I was wondering if anyone can provide me with some insight on this. I understand that under the NAFTA agreement that Industrial Designers don’t need a greencard… just apply for a TN-1 which can be renewed from year to year.

However, reading the description under the NAFTA list of professions, it says as requirments:

Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree; or post-secondary diploma or post-secondary certificate, and three years’ experience.

So how would this apply for students or new graduates?

I’m hoping someone here has some first hand experience to share.

Thanks in advance!

if you have an ID degree, you do not need any experience

if you do not have a degree, and say only a diploma from a smaller college, then you also need 3 years experience to qualify for TN.

note the “or”

i have a TN and my degree is from carleton

So how would this apply for students or new graduates?

In my understanding the TN1 permit is not applicable to Canadian students.

The TN1 was created to allow “skilled workers” in a number of designated professions to work in the US. As a student is still in the process of learning their trade they do not qualify for this particular permit.

A recent graduate would qualify as they satisfy the bachelors degree requirement.

If you are doing an internship / working for free you can probably get around this.

Thank you for your replies. It’s unfortunate that the TN1 doesn’t apply to students…

If getting a work permit is so difficult, how do students manage to work abroad so often? I find that many employers are not willing to fill out the necessary paperwork - is it that they are lazy or because there is more regarding the paperwork that I’m not aware of?

I would really like to find employment abroad, and although my school has advertised the co-op portion of the program to be “international” they have failed to give us any guidance or assistance.

Is there some way to promote myself without detering them away from the fact that I’m a Canadian student? As mentioned before, if I were to work for free can I really get around this issue? How would that be possible?

Once again, thanks in advance for any advice!


I’m also interested in how I can get around this. I am a 3rd year Canadian student considering a job in the states for my internship.The position is only for 4 months would I still need a work permit or is there some other option?


Hi again

There are two different things at issue here…

the original post asked for info regarding NAFTA and the TN1 visa. If you are a student you don’t qualify. End of discussion…

However… if you are planning on interning then under the law you aren’t technically “working” as you don’t receive a salary or any benefits. You don’t need a TN1 permit to “volunteer” which in effect is what you are doing. Under these conditions you could intern in the US without any permits.

I think… :slight_smile:

Hope this helps.

I doubt you could come in to the country to “volunteer”, but I could be wrong. For one, visits are limited to 90 days if you don’t have a visa.

The J-1 is the visa for internships, TN’s are for temporary work contracts. If the company you want to work for can’t or won’t sponsor a visa for you, you can find organisations in your home country (Canada) that can help you arrange a J-1 on your own (for a fee). All you need from the company you want work for is a letter of support. Keep in mind that if you work for free (i.e. volunteer), you may not be able to return to the U.S. to work for two years after your internship is over.

Thank you for the updated information. With regards to the J-1, what sort of organizations can help you acquire that permit? As well, CanadianID, you mentioned that if you’re working for free as a volunteer, that you may not be able to return to the US for work for another two years. Does that apply to those who have a J-1? Or is that strictly for people who are “offering free services” without a J-1?

I just looked up information on the J-1 and it seems very specific with whom you connect with - i.e. you need to go through a designated sponsor. Unfortunately they weren’t too clear on whether or not these sponsors will supply you with a choice of jobs, or if you can freely search on your own.

When I interned in the U.S. I had found the job myself, but the company still used another organisation to arrange the visa, called IAESTE ( )(canadian site: ). They help students of technical disciplines find international work, but if you’ve already found a job then they can help organise the trip and visa ( ). They work with an American firm called AIPT ( ) to secure the visa…overall the costs are pretty minimal I think, just $275. I was very happy with them - the process was quite easy and fast. They even offered help to do my U.S. taxes.

If you are on a J-1 and work for free then you will not be able to return to the U.S. for two years. As for just “offering free services”, I just don’t see that really being a possibility, but if so, I don’t know about the risks that go along with that.

This is excellent advice! It is absolutely what I’m looking for! Thank you!