You may be in the United States on a B-1 business visitor visa or are considering applying for admission as a B-1 business visitor because you would like to start a new business or to explore establishing one in the United States. You may be thinking of visiting the United States to find office space, raise capital, negotiate contracts, meet with potential business partners, interview key personnel, or attend trade shows in connection with launching your new business – or to find employment. Although the initial period of stay for B-1 business visitors is generally up to 6 months and extensions are possible, you are interested in visa options allowing you to work in the United States instead of engaging in limited B-1 business activities which expressly prohibit working (defined very broadly here as performing services in exchange for compensation).
Or, you may be in the United States on an F-1 student visa and you are thinking of starting your own business after graduation. After graduation, you may be eligible for Optional Practical Training (OPT). If you are starting a business while on F-1 OPT, USCIS requires that the majority of the work that you perform must be directly related to your major area of study. Even though F-1 OPT is good for 12 months for each educational level and extensions of 17 months are possible for certain science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) graduates, you may be interested in exploring visa options that will allow you to run your own business – or to work for another employer – in the United States for years instead of only months.
Or, you may be a spouse admitted in a visa category that does not allow employment (e.g., F-2 spouse of an F-1 student, TD spouse of a Canadian or Mexican TN worker, or an O-3 spouse of an O-1 individual who is working in his/her area of extraordinary ability) and you are interested in employment or setting up your own business in your own right.
Or, you may have exhausted the maximum time allowed by the other temporary employment visa categories and you are exploring options to continue working for the same employer – or to start your own business in the United States.
TN “work authorization” is not available for self-employment. You may be eligible for TN status if you are a citizen of Canada or Mexico and your profession is specifically listed in the NAFTA Treaty. “Appendix 1603.D.1” lists the qualifying occupations and this appendix is available at uscis.gov.
Comparison of the TN to other visa categories
The advantages of the TN category include its relatively fast processing time (same day for Canadian citizens applying at a port of entry). Its disadvantages (or restrictions) include its limited availability to only citizens of Canada or Mexico and its limited availability for only specifically listed occupations.
For more information
Please see our “The Essential Guide to Working Temporarily in the United States” for more details on the TN category or contact our office.