How to Convert from a TN Visa to an H1B Visa

Canadian or Mexican professionals working in the U.S. under a TN visa often look toward securing more stable, long-term employment opportunities.

Transitioning to an H1B visa is a significant step that not only offers job flexibility but also a clearer path to permanent residency. This comprehensive guide will walk you through the essential steps to switch from a TN to an H1B visa, ensuring you have all the necessary information to make a well-informed decision.

Quick Overview about Switching from TN visa to H-1B Visa

Switching from a TN visa to an H-1B visa is a viable route for those seeking extended employment and a permanent residency in the U.S. This process requires a specialty occupation job offer, meeting strict educational prerequisites, and obtaining employer sponsorship.

Given the annual cap and competitive lottery system of the H-1B visa, timing your application correctly is crucial. Engaging with a seasoned immigration lawyer can significantly ease this transition.

Key Features of the H1B Visa

The H1B visa is tailored for specialty occupations that necessitate a high degree of specialized knowledge. Notable characteristics include:

  • Maximum Duration: Up to six years, with potential extensions under certain conditions.
  • Employment Flexibility: Easier employer transitions compared to the TN visa.
  • Path to Permanent Residency: Eligibility to pursue a green card through employer sponsorship.

Step-by-Step Transition Process

To move from a TN visa to an H1B visa, you should follow these strategic steps:

  1. Secure a Sponsor: Find a U.S. employer willing to sponsor your H1B visa. The job must require specialized knowledge typically obtained through a bachelor’s degree or higher.
  2. Timely Filing: Have your employer file the H-1B petition during the designated filing period, which usually starts in the first week of April. This is crucial due to the H-1B cap of 65,000 visas and an additional 20,000 for holders of U.S. master’s degrees or higher.
  3. Transitioning Status: If selected in the H-1B lottery and approved, your visa status will shift from TN to H1B on October 1st, allowing you to work until September 30th under your current TN visa.
  4. Alternative Plans: If not selected, you may continue under TN status and reapply the following year.

Strategic Timing

Navigating the cap and lottery system is perhaps the most challenging aspect of acquiring an H1B visa. Planning ahead and collaborating closely with your employer to ensure timely filing of your petition are imperative steps to boost your chances of success.

Insights from Transitioned Visa Holders

Understanding real experiences from those who’ve successfully transitioned can provide invaluable insights:

  • Navigating Visa Categories: Transitioning to an H-1B visa is less risky if you can maintain it until you’re ready to pursue permanent residency. Returning to a TN visa is possible if needed, but be cautious about immigration intentions.
  • Consular Processing: Some have successfully used consular processing—a method where you leave the U.S. to change visa status—to satisfy non-immigrant intent required by the TN visa.

Market Considerations

Evaluate the job market and potential opportunities before transitioning. The timing of your switch, given current market conditions, could impact the success of your visa application and subsequent employment stability.

Finding the Right Lawyer

Choosing an experienced immigration attorney is crucial. Here’s how to find a suitable lawyer for your transition:

  • Specialized Experience: Seek out attorneys proficient in TN and H-1B visas and familiar with the green card process.
  • Client Feedback: Read reviews and testimonials to understand the attorney’s track record and client satisfaction.
  • Personal Consultation: Discuss your specific circumstances and objectives with potential lawyers to find the best fit.

The Bottom Line

Transitioning from a TN visa to an H1B visa presents an excellent opportunity for Canadian and Mexican professionals seeking to extend their stay and career prospects in the U.S. By carefully considering each step, collaborating with your employer, and consulting with a knowledgeable immigration attorney, you can navigate this transition smoothly and effectively.

This strategic move not only secures your professional position but also sets a foundation for future opportunities and potential residency in the United States.

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Frequently Asked Questions Convert from a TN Visa to an H1B Visa

Can I transition from a TN visa to H-1B status?

Holding a TN visa does not hinder your chances of applying for an H1B visa. You are allowed to shift from one non-immigrant visa status to another, like from TN to H1B, provided you fulfill the requirements necessary for the visa to which you’re applying.

What is the benefit of H-1B over TN?

Deciding between a TN and an H-1B visa requires careful consideration of your professional field, long-term career objectives, and personal circumstances. While the TN visa offers advantages like lower costs, easier application processes, and greater flexibility, the H-1B visa may be essential for specific professions not eligible under NAFTA.

Is it easy to convert a TN visa to a green card?

Switching from a TN visa to a green card through consular processing involves returning to your home country to complete an interview and medical examination. This process bypasses the need to adjust status in the U.S., thus avoiding complications with the 90-day rule and making it a safer route for TN holders seeking U.S. permanent residency.

Is the TN visa better than the H-1B?

The TN visa is restricted to specific professions listed under the TN Occupation List, whereas the H-1B visa covers a broader range of professional occupations. Moreover, the H-1B visa requires at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent, which is not a stipulation for the TN visa.

What is the 60-day rule for TN visa?

If your employment concludes while your TN Visa status is active, you may benefit from a 60-day grace period. This additional time allows you to explore your options and take necessary legal actions to secure your status in the U.S.

Does a TN visa require an LCA?

Unlike the H-1B visa, the TN visa does not necessitate a Labor Condition Application (LCA) or internal job postings. Additionally, employers are not required to pay TN workers the prevailing wage, which is a requirement for H-1B visas, because the TN visa does not involve an LCA.


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