TN applicants that will be working with computer software and/or hardware may find themselves wondering which category is the best fit for their job duties. We often see clients considering the Scientific Technician/Technologist or Computer Systems Analyst category.
Below is a brief summary of the qualifications and duties for each category.
Ultimately the CBP officer reviewing the case will have final discretion which is why some cases in one category may be approved and other similar cases are rejected.
1) Scientific Technician/Technologist
Scientific Technicians/Technologists are a profession eligible for TN status as included at in Chapter 16 Appendix 2 of the USMCA and 8 C.F.R. Section 214.6. In order to qualify an applicant must show that they possess: “(1) theoretical knowledge of agricultural sciences, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, forestry, geology, geophysics, meteorology, or physics; and (b) the ability to solve practice problems in any of those disciplines, or the ability to apply principles of any of those disciplines to basic or applied research.” To qualify as a Scientific/Technologist, TN applicants must directly work in support of a professional in the field of the applicant's theoretical knowledge.
CBP refers to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) when determining if a proposed job's duties qualify as one of the listed USMCA professions.
The OOH lists the job duties of Computer Hardware Engineers as:
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers.
Computer hardware engineers typically do the following:
• Design new computer hardware, creating schematics of computer equipment to be built
• Test the computer hardware they design
• Analyze the test results and modify the design as needed
• Update existing computer equipment so that it will work with new software
• Oversee the manufacturing process for computer hardware
Many hardware engineers design devices used in manufactured products that incorporate processors and other computer components and that connect to the Internet. For example, many new cars, home appliances, and medical devices have Internet-ready computer systems built into them.
Computer hardware engineers ensure that computer hardware components work together with the latest software. Therefore, hardware engineers often work with software developers. For example, the hardware and software for mobile phones and other devices frequently are developed at the same time.
CBP applies the above OOH definition of Computer Hardware Engineers very narrowly so that it only includes those that work with the hardware aspect of a computer system. This means that applicants working with software are unlikely to qualify as a Scientific Technician/Technologist for Computer Engineering. CBP no longer considers Software Engineer to qualify as an Engineer and, therefore, Scientific Technician/Technologists cannot report to a Software Engineer.
2) Computer Systems Analyst
Computer Systems Analyst is another profession eligible for TN status and in Chapter 16 Appendix 2 of the USMCA and 8 C.F.R. Section 214.6. Applicants can qualify by holding a Baccalaureate or Licenciatura Degree, a Post-Secondary Diploma, or Post Secondary Certificate and three years' experience.
Although not listed in the requirements, CBP will generally want to see an applicant has a degree that is either related to IT or that has a specialization in IT. Applicants without a degree directly related to IT will want to show that they have completed significant coursework in the IT field.
The OOH defines Computer Systems Analysts as those who study an organization's current computer systems and procedures and design improvements to them to help the organization operate more efficiently. Typical duties include:
• Consult with managers to determine the role of information technology (IT) systems in an organization
• Research different technologies to decide if they would increase the organization's efficiency
• Analyze costs and benefits of IT systems and upgrades to help managers decide which, if any, to install
• Devise ways to add functionality to existing computer systems
• Design new systems by configuring hardware and software
• Oversee the installation and configuration of new systems and customize them for the organization
• Test systems to ensure that they work as expected
• Write instruction manuals and train the systems' end users
What options are available to those working with computer software or hardware?
Jobs involving computer hardware where the applicant will be reporting to a Computer Engineer may seek to qualify under the Scientific Technician/Technologist category. On the other hand, those with jobs involving computer software may want to explore whether they qualify under the Computer Systems Analyst category.
If neither TN profession is a good fit, applicants can look into the L-1 option for managerial or specialized knowledge roles where a qualifying relationship exists between the US employer and employer abroad.
Contact the Law Offices of James D. Eiss today to discuss your TN options. We are also available to review already prepared TN applications without representing applicants at the border.