How to Transition from a TN Visa to an H1B Visa

Updated on March 27, 2024

As a Canadian or Mexican professional currently working in the United States under the TN visa category, you may be considering your options for long-term employment and career growth. One viable path is transitioning from a TN visa to an H1B visa, which can offer greater flexibility and potential for permanent residency. In this blog post, we’ll explore the process of making the switch from TN to H1B and provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.

30 Second Recap:

TN visa holders can transition to an H-1B visa for longer-term employment, job flexibility, and a path to permanent residency. The process involves having a job offer in a specialty occupation, meeting education requirements, and employer sponsorship. The H-1B visa has an annual cap and lottery system, making timing considerations important. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can help navigate the transition process.

Understanding the H1B Visa

The H1B visa is a nonimmigrant visa that allows US employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations requiring theoretical or technical expertise. Key features of the H1B visa include:

  1. A six-year maximum stay (with the possibility of extension)
  2. The ability to change employers more easily compared to the TN visa
  3. A pathway to permanent residency (green card) through employer sponsorship

How to Transition from an TN Visa to an H1B Visa

To transition from a TN visa to an H-1B visa, follow these steps:

  1. Find an employer willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa. They must be able to provide you with a specialty occupation position that requires at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
  2. Ensure that your employer files an H-1B petition on your behalf during the H-1B cap season, typically in the first week of April. The H-1B visa has an annual cap of 65,000, with an additional 20,000 for those with U.S. master’s degrees or higher.
  3. If your H-1B petition is selected in the lottery and approved, your status will automatically change from TN to H-1B on October 1st, the start of the fiscal year. You can continue working for your TN employer until September 30th.
  4. If your H-1B petition is not selected in the lottery, you can continue working under your TN status as long as it remains valid. You can try again for an H-1B in the next cap season.

Note that the H-1B visa is a dual-intent visa, meaning you can pursue permanent residency while on this status. However, the TN visa is not a dual-intent visa, so it’s essential to maintain nonimmigrant intent during the transition process.

Timing Considerations

  1. Keep in mind that the H1B visa has an annual cap and a lottery system, which can make the process more competitive and uncertain compared to the TN visa.
  2. Plan ahead and work closely with your employer to ensure your H1B petition is filed before the annual deadline (usually early April) to maximize your chances of being selected in the lottery.

Guidance from TN Visa Holders Who Have Transitioned

Sometimes, the best way to find out more is to look to the experts. In this case, we’re looking at the experience of those who have successfully transitioned from a TN visa to an H1B visa. Here’s what we gleaned:

Transitioning Between Visa Categories

If you’re considering transitioning from a TN visa to an H-1B visa, it’s important to understand the implications and potential risks. As one attorney advises, “If you get the H-1B and can stay in H-1B that is great and makes everything a lot less risky. But at the same time, if the situation requires you to return to TN you shouldn’t let it detour you or delay you from pursuing residency.”

Consular Processing Loophole

One user suggests exploring the consular processing loophole, explaining, “Apparently, if you leave the country to get your immigrant visa, leaving the country satisfies the TN requirements that you’re not immigrating with the TN visa.” However, it’s crucial to consult with an attorney to determine if this strategy is appropriate for your specific situation.

Considering Current Market Conditions

When deciding whether to pursue an H-1B visa, it’s important to consider current market conditions. As one user suggests, “If your eventual goal is to get a US GC, then switching to H1B is a no-brainer; however, considering the current market, I would postpone this move for another year or so.”

How to Find a Lawyer for Your TN Visa to H1B Visa Transition

To find the right immigration attorney to guide you through your options, consider the following:

  • Look for attorneys with extensive experience in TN visas, H-1B visas, and the permanent residency process.
  • Read reviews and testimonials from previous clients to gauge their level of expertise and customer service.
  • Schedule consultations with potential attorneys to discuss your specific situation and goals.
  • Ask about their experience with clients from your country of birth and their familiarity with any potential backlogs or challenges.

Final Thoughts

Transitioning from a TN visa to an H1B visa can be an attractive option for Canadian and Mexican professionals seeking longer-term employment, job flexibility, and the potential for permanent residency in the United States. By understanding the benefits, requirements, and steps involved in the process, you can make an informed decision and work with your employer to navigate the transition successfully. Remember to plan, communicate openly with your employer, and consider seeking the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney to help you achieve your career goals in the US.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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