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The TN visa solution for certain Agricultural Labor Shortages

The shortage of able, qualified, and willing agricultural employees is turning into a major problem for the United States agriculture and food industry. Labor shortages are nothing new to the agriculture sector and some say that agriculture labor is one of the most pressing policy issues for the entire industry.

Thus, having a labor force able to work in the agriculture industry at ranches, farms, breeding facilities, research institutions, veterinarian clinics, and other places of employment is crucial to the future of agriculture in the United States.

One potential low-cost solution for some of these labor needs could be further utilization of the United States’ immigration system specifically by leveraging the TN visa. The TN is a treaty based visa for “citizens of Canada or Mexico seeking temporary entry under the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) to engage in business activities at a professional level.” 8 CFR § 214.6. The TN visa isn’t a perfect solution as it specifically lists the positions candidates may work in that are eligible for the TN. This list doesn’t include positions such as truck driver, assembly line worker, detasseling, farm mechanic, applicator, etc. That said, many of the positions that are listed are currently experiencing a shortage of capable workers. The positions most utilized for TN visas in the agricultural industry include the following:

  • Agriculturist

  • Animal Breeder

  • Animal Scientist

  • Apiculturist

  • Biochemist

  • Biologist

  • Chemist

  • Dairy Scientist

  • Entomologist

  • Horticulturist

  • Plant Breeder

  • Poultry Scientist

  • Soil Scientist

  • Engineers

  • Forester

  • Landscape Architect

  • Range Manager/Range Conservationist

  • Sylviculturist (including Forestry Specialist)

  • Scientific Technician/Technologist

  • Veterinarian

  • Zoologist

You, or someone you know, may have a need in one of these critical positions. Some of the largest agricultural employers in the United States are actively leveraging the TN visa to fill vital positions. In the pork, beef, and poultry industries for example, there exists a need to hire employees who can help with breeding, birthing, artificial insemination, the logging of health reports, cleaning and disinfecting areas, detecting illness, administering vaccines, feeding and watering animals, treating minor injuries, culling animals, examining herd health, or more. There is also a need for employees who can recommend management systems, plan wildlife populations and habitat, check for compliance, study animal habitats, assess environmental effects, recommend operating conditions, or similar. Meanwhile, in the crop production industry employees are being hired who can develop methods to conserve or manage soil, provide best use of land recommendations, promote plant growth, help with yield, quality, disease resistance, nutritional value, and adaptation, investigate soil and plant problems, communicate findings to professionals, conduct experiments, or more.

The great thing about filling these difficult to fill roles with TN employees is that unlike a lot of other commonly utilized visas, the TN is not heavily regulated, does not possess a wage requirement, does not have a cap on the number of visas issued, is obtainable quickly, is not seasonal in nature, and does not limit the number of renewals for employees. TN visas also allow employees the option to be part- or full-time employees, there is no location requirement, Clients utilizing the TN visa for their foreign employees experience lower costs while also having the relief obtained by not dealing with all the nuts and bolts that come with other visas specific to the agricultural industry, such as the H-2A visa program.

The TN application process is relatively straight-forward. Employers working with our firm are asked to generally provide the following evidence for TN petitions:

  • Business registration certificate verifying or recognizing business’s ability to operate

  • Offer letter to candidate

  • A job description

  • Salary of employee

We also obtain documentation from the employee. A typical TN petition would include the employees:

  • Biographical passport page

  • Degree and transcripts

    • U.S. educational equivalency certificate, if applicable

  • License, if applicable

  • Evidence of theoretical utilizing the Scientific Technician/Technologist category must possess theoretical knowledge

Once the packet is put together, the next step is dependent on whether the employee is Canadian or Mexican. If Mexican, the employee will be required to apply for the TN Visa directly at a U.S. consulate in Mexico and attend a consular appointment. The time frame for Mexican employees depends on visa appointment availability in Mexico. For Canadians, the process is even simpler, they apply for TN classification at the time they seek admission to the United States by presenting required documentation to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a port of entry. Applicant’s also have the option of filing with USCIS.

The adjudicators (consular officials or CBP officers) approve or deny the petition based on their own subjective analysis of the petition and how the requirements for the visa are met. TNs can be approved for 1 to 3 years. There is no limit to the number of renewals that can be made, and no limit on how long someone can be in the U.S. as a TN employee. TN employees can bring their spouse and children under 21 with them using the dependent TD visa.

You can put a dent in your agricultural labor needs by utilizing the TN visa for critical positions you are struggling to fill. Please reach out if you have any questions about TN visas and their use for the agricultural industry!

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