TN Visa for Graphic Designer
Many Canadians and Mexicans are taking advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) TN Visa arrangement to move to the U.S. and work in professional capacities temporarily.
“Graphic Designer” is one of the sixty-three (63) occupations that qualify for the TN Visa. Graphic Designers are IT professionals who create graphics for specific commercial or promotional needs.
However, what are the requirements for qualifying for the graphic designer TN Visa, what challenges do graphic designers face when applying for TN visas, and how do candidates overcome these challenges to succeed in their applications?
This graphic designer TN Visa guide will answer these questions and more.
TN Visa Applicant Requirements for a Graphic Designer
Under the United States Canada FTA (Free Trade Agreement), which preceded NAFTA, an individual could apply for a visa as a Graphic Designer with only a bachelor’s degree.
A post-secondary diploma with three years’ experience was later added as an alternative to the bachelor’s degree requirement. A Licenciatura degree was added after the implementation of NAFTA as another alternative to the bachelor’s degree requirement.
Thus, to qualify for the NAFTA TN visa in the Graphic Designer category, an individual must have one of the following educational qualifications:
- A bachelor’s degree
- A licenciatura degree
- A post-secondary diploma and three years of experience
- A post-secondary certificate and three years of experience
Educational qualification is just one of the requirements when applying for the TN Visa for graphic designers. There are additional requirements, which include:
Proof of citizenship/ entry documents
The NAFTA TN Visa is an arrangement for Canadian and Mexican professionals to work temporarily in the U.S. in prearranged jobs. So, applicants need documentation to prove their citizenship.
Mexican citizens must establish their citizenship by presenting a valid passport. Canadian citizens are not required to present a valid passport (except when traveling from outside the Western hemisphere), but that is one of the easiest ways to establish citizenship.
TN Support Letter:
TN visas allow professionals to come to the U.S. to work in pre-arranged business activities. So, individuals applying for TN Visas must have documentation showing that they seek entry into the U.S. to engage in business activities for a prospective U.S. employer.
It is best if this documentation (called a TN Support Letter or TN visa Employer Letter) is a letter from the prospective employer in the United States. The graphic designer TN visa letter should include the following:
- The applicant’s TN visa occupational category (in this case, Graphic Designer)
- The description of the daily duties that the applicant will perform in the position.
- That the applicant meets the educational requirement for the Graphic Designer role.
- The expected duration of the business engagement.
- The terms of remuneration for the services the individual will perform.
Typical TN Visa graphic designer job duties
The TN Visa regulations do not specify the permissible job duties for the Graphic Designer position.
However, applicants can use the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) as a guide. It states that Graphic Designers typically do the following:
- Meet with clients to determine the scope of a design project
- Use digital illustration, photo editing software, and layout software to create designs
- Create visual elements such as logos, images, and illustrations for advertisements, brochures, etc.
- Design layouts and designs (including typefaces, colors, and images)
- Present design concepts to clients
- Create final designs incorporating changes recommended by clients
- Review designs for errors before publishing them
The application process for TN Visa graphic designer
There are generally three application processes for TN visas:
Applying at a U.S. port of entry (POE).
With this option, candidates can apply for the TN visa Graphic Designer in U.S. Class A port of entry, US pre-flight stations, and U.S. international airports (arrival only). These applications are adjudicated on the spot by US Custom and Border Protection (USCBP) officers.
Filing the Form I-129 along with the I-129 Free Trade Supplement with USCIS
This option was birthed to address the inconsistencies in the on-the-spot adjudication of TN applications at the points of entry.
In addition to the main TN application, candidates would file the I-129 form with USCIS’ Vermont Service Center. The average processing time for I-129 petitions is two months. However, with an additional filing fee, candidates can expedite their petition and receive a decision within 15 days.
Applying at the U.S. embassy or consulate
Mexicans are required to first get a TN visa stamp at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before they can apply for entry into the U.S. at a POE or via the I-129 petition.
Applying for the TN visa stamp requires filing a DS-160 application and the main TN application. After applying, candidates may have to attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Challenges with TN Visa Graphic Designer Jobs
Some of the challenges that individuals applying for the Graphic Designer TN visa face are:
- Not having a degree or major in graphic design
- Not having a degree but having a certificate with work experience
- Prospective job duties include some activities that are not permissible for the position
Applying for the Graphic Designer TN visa when the degree or major is not in graphic design
When the degree or major of applicants is not in graphic design, they face the challenge of proving that their degree qualifies them for the TN status.
The TN regulations do not specify the degree or major for any occupational categories, including the Graphic Designer category. The OOH, used as a guide, states that “graphic designers typically need a bachelor’s degree in graphic design or a related arts field.”
Adjudicating officers who make the final decision often wrongly apply this to demand that applicants have degrees listing them as graphic designers. However, most graphic designers do not have college degrees listing them as “graphic designers.” Some graphic designers have degrees in fine art, while others have degrees in liberal arts (like creative arts).
Overcoming the challenge of not having a Graphic Designer degree
The OOH says that a qualifying degree for the graphic designer position can be in “a related fine arts field.” So, the first way to overcome this challenge is to show sufficient nexus between the degree and graphic designer qualifications.
Applicants can do this by providing their academic transcripts and highlighting the art and design courses in the degree. It will also help if candidates can get an official document from their academic institution, giving reasons why the degree has prepared them for a professional career in graphic design.
Another way to overcome the challenge of not having a Graphic Designer degree is to provide a training certificate in graphic design. Most hiring qualifications for graphic design can be met by people with bachelor’s degrees in other fields, according to the OOH.
A program in art and design from a post-secondary college, a university, or an independent institute will help an individual meet the educational requirement for the graphic designer position (even if their bachelor’s degree has no art or design element).
However, the individual will still have to convince the adjudicating officer. He/ she may refer to the OOH statement about “completing technical training in graphic design to meet most hiring qualifications.” It will also help if the individual can get documentation from the prospective U.S. employee stating that the technical training is sufficient qualification for a graphic designer position.
Applying for the TN visa without a degree but having a certificate with work experience
Some adjudicating officers may erroneously assume that a degree is required for professional positions.
However, the TN Graphic Design position does not require a bachelor’s degree. The TN visa regulations clearly state that “a certificate and three years of work experience” is an alternative to the bachelor’s degree requirement.
Overcoming the challenge of not having a degree but having a certificate with work experience
Individuals can easily overcome this challenge by referring to the TN visa Graphic Designer requirements. It will also help if they write their application. They should show that they have the “qualifying certificate” and meet the work experience requirement (at least three years).
Prospective job duties include some activities that are not permissible for the position.
To qualify for the Graphic Designer TN visa, the prospective job requirement of the individual must align with graphic designers’ generally accepted job duties.
Unfortunately, applicants’ activities often include some duties that do not match NAFTA’s interpretation of graphic designers’ duties.
For example, the duties of a graphic designer often include duties around marketing, PR, and communications. However, having such responsibilities in the Graphic Designer TN Support Letter or mentioning them when asked may lead the adjudicating officer to classify the position as “marketing” wrongly.
Overcoming the challenge of job duties, including activities that are not permissible for the position
The only way to overcome this challenge is for an individual, not to mention that he/ she will perform activities that are generally not accepted as Graphic designers’ duties. Instead, they should emphasize core Graphic Designer responsibilities such as creating visual concepts. Candidates should also reach out to their prospective U.S. employer so that the TN Support Letter is in tune.
Similar Job Titles that can be used for Graphic Designer jobs
Different job titles involve the creation of visual concepts. These job titles can be used to apply for the Graphic Designer TN visa. All an individual requires is convincing the adjudicating officer that he/ she has the educational qualification and that the role’s duties align with what graphic designers do.
These job titles include:
The OOH says that graphic designers are “also referred to as graphic artists.” Graphic artists are creative professionals that produce visual material (including typography, images, or motion graphics) to communicate messages.
“Communications designer” is one of the two professional titles (the other being graphic artists) that the OOH says graphic designers often go by.
A communication designer is a professional who creates and uses visual elements to deliver information. Their job transcends the creation of the visual concepts and includes the vision for the design and the goal of its messaging.
Production artists work with design teams in the production of graphic materials. Their core duties include ensuring that the quality of designs meets appropriate standards, so they are often tasked with creating or tweaking the overall design layout.
UX designers (or User Experience designers) optimize the interaction between humans and products. This job title is often associated with digital designs for websites and apps.
The UX designers’ duties include building a design using visual or interface elements, such as creating a layout that allows information to flow intuitively, placing buttons in the right places, using attention-grabbing typefaces, etc.
Multimedia designers are creative professionals that work with text, images, audio, video, and animation to create engaging presentations for various media, including the Web, TV, movie, and video games.
Multimedia designers combine graphics with sound and animation to create content to improve a company’s audience engagement.
Animators are creative professionals that create visual effects and films by sequencing images or drawings.
An animator starts by creating multiple images, called frames; he/ she then uses special computer programs to rapidly display these images to create an illusion of movement, bringing the images to life.
A layout artist is a creative professional who creates visually appealing designs and layouts for print media (magazines, brochures, posters, books, etc.). He/ she decides to place text and images in a publication to ensure that the overall visual look pleases readers.
Graphic Designer is one of the occupations that qualify for TN visas. Professionals applying for the Graphic Designer TN visa must not have a bachelor’s degree as a post-secondary certificate or diploma with three years of work experience suffices.
Candidates may face challenges when their degree is not in Graphic design or when applying without a degree. However, they can easily overcome these challenges because a qualifying degree can be in a related fine arts field. A certificate with work experience is an acceptable alternative to the bachelor’s degree requirement.
Web/ UX/ product designer job titles that involve creating visual concepts like the graphic designer job. Also, the educational requirement for the Web/ UX/ product designer positions qualifies an individual for a graphic designer job.
So, a Canadian web/ UX product designer qualifies for a TN visa under graphic designer.
The TN visa Graphic Designer requirements state that individuals qualify for the visa if they have (i) a bachelor’s degree, (iii) a Licenciatura degree, (iii) a post-secondary diploma and three years of experience, (iv) a post-secondary certificate and three years of experience.
So, an individual must not have a baccalaureate degree to obtain a TN visa as a graphic designer. A post-secondary certificate or diploma in an arts or design program with three years of work experience suffices.