On November 20, 2017, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) issued a policy memorandum restricting TN nonimmigrant classification under the profession of Economist, to those who will primarily engage in activities consistent with the profession of Economist and specifically excluding those employed as Financial Analysts, Market Research Analysts, and Marketing Specialists. USCIS explains that the policy memorandum was necessary, because the lack of an in-depth description of the Economist profession in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which created the TN nonimmigrant classification, has led to inconsistent adjudications regarding which positions are encompassed under the Economist profession.

In its memorandum, USCIS explains that Economists generally specialize in either the analysis of individuals or firms to better understand the relationship between supply and demand or in the analysis of aggregated indicators to determine how different sectors of the economy are related to each other.  USCIS adds that Economists may apply economic analysis to issues in a variety of fields including labor, international trade, development, econometrics, education, health, and industrial organization.

Although USCIS recognizes that Economists and Financial Analysts are related occupations, USCIS specifically excludes Financial Analysts from TN classification as Economists, because Financial Analysts, unlike Economists, primarily conduct qualitative analysis of information affecting investment programs of public or private institutions.

Furthermore, relying on the Department of Labor’s description of Economist, defining the profession as those who conduct research, prepare reports, or formulate plans to address economic problems related to the production and distribution of good and services or monetary and fiscal policy and more importantly relying on the Department of Labor’s choice to distinguish Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists from Economists by creating a separate occupation for Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists, USCIS concludes that neither position is encompassed under the profession of Economist.

The impact of this policy will likely be immediate as those employed within the positions now specifically excluded by this policy have historically been granted TN status as Economists.  Although this policy is binding solely on USCIS officers, we believe it will likely start affecting TN applications filed by Canadian citizens at the border, which are adjudicated by Customs and Border Protection officers and TN visa applications filed by Mexican citizens at U.S. consulates, which are adjudicated by Consular officers employed by the Department of State.