By Carlos Gamino

If you’re like many people, you want to know whether you can change a TN nonimmigrant visa to an H-1B immigrant visa. This guide explains both types of visas, as well as your options.

TN and H-1B Visa Basics

TN nonimmigrant visas are for Canadian and Mexican citizens who want to work in the United States in certain professions. You may get a TN nonimmigrant visa to work in your field without special certifications, degrees or training. But H-1B visas are different; they’re for any foreign workers employed in the U.S. in certain specialty occupations. To get an H-1B visa, you must have specialized knowledge in your field (and you usually must have at least a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent). You need a U.S. employer to sponsor your visa, too.

The reason many people want to change a TN visa to an H-1B is simple: The H-1B visa allows for dual intent. That means you may use it to later get a green card or become a U.S. citizen. (By contrast, you can’t get a green card when you’re in the U.S. on a TN visa.)

Related: What is PERM labor certification?

How to Change a TN Visa to an H-1B Visa

In order to change your TN visa to an H-1B visa, you must have an employer sponsor you. If your current employer is eligible to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, all you need to do is ask and hope that they agree. If your employer isn’t eligible, they may become eligible by completing a labor certification process with the U.S. Department of Labor. Then, they can file the appropriate form on your behalf and pay the appropriate filing fees. Otherwise, you may need to find a new employer to sponsor you for an H-1B visa.

Related: Work visas and authorizations

Can You Change Visa Types on Your Own?

Unfortunately, for most employment visas in the United States, you cannot apply for yourself. You need an employer to sponsor you for your visa. That means your employer must fill out and file the appropriate paperwork on your behalf. The one notable exception to this rule is the investor visa, but it requires you to invest a certain amount of capital in a United States business that employs United States workers.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Changing From a TN Visa to an H-1B Visa?

Because you can’t petition for yourself, your employer may need to speak to an attorney about helping you change from a TN visa to an H-1B visa. if that’s the case, we’re here to help. Call our office at 414-383-6700 to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney who can give you and your employer the legal advice you need.

Attorney Carlos Gamino