Here’s another edition of “Dear Sophie,” the advice column that answers immigration-related questions about working at technology companies.
“Your questions are vital to the spread of knowledge that allows people all over the world to rise above borders and pursue their dreams,” says Sophie Alcorn, a Silicon Valley immigration attorney. “Whether you’re in people ops, a founder or seeking a job in Silicon Valley, I would love to answer your questions in my next column.”
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I’m a Canadian citizen working under a TN visa as a software engineer in the U.S. I want to start my own company or at least earn money through a side hustle.
Is this possible on my TN, or is the only way I can do that via a green card? If so, is it possible to get permanent residence since the TN is for non-immigrant intent?
— Clever Canadian
There are many things that the modern U.S. immigration system was not designed for, including (but not limited to): the internet, e-filing and blockchain, working remotely, working from home, the modern gig economy, startups, flexible work arrangements and contractor work.
You may know that our current system of laws was generally created by the Immigration and Nationality Act in 1952, back when everything was much simpler. The legal history at play here includes judges making decisions about tailors from China sailing to San Francisco to take measurements for suits that would be sewn months later when they returned home.
I’ll get straight to the point: You cannot do any work under your TN for anyone other than the employer that sponsored you for the TN. So, my educational message is this: No side hustles or founding of startups while on your TN.
Two TN visas at the same time?
Yes, it’s possible. Under immigration law, you can have two TN visas at the same time — one from your current employer and one from another employer; say, your startup. However, this is very difficult to achieve and comes with two very important caveats: