STS – 2015 June – Make a Run for the Border! But Get Your VISA First

Make a Run for the Border! But Get Your VISA first!
An interview with Lainie M. Appleby of Guberman Garson Segal Immigration Lawyers

A new speaker arrives at a Canadian airport and is clearing customs to the USA.

"Where are you going, sir?" asks the US immigration officer.  
"To speak at a conference in New Orleans!” the new speaker says proudly.
"Where is your visa?"
 "What visa?"

This is a case of not knowing what you need to know and this speaker will probably be held back from entering the United States.

Be honest - were you thinking: “I would have just said that I was ‘attending’ a conference in New Orleans.” This roll of the immigration dice is a tricky one. If you are caught, you risk potential long term restriction from entering the US. You could even be restricted from flying through the US, even on connecting flights. (Say goodbye to your February Cancun holiday!)

Have you tried to put together the proper paperwork but got lost in the O-1, TN and E1 confusion?

As professional speakers, we all want to work legally when we cross the border. So what do we NEED to know and how can we ensure we have the appropriate documents to make the immigration process guaranteed and stress-free?

We asked Lainie M. Appleby of Guberman Garson Segal Immigration Lawyers in Toronto to help us make sense of it all.

What are the different kinds of visas?

There are different statuses under which an individual can seek entry to the U.S.  Some of these include B, E, O or TN.

Does it matter if you are being paid, paid only expenses or not being paid at all?

If you are being paid from a US source, you must have a work permit (visa). If you are NOT being paid, you can enter as a ‘business visitor’.  Reasonable incidental expenses incurred traveling to and from the event, such as meals and lodging may be reimbursed.

In what circumstances should a speaker have what kind of visa? How do you qualify for each type?

In any instance when a speaker is providing services to a US entity in the US, a work permit will be required. The appropriate type of visa needs to be assessed on a case by case basis.


A TN visa is used for a one-time engagement for which you have a confirmed booking.

In order to apply for a TN, an applicant must have an agreement / contract to provide management consulting services or to provide professional training in one of the 63 specifically indicated NAFTA occupations

With the exception of Management Consultants, evidence of appropriate educational credentials as noted for each profession is required. In the case of a Management Consultant, five years of experience in the field of the consulting must be demonstrated or evidence of five years of management consulting experience. A resume and offer letter must be presented as well as a passport and a $50.00 US filing fee.

The category of Management Consultant is highly scrutinized and subject to significant abuse.  It is worth evaluating whether you are qualified to provide professional training under one the other 63 professions.


To qualify for an E-1, the entity under which the application is being made must be more than 50% Canadian owned and more than 50% of the company’s or individual’s (if a sole proprietorship) international trade must be with the US.

The benefit of an E-1 is that it is good for the duration of the visa (usually up to five years), can be used for multiple engagements with different clients as opposed to a TN visa which is a one-off (one client, one time) work permit.

The challenge of an E-1 is that it must be done well in advance, requires a comprehensive submission and an in-person interview at a US consulate.

This is the only instance when a Canadian citizen will be receive an actual visa sticker in their passport.

An E-1 may also be an option if you have considerable upcoming work booked in the US.


The 0-1 Visa (for individuals who possess extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, or who have a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industry and have been recognized nationally or internationally for those achievements) is rarely discussed as it is a very onerous and complicated process.

What can an immigration lawyer do for a CAPS member who wants to work in the US?

We can advise as to the best possible options, such that your members enter the US legally in order to carry out their speaking engagements.


  1. Hi Folks,
    TN Visas did not work for me, as the US officials did not see my work as “management consultant”. I finally found Andrew Wilson, an immigration lawyer in Buffalo NY who did great work for me and landed me a 0-1 VISA. I am a “person of special ability” and have had many happy border crossings with the right documentation.
    Be honest.
    Do your homework.
    Perserverance and money to pay for the visa ($5000 for my first 0-1) paid off.
    Happy trails to the US
    Elaine Froese, Farm family Coach


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