Unfortunately, the answer is that the TD does not provide employment authorization. It’s often amazing to me how little consideration the US government has given to work options for the spouses of individuals who are coming to the US on temporary work visas.

While I do not know the immigration laws of every country around the world, it is my understanding that the US is one of the few countries which do not allow spouses of temporary work visa holders to also receive employment authorization. A great example of that is the fact that the TN visa does not provide employment authorization for the spouse of the TN holder unless that individual is entitled to their own TN visa, or to some other temporary work visa.

Consider the following example: let’s say an individual is working in Canada as a Registered Nurse and their spouse is a factory worker and they would like to come to the US for a couple of years. Unfortunately, while the Registered Nurse would have no difficulty at all obtaining a TN visa, there is no TN visa that would allow the spouse who is the factory worker to work in the US. Nor is there any other temporary work visa for a factory worker if he or she did not have a bachelor’s degree and a job offer to match it. The same is probably true for police officers, small business owners, construction laborers, and any other occupation that does not require a bachelor’s degree.

To further complicate the matter, if the spouse has a bachelor’s degree but it does not relate to a job listed on the TN professionals list, the spouse will be required to enter the H-1B visa lottery, which we have every reason to believe will have less than a 50% chance of acceptance this coming spring, not to mention the H-1B visa can generally only be filed in April of each year. For many, the H-1B simply does not present a viable employment authorization option.

This means that in order for the Registered Nurse to come to the US and work on a TN visa, that family will have to sacrifice the income of the RN’s spouse. This would obviously pose a significant financial hardship for the family, not to mention not many spouses are willing to come to the US and then engage in absolutely no work whatsoever for a period of several years.

It’s unfortunate that this is the case. Often, when I speak to nurses from Canada who are interested in coming to work in the US, their interest disappears as soon as they find out that their spouse will be unable to work. It’s an issue that should be looked at by the US congress and the US immigration service in the future and addressed accordingly. Some work authorization needs to be made available to spouses of TN holders. Otherwise, the goal of facilitating the transition of professionals between the US, Canada and Mexico is defeated when those individuals aren’t able to make the move for economic reasons related to the loss of the income of their spouse.