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America grants me a work visa – YES!

This morning Sofia and I work up bright and early so that we could attend our visa interview at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Sq, London.

US Embassy

I’ve spoken a lot about my desire to relocate to San Francisco to work with Tara and Chris at Citizen Agency in San Francisco – and now I have all the paperwork I need to do so.

Those of you who read the blog earlier in the week will have read a cryptic reference to today’s interview:

The other commitment I’ll refrain from detailing, for now at least, but suffice to say it’s the one that is creating a lot of nervous energy and thus sapping a lot of the will needed to maintain the blog (and other things). It all culminates on Thursday, which may or may not be the end of it.

I have literally been sick with worry over the last few weeks about this, including numerous sleepless nights and difficulty in concentrating on anything else significant.

My options, should the application have been rejected, were slim. For now, at least, there would be little point continuing to work with Citizen Agency as all of our clients are in America and already we have faced a number of challenges with me working remotely. Although TechCrunchUK was launched today (congrats Sam and Mike) there is really not a big enough start-up community here in the UK – yet – for us to operate here locally.

It would have been a significant blow for my career and I’m really not sure what I would have done next.

But what made the process so uncertain was that although I felt I met the requirements and qualifications for a NAFTA TN visa, I was advised by many that (in their opinion) I didn’t.

Additionally, I was also advised that the decision as to whether your visa is approved is often arbitrary – sometimes down to which border crossing you choose to make your application at and what kind of mood the border officer is in at the time.

It was also difficult to apply as a Canadian here in the UK as these visas are often applied for at the Canadian border at the point of entry. I don’t live in Canada and Sofia (as a non-Canadian spouse) had to apply for her TD dependents NAFTA visa at the local embassy at the same time as I applied for my TN.

At first the US Embassy in London didn’t want to interview us for a TN despite the Department of State website stating that in our position we had to.

Given the issues and complexity, we decided to hire a visa attorney who reviewed our case and agreed that:

  1. it could be viewed that I don’t meet the requirements,
  2. I could easily suffer an arbitrary decision made against me given the nature of work I wished to do in the US (Internet stuff, basically)
  3. That the London embassy could choose not to see me even though the NAFTA visa guideless say they should.

That made me fell even more sick. I’m a bit of a know-it-all at times, but I also know when to shut up and listen to advice. Especially when I’m paying for it. But it was terrible to be told that there were so many factors against me, especially arbitrary ones beyond my control, that would decide such a crucial decision in my life.

I’m a control freak and I like to be in control. I know that if I want something to happen I can work harder/faster/longer/better. But ultimately, no matter how hard I polished my case, I knew it would come down to a decision by someone on the other side of a piece of glass.

In all fairness Paul Bertoni, my visa attorney, was correct in his advice (this is what he does for a living!). He also did an amazing job polishing our application to ensure we put forward as much evidence as we could to support our claim that I was entitled and that the US government should grant Sofia and I visas.

people queue to get into the US embassy

And so today, after a long queue (several hours) just to get in it into the embassy it all came down to a 3 minute interview with an immigration officer who said he “couldn’t see any reason not to grant [us] a visa”. He pressed his rubber stamp, and we were on our way. Almost an anti-climax.

We’re not 100% in the clear, it has to be said. Technically, the Dept. Homeland Security offices at the airport can decide that they want to review the visa application when I arrive in America. This can mean showing all of my documentation to support the validity of the visa issued in London (by the Dept. of State) through to worst-case-scenario of essentially having my entire visa application reconsidered by them on the spot (and thus another opportunity to be turned down).

But at this point I have to hope and assume that this won’t happen as clearly plans need to begin, quickly, about tying up my loose ends in London and moving over to San Francisco.

It appears that applying for a TN work visa outside of Canada is a somewhat unusual – both in terms of the derivation from the standard guidelines and the additional issue of having a non-Canadian wife. I may indeed write up the process, my experience and some general advice in a future blog post. There is certainly little help on the Internet about applying for a TN visa outside North America other than titbit hooks/SEO’ing by visa attorneys — although in all fairness if you are in this position then you probably should instruct such an attorney to review your case anyway.

Look out San Francisco, here we come!

Published in News


  1. Jem Jem


  2. Congratulations
    Now you need to pack, when you will find you have twice as much stuff as you thought you had.

  3. oh that’s where you were off too when i saw you on the tube.

    congrats mate. Good luck.

  4. Congratulations to both of you – glad that you can do what you want to do with life. All the best.

  5. Ryan Jarrett Ryan Jarrett

    Congratulations. Looking forward to reading your overseas adventures!

  6. You must come and visit us in Half Moon Bay. Guest room here if you need temporary sleeping quarters.

  7. Ben Ben

    Hey thanks everyone for your kind words.

    I’m definitely coming to Half Moon Bay, Robert. Need to compare your HMB Ritz to my local Ritz here in London – he he!

  8. Andrea Andrea

    I have been working in America on a TN visa for three years now. While there is always some slight concern that they will deny me, so far everything has gone well. in the end, you have already been offered a job, you have proven that you will be an asset to a company. I do not know of anyone who has actually been denied a TN visa.

  9. Hey Ben – wow this is a weird post to read, as I too was at the embassy the other week to get my H1B visa all sorted out and made official. It actually sounds like you had a much easier time of it than I did – queuing outside for an hour, then another 1 hour wait to see the first official, then 2 hours waiting for my visa interview – they really wear you down in that place don’t they!

    And you took photos too – I didn’t dare, for fear of being shot down!

    Good luck on your move, maybe we will meet up at another web2.0ish shindig! (I arrive in Palo Alto mid-october time). Have fun!

  10. abhay abhay

    congrate ………. dear from: abhay kanada

  11. T T

    I was in the same mess. Had a job offer in L.A. – but was uncertain about the TN visa. I was told it was a 50/50 chance at the border, depends on the port of entry and the officer attending. I found that silly and highly unpredictable and decided not to leave Canada on a whim.

    US immigration policies need some re-vamping.

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