Biz: Teaching in the U.S.: O-1 or TN Visa?

Subject: Biz: Teaching in the U.S.: O-1 or TN Visa?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: CEL <copyediting-l -at- listserv -dot- indiana -dot- edu>, techwr-l List <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 24 Oct 2008 10:01:24 -0400

(Cross-posted to CEL and techwr-l, since I teach in both subject
areas and members of both groups may be interested...)

During my last trip to give a workshop in the U.S., I nearly met with
disaster: At the airport, I made the mistake of admitting that I was
being paid for the workshop. That almost got me turned back at the
border. Apparently, if you travel to the U.S. to earn money, you need
a special O-1 visa. Who knew? (Everyone but me, probably. <g>)

In this case, I was earning (far) less than the specified US$2000
maximum (at which point you need the visa, with no exceptions), so
the Customs agent kindly let me through, but with the warning that
next time, another agent might not be so understanding. (I'm
reasonably confident that there's now a note in my file, and that
I'll be grilled about the purpose for my travel for each future trip.)

A quick bit of Web research suggests that the O-1 visa is
inordinately expensive (thousands of dollars), which leads me to
wonder: How do others handle this problem? Since the O-1 seems
primarily intended for actual teachers (e.g., at a university), and
what I'm doing is more like short-term contract work, would a TN visa
be an acceptable replacement for the O-1?

(fwiw, I will definitely call the local U.S. embassy or consulate to
ask their advice, but I'd like to approach them armed with some facts.)

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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