If you are interested in immigrating to Canada from the United States of America, there are various pathways that can help you towards residency. Fortunately, American citizens can currently visit Canada without a visa or an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization) as long as they have proper travel documents and meet all admissibility requirements. This ease of entry for American visitors can help potential immigrants explore the cities they are interested in without any of the hassle. Below are several immigration programs that are currently available for US citizens.
Work and Study Permits
Americans interested in working or studying in Canada can obtain either a work or study permit. Although this is a form of temporary residence, it can provide opportunities to transition to permanent residence.
A study permit is a document issued to foreign nationals to study at designated learning institutions (DLI) in Canada. A DLI is a school approved by a provincial or territorial government to host international students. Students must be accepted at a DLI before they apply for a study permit, as well as prove that they can provide for themself. A study permit can also allow students to work while in their program. The validity of the study permit will be tied to the length of the school program plus an extra 90 days. The extra 90 days in Canada allows students to either leave after they complete their education or give them enough time to apply to extend their stay.
After graduating, there are opportunities to stay in Canada temporarily if you are eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The length of time the PGWP is valid depends on the length of your study program. It is important to note that not all designated learning institutions and programs of study make you eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program.
In Canada, you must obtain a work permit in order to work in Canada. There are two types of work permits–employer-specific work permits and open work permits. Employer-specific work permits allow foreign nationals to work in Canada according to the conditions listed on their work permit. These conditions only authorize a foreign national to work for one employer and specify the length of time they can work. In some cases, they can also restrict where you can work.
To apply for an employer-specific work permit, you must have a copy of your employment contract and either a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an offer of employment from the Employer Portal. A LMIA is a document that an employer in Canada may need to get before hiring a foreign worker. A positive LMIA will show that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job as there are no Canadian workers or permanent residents available to do the job. Further, the Employer Portal allows employers to submit offers of employment to temporary workers through the International Mobility Program (IMP).
As an American citizen, you can be exempt from providing a LMIA as the USA and Canada have signed a trade agreement to allow free flow of goods and services across the border. This free flow of trade is helped by facilitating the temporary entry of workers. The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) allows those entering Canada as part of the trade agreement to fall under the International Mobility Program.
CUSMA facilitates temporary entry for business persons who are citizens of the US, Mexico and Canada and who are involved in the trade of goods or services, or in investment activities. It removes any need for employers to provide a LMIA for business persons covered by the agreement. Business persons covered under the agreement fall into four categories:
- Business visitors: these are visitors authorized to enter Canada for business purposes and can carry out their activities without the need for a work permit
- Professionals: these are business persons who enter to provide pre-arranged professional services as either an employee for a corporation in Canada or as part of a contractual relationship. There are 63 occupations covered by the agreements (for example, doctors, architects, scientists, accountants…etc.). A LMIA does not need to be submitted but professionals must have a work permit.
- Intra-company transferees: this refers to specialized people already employed by an American or Mexican enterprise that are being transferred to a Canadian enterprise, parent, branch, subsidiary, or affiliate. These transferees are exempt from the LMIA process but require a work permit.
- Traders and investors: this refers to people who intend to carry out substantial trade or investment between Canada and their home country of either the United States or Mexico. Again, these individuals are exempt from the LMIA process but require a work permit.
If your occupation or employment circumstances do not meet any of the criteria then a Canadian employer would first have to obtain a LMIA. However, American citizens can also apply for an open work permit. This type of work permit allows a foreign national to work for any employer in Canada except those listed as ineligible by the Government of Canada. As an open-work permit is not job-specific, foreign nationals do not need either a LMIA or an offer of employment from the Employer Portal.
It is worth noting that open-work permits have restricted eligibility to certain groups of people. However, you can apply for an open work permit if you have already applied for permanent residence in Canada or are a dependent of someone who has applied for permanent residence.
Transitioning to Permanent Residence
The Government of Canada has previously launched temporary immigration policies that allow eligible temporary residents to apply for permanent residence. Currently, the Government is planning to increase and expand opportunities to transition from temporary to permanent residence and help address labour shortages.
Although the programs have not been launched, the Government hopes to remove immigration barriers for students and workers involved in essential fields like healthcare, agriculture, construction, as well as science and technology. However, there are still immigration programs you can apply to where your Canadian education and/or work experience is considered an asset.
Another pathway currently available to those interested in immigrating to Canada is Express Entry. Express Entry is an online application system for skilled immigrants interested in settling permanently in Canada. It is made up of three different federal programs:
- The Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Program
- The Federal Skilled Trade (FST) Program
- The Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
It is important to note that once the online application is completed, applicants are entered into the Express Entry pool. The Express Entry pool ranks candidates using their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. The highest-ranking candidates are selected from the pool and are invited to apply for permanent residence. Applicants can gain extra points for their CRS rank if they have Canadian work experience or attended a Canadian post-secondary institution.
Other Avenues to Come to Canada
There are also pathways for American citizens to permanently settle in Canada if they have a family connection to the country. If you have a Canadian parent, you may be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship by descent. This is only available if you are able to prove that your Canadian parent was a Canadian citizen when you were born. Regardless of the fact that you were born outside of Canada, you can apply for proof of Canadian Citizenship. If successful, you can become a dual citizen of Canada and the USA. Obtaining proof of Canadian citizenship allows you to live, study or work in Canada without needing any permits.
The Government of Canada also allows its citizens or permanent residents to sponsor certain foreign family members for permanent residence in Canada. This includes a spouse, partner, parent, or child. In those cases, the foreign national must be medically and criminally admissible to Canada. In these applications, the sponsor must be able to provide for their family and also be able to prove their family connection or relationship.
How We Can Help
If you are interested in immigrating to Canada from the United States, it is best to speak to an expert immigration lawyer. The Immigration Law Firm of Matthew Jeffery has over 20 years experience. Please CONTACT US today to see whether we can assist you with your immigration matters.