As the American presidential election nears, some of us in Canada have been asked by media and other interested parties what the real options are if someone wanted to head north. ABC News reported in March that Google searches for “how to move to Canada” surged as high as 1,150%. We thought we’d offer some insight into the options available to come to Canada either temporarily or permanently.
Come to Canada to Work or Study: For those seeking a temporary move to Canada, young Americans in particular may pursue post-secondary studies in Canada by securing acceptance to a Canadian college or university. Others may seek to secure a temporary job offer from a Canadian employer. Under NAFTA, there are a myriad of employment options open to Americans. As well, those who are not American can work in Canada if they qualify as an intercompany transferee. In general, the ability to work in Canada depends on the nature of the positon and the particular skill set one maintains. In many cases, individuals require a job offer from a Canadian employer that is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment through Service Canada; this requires the prospective employer to demonstrate an inability to locate a qualified Canadian candidate to fill the positon.
This may sound familiar to attorneys working with business clients here in the U.S. The most recognized temporary work visa in the U.S. is probably the H-1B, particularly this time of year, when more than 230,000 petitions were filed for the 85,000 visas available. While in recent years Canada has made changes to their immigration laws intended to improve their immigration system, the last significant change to the U.S. system occurred more than 25 years ago.
Be Sponsored by a Family Member: Those seeking permanent residence in Canada may consider sponsorship by a close family member. Canadian citizens and permanent residents may be eligible to sponsor their spouse or common-law partner, dependent children, or parents for permanent residence. This includes the ability to sponsor a same-sex spouse of a legally-recognized marriage. Although sponsors are not required to be living in Canada at the time the sponsorship application is submitted, they must evidence a plan to return and re-establish residence in Canada with the sponsored family member once the application is approved. Spousal sponsorship applications may take a year or two to process, and years longer for parental sponsorships.
The United States also has a robust family immigration system based on close family ties. In fact, a majority of immigrants coming to the U.S. use the family system rather than the employment-based system. Unfortunately, certain categories of family-based immigrants trying to come to the U.S. face years – if not decades – long waits for their applications for permanent resident status to be approved.
Seek Permanent Residence as a Skilled Worker: Canada’s immigration system is heavily focused on attracting skilled immigrants who benefit the Canadian economy. Individuals seeking permanent residence who do not maintain family ties to Canada can consider applying for permanent residence as a skilled worker. As a skilled worker, factors such as age, education, language skills, and skilled work experience are considered.
Applications under the skilled worker programs are managed by the invitation-based Express Entry system, which requires applicants to first seek an invitation to apply for permanent residence. Interested candidates submit an online profile in order to express their interest and eligibility to apply under one of the applicable skilled worker programs, upon which they are entered into a “pool” of candidates and are ranked against all other eligible candidates by a points-based system. Periodically, invitations are issued to the top-ranked candidates within the pool, inviting selected candidates to submit an application for permanent residence. The Immigration Refugees Citizenship Canada currently maintains a six-month processing standard for the majority of applications submitted under Express Entry, lending to the program’s name.
The candidates who will score highest within the pool are those who have obtained a job offer from a Canadian employer supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment through Service Canada. Provinces also have access to the system and may select candidates for nomination. Candidates with a valid job offer or a provincial nomination are guaranteed a score high enough to receive an invitation to apply under the Express Entry system.
The U.S. has several employment-based options, but unlike the Canadian system it is not a “points” system that is then used to create a pool of candidates. Rather, for most employment-based immigrants, the key is that there must be an employer who is willing and interested in submitting a petition on behalf of the immigrant. Again, the U.S. system has not been updated in over 25 years and reforms and improvements to the system are long overdue.
None of these options quite your cup of tea? Of course, temporary escape can be had for those wishing to simply vacation in Canada for a short duration – remember to bring your passport!
Written by Jessica Ravenhurst and Heather Segal, AILA member