Posted on - Nov 18, 2016

By Catherine Sas, Q.C.

Catherine Sas Q.C.

With every changeover in the United States of its administration, there is a spike in interest from Americans for ‘Immigrating to Canada’. From the Bush and Obama electoral victories through to the now pending Trump presidency, this desire to move north has become expected given the passion each election evokes.

The intensity of these emotions have reached new extremes in this current election. The Canadian government’s immigration website was inundated with inquiries on November 8th, the night of the results, causing it to crash. It has taken several days to recover and is still operating at a snail’s pace.

For those Americans considering a move northward to Canada, there are both temporary and permanent immigration options. Generally the temporary process is the speedier process and often leads to a path to permanent residence for individuals already working or studying in Canada.

From my experience as an immigration lawyer Vancouver, these are some of the speediest options for a potential US immigrant looking to come north.

NAFTA or Inter-company transferee work permits

The work permit process is an excellent way to come to Canada in a more timely fashion – days, or weeks in most cases – than the permanent resident process. NAFTA provides for many professional, scientific and academic applicants to be able to work in Canada. (It will take a while for President Trump to amend NAFTA in the event that he does stay the course on this aspect of his election campaign!)

Applicants need to demonstrate their academic and professional qualifications to meet their specific occupation and are able to apply for work permits at the port of entry. In many cases you may have a Canadian employer who is seeking your services to support your work permit application. Inter-company transferee work permits are available to executives, managers and specialized knowledge workers who have at least one year of full time work experience within the last three years for a foreign based corporate entity – in this case, a US based company. It is necessary to establish a Canadian corporate entity.

Business people who have their own corporate or professional entities that have been in operation for more than one year, can expand their presence to Canada and support their own work permit applications as well as those of other workers. Once in Canada it is possible to obtain permanent residence through the Express Entry program while continuing to work in Canada.

The Self-Employed Application for Permanent Residence

Canada maintains a self-employed category for permanent residence for persons who engage in cultural or artistic activities, athletics or farming. This program is widely used for persons in the film and television industry as well as professional sports or agriculture.

An applicant must be able to demonstrate that they have been able to support themselves and their family members as a result of their self-employed activities for two of the past five years. While the IRCC website posts a processing time of 96 months, this is based on international processing statistics. US processing times for self-employed applicants are generally within 12 months or less.

In addition to the permanent resident process, many professionals in the film and television industry are also able to obtain work permits to work in Canada on Canadian projects given changes to the Foreign Worker program this past February 2016.

Get a Canadian Education

Obtaining your post-secondary education in Canada can be a pathway to permanent residence. A two year diploma program or a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Phd degree will allow a graduate to obtain a three year post-graduate work permit.

In addition, international students are now permitted to work in Canada without a work permit for up to 20 hours per week while in full time attendance at school and can work full time during summer and winter school breaks.

The combination of a Canadian education and post-graduate work experience increases an applicant’s chances of qualification for permanent residence under the Express Entry program. Canada’s Immigration Minister, John McCallum is on record as saying that international students are the most desirable of immigrants and aims to ensure that the Express Entry program captures this category of applicant.

Canada’s immigration program continues to evolve and with recent changes, including the introduction of the Express Entry program in January 2015, the process for immigrating to Canada is not as straightforward as it used to be. For a potential US immigrant seeking to head northward, the above options – working or studying in Canada or the Self Employed category for permanent residence – remain some of the best options for making the move to Canada.


Catherine Sas, Q.C. is a Vancouver immigration lawyer at Sas & Ing Immigration Law Centre in Vancouver, BC Canada. Catherine has been practicing law for over 25 years, and has been voted Vancouver’s Best Immigration Lawyer by the Georgia Straight newspaper for 6 consecutive years.

To learn more about immigrating to Canada, becoming a permanent Canadian resident or bringing your family to Canada, email Catherine Sas or call her at 1-604-689-5444.

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