Considering making the move across the border from the U.S. to Canada? You’re not alone. In 2022, more than 10,400 U.S. residents made the move to Canada. Moving to Canada can provide a wealth of opportunities for you and your family in regards to jobs, health, and education. Before heading to the Great White North to visit, study, or work, you’ll need to know your options to enter and stay in Canada legally.
Easiest Ways to Immigrate to Canada
Canada’s Express Entry system is one of the easiest ways to immigrate to Canada from the US. It processes the majority of Canadian immigration applications for three of the country’s economic immigration programs. If you qualify for one of the following programs, you may be eligible to get Canadian permanent residency through Express Entry.
Here are the three federal economic immigration streams:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW): If you have at least one year of skilled work experience, meet minimum language requirements in French or English, and score at least 67 out of 100 points on the FSW selection grid, you may be eligible to apply for the Federal Skilled Worker Program.
- Federal Skilled Trades Program (FST): If you have two years of experience in a skilled trade, meet minimum language requirements in French or English, and have either a Canadian certificate of qualification to practice your trade in Canada or a job offer in your skilled trade in Canada, you may be eligible for the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC): If you meet minimum language requirements in French or English and have worked in a skilled position (NOC 0, A, or B) for at least one year in Canada on a valid work permit, you may be eligible to apply for the Canadian Experience Class.
However, these programs are competitive and score-based. Candidates are assigned a score and ranked against other candidates, and only the highest-ranking candidates can apply to immigrate to Canada. 80% of applications for permanent residency submitted through Express Entry are processed within 6 months, making it one of the fastest immigration systems in the world.
Getting a Permanent Job
- Work permit required to work in Canada for any length of time
- Eligibility requirements for a work permit:
- Job offer from Canadian employer
- The employer has Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
- Sufficient funds to support oneself and family (if applicable)
- No criminal record
- Good health
- Work permit valid for up to 4 years with extensions
- Temporary foreign workers can apply for Canadian permanent residence through skilled worker program
Can a US Permanent Resident work in Canada?
Options for Working in Canada:
- Work Permit
- Global Talent Stream
- Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)
- Intra-Company Transfer
- Work Without a Work Permit
- Working Holidays
Details on Each Option:
- Obtain a work permit to work legally in Canada on a temporary basis
- If between the ages of 18-35, you may be able to get an open work permit through a Recognized Organization
- Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) may be required in some cases
- LMIA serves as evidence that your employment in Canada is likely to have a neutral or positive effect on the local labour market
- Opportunities to speed up the process depend on your occupation and work in Canada
Global Talent Stream:
- Part of Canada’s Global Skills Strategy
- Allows Canadian employers in high-growth and IT industries to streamline the hiring of skilled foreign workers
- Fast-track program involving meeting certain requirements, such as completing a Labour Market Assessment (LMIA) and committing to certain salary requirements
- IRCC aims to process work permit applications from the Global Talent Stream in one month or less
Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA):
- Facilitated process for U.S. citizens to apply for a temporary work permit in Canada
- Work permits issued under the provisions of the CUSMA agreement generally do not require an LMIA
- Three categories: CUSMA Professional, CUSMA intra-company transfer, and CUSMA Traders and Investors
- Allows international businesses to bring key employees to Canada without obtaining an LMIA
- Employees who work in executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge roles may be eligible to come to Canada with their family and work as an intra-company transferee
Work Without a Work Permit:
- Business visitors can engage in business or trade activities in Canada without needing to secure a Temporary Work Permit
- The USA does not participate in the International Experience Canada (IEC) program so Americans who want to come to Canada for a working holiday will need to work with a Recognized Organization
- Recognized Organizations facilitate international exchanges between young people from different nations
- Citizens between the ages of 18 to 35 may obtain an open work permit for 12 months
Types of Canadian Work Permits:
- NAFTA Work Permits
- Issued through the International Mobility Program
- For American citizens with a job offer from a Canadian employer
- No need for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
- For those with a valid job offer from a specific employer
- Requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
- Proves the employer was unable to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident before hiring a foreign national
- New work permit required if switching jobs
- For spouses or common-law partners of temporary foreign workers or some international students in Canada
- Eligible for those undergoing the inland sponsorship process
- Not employer-specific, no need for a new work permit if changing jobs, as long as the current permit is valid.
- Spouse, common-law partner, or conjugal partner living in Canada as citizen or permanent resident can sponsor move to Canada.
Eligibility requirements for partner:
- Over 18
- No criminal record
- Able to support sponsored partner
- Not receiving social assistance
- Plan to continue living in Canada
- For unmarried partners, proof of conjugal relationship or living together for specific amount of time required
- Sponsorship and Canadian permanent residence applications submitted together
Can I move to Canada to start a business?
The Self-Employed Persons Program
This program is for people who want to move to Canada and work for themselves as professional athletes or artists. To qualify, applicants must have experience in cultural activities or athletics. This program allows individuals to obtain a business immigrant visa for themselves and their immediate family to settle in Canada.
- Canadian government offers Startup Visa to foreign entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas
- Eligibility requirements for US citizens:
- Qualifying business
- Support letter from designated organization offering sponsorship and support to startup businesses in Canada
- Sufficient funds to cover stay until business starts bringing profit
- Required documents and completed forms submitted with application
Canadian provinces and territories play a significant role in welcoming economic migrants to their region, and they actively seek out entrepreneurs with fresh ideas to help boost their economies. The provinces and territories have the power to nominate immigrants to their region based on their own standards, with many offering programs specifically designed for business immigration. These programs are known as Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), and they provide pathways for entrepreneurs to settle in Canada. The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) is also available in each province, offering immigration programs for skilled workers.
Canada’s provinces can nominate applicants they consider fit to move to that particular province
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Work Permit Options
Entrepreneurs can obtain a temporary work permit as a fast way to enter Canada. The CUSMA Investors stream allows U.S. citizens to apply for an Investor Work Permit when they invest in new or existing Canadian businesses. Entrepreneurs who want to maintain their existing business abroad while expanding to Canada can apply for an Intra-company Transfer Work Permit. Majority owners of a Canadian business can obtain an Owner-Operator Work Permit. U.S. residents and citizens can also apply for work permits through the Global Talent Stream, which offers quick processing times for those in high-growth sectors or seeking to hire highly skilled IT professionals.
Can I move to Canada from the US as an international student?
Studying in Canada is a great opportunity for international students, compared to the US. Canada offers lower tuition rates, shorter visa processing times, and the ability to start work immediately. A Canadian study permit allows the student to work 20 hours per week when school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during breaks and holidays.
After graduating from an eligible Canadian institution, students can apply for a special work permit called the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This permit lets them work in Canada and gain valuable work experience, which can increase their chances of becoming permanent residents.
US citizens can obtain Canadian citizenship, but just like other foreign nationals, they need to become Permanent residents first. After having held Permanent resident status for a minimum of 5 years, they can apply for Canadian citizenship. The methods through which someone can immigrate to Canada from the USA are similar to those of other countries.
If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who has immigrated to Canada and has been living in the country for a few years, you may be able to apply for Canadian Citizenship through a process called naturalization. Canada’s naturalization process is one of the most welcoming in the world. It is possible to hold dual citizenship, so you can remain a U.S. citizen while becoming a Canadian citizen.
If you were born abroad to Canadian citizens, or if you are a Canadian citizen living abroad who wants to work in Canada in a job reserved for Canadians, you can obtain proof of Canadian citizenship. Children born abroad to Canadian citizens are also eligible to obtain proof of Canadian citizenship.
Tourist Visit: No Visa Required
- US citizens wanting to visit Canada as tourists can do so without requiring a visa
- US citizens can stay in Canada for up to six months with just their US passport
Tips and hints for immigrating to Canada from the USA:
- As a visitor, you do not require a visa to visit Canada for personal or business reasons, but you may not centralize your mode of living in Canada, and you may not work without first securing a work permit. You may study in Canada without a study permit only if the course of study is six months or less in duration.
- The process of applying for a visa through the appropriate Canadian immigration program, having to gather all the supporting documents, and having to fill out a large number of forms may prove to be the most difficult part of the move.
- If you are an American citizen, you may live in Canada. If your stay exceeds 180 days, you will most likely need a visa. You will also need a visa or work permit if you intend to work in Canada.
- The immigration process will depend on the reason why you are moving and the length of your stay. The easiest way to settle permanently in Canada is to enter the Express Entry Pool. For stays longer than six months, you will need to apply for a work or study permit. If you are planning to stay for just a few months, you may want to consider getting a visitor visa.
- Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers issue entry stamps valid for up to six months from the date of entry for visitors. This period may be extended from within Canada.
- Canada has over 100 merit-based immigration streams for skilled workers. U.S. residents and citizens may seek to immigrate as skilled workers through Express Entry or Provincial Nominee Programs. The Quebec Skilled Worker Program is also an option for those planning to settle in Quebec.
- Canada assesses human capital criteria such as age, education, work experience, arranged employment, language skills, and adaptability for skilled workers. Federal skilled workers are selected under the Express Entry immigration system. Canadian provinces select internationally trained and experienced skilled workers based on the needs of employers in their provinces through their respective Provincial Nominee Programs.
- Express Entry is an electronic management application system for immigration to Canada that facilitates the selection and processing of Canada’s economic immigration programs.
- The federal government offers streams such as the Start-Up Visa Program, the Self-Employed Program, and various other entrepreneur immigration categories within the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).
- In Canada, work visas and employment authorizations are known as work permits. Most U.S. residents and citizens will require a work permit to work in Canada.
Moving to Canada from the USA can provide many opportunities for jobs, health, and education. Whether you’re looking to visit, study, or work, it’s important to understand the legal requirements for entering and staying in Canada. The easiest ways for US citizens to immigrate to Canada are getting a permanent job, family sponsorship, the Startup Visa, Provincial Nominee Programs, and Express Entry. Be sure to research and meet the eligibility criteria, gather the required documents, and apply through your IRCC account for a smooth and successful move to Canada.