Visiting the US as a Canadian Citizen
As a Canadian citizen you can visit and stay in the United States for up to 6 months without a visa. It is important to note that when entering the United States, you must declare your intended duration of stay. Immigration laws and regulations are strictly enforced in the United States. Therefore, if you are intending to move to the US from Canada, you may need to consider one of the pathways below. If not, you remain subject to the burden of proof and will likely need need to continuously prove that you are not intending to become a permanent resident in the US when extending your stay.
Burden of Proof
Canadian citizens remain subject to the burden of proof that they are not intending to become permanent residents of the United States when travelling. This burden of proof always lies with the applicant.
Pathways to Move to the US Permanently
There are five pathways to move to the US from Canada:
Moving to the US to STUDY as a Canadian Citizen
Canadian citizens are not required to hold a visa to study in the United States. Whilst Canada’s universities are of high quality, the demand to attend ivy-league universities in the US remains consistent. If you are looking to move to the United States to study, you do not need a visa however you must register with SEVIS, a US student tracking system. This registration must be presented to the immigration officers each time you enter the United States.
Employment Green Card
If you can obtain permanent employment in the United States, this is a pathway to an Employment Green Card that grants you permanent residency. Alternatively, your employer can sponsor you for a green card based on your permanent employment in the US.
If your employer is willing to sponsor you, they can file an employment-based petition and you can become a permanent US resident. For more information on Employment Based Green Cards, see our page here.
Alternatively, see below for various visa options to travel to the United States based on your skills or employment.
Moving to the US through a Skilled Pathway
The EB-1 Visa is an employment-based (first preference) immigration visa that can be one of the fastest ways to obtain permanent residency in the US. This visa type is for individuals with exceptional academic or work achievements. This is a skills-based pathway and therefore you are not required to have a job offer or employment. However, you must be able to demonstrate your high level of skill and professional achievement. For more information about this visa type, see our page on EB-1 Visas.
The EB-4 Visa is employment-based (fourth preference) immigration visa for applicants that are identified as “special immigrants”. It relates to special and unique occupations including religious workers, broadcasters, or international employees of the US government etc. For more information about this visa type, see our page on EB-4 visas.
Moving to the US through EMPLOYMENT SPONSORSHIP
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) establishes a unique economic and trade relationship between the United States, Canada and Mexico. The TN non-immigrant visa permits qualified Canadian and Mexican citizens to travel to the US to engage in professional business or employment.
You are eligible for a TN visa, if you:
- Are a Canadian citizen or Mexican citizen
- Work in an eligible occupation under NAFTA i.e. accountants, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists and teachers
- Have a position in the US that requires a NAFTA professional
- Have a full-time or part-time job offer from a US employer
- Possess adequate qualifications
If you are a Canadian citizen due to your ability to enter the US without a visa, you are not required to apply for a TN visa. You may establish your eligibility upon entering the United States and present the required documentation to the US Border Force. The TN visa permits Canadian citizens to remain in the US for up to 3 years under the NAFTA TN arrangement.
The EB-2 Visa is an employment-based (second preference) immigration visa. It is for individuals who have an employer sponsor and have advanced degrees or exceptional ability. This visa type requires that your employer is certified with the US Department of Labor and that they file an Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker form with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. For more information about this visa type and the application process, see our page on EB-2 visas.
The EB-3 Visa is an employment-based (third preference) immigration visa for skilled workers and professionals. This visa type is an employer sponsored and skills-based visa and therefore requires a job offer from the sponsoring US company and the applicant must be able to demonstrate a minimum of 2 years professional experience (EB-3A Skilled Workers) or hold a Bachelor’s degree (EB-3B Professional). For further information, see our page on EB-3 visas.
The H-1B Visa is a temporary US visa that allows US companies to employ graduate level workers in specialty occupations. The visa is initially approved for up to 3 years and can be extended to a maximum of 6 years. It is an employer sponsored visa; therefore the employer must be certificate by the US Department of Labor and submit a H1-B petition. This visa type also provides you with the option of applying for a green card in the future. For more information, see our page on H-1B visas.
Investor Green Card
If you are an Entrepreneur and looking to make a significant investment in the commercial sector in the United States, you may be eligible for an Investor Green Card. You must:
- Invest in a commercial enterprise in the United States
- Invest $1,800,000 or at least $900,000 USD in a targeted employment area
- Plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for US workers
For more information about the possibility of obtaining the Investor Green Card, see our visa options for business and investment below.
Moving to the US through BUSINESS AND INVESTMENT
The E-5 visa is an option for those wanting to move to the US without having to find an employer. To qualify for this visa type, applicants must invest a minimum of $1,800,000 in a US business. For more information about the application process and other eligibility requirements, see our page on E-5 visas.
Moving to the US through FAMILY SPONSORSHIP
There are two types of family sponsorship-based visas:
- Immediate Relatives
- Spouses of US Citizens
- Parents of US Citizens who are over 21
- Children of US Citizens who are under 21
- Family Preference
- Unmarried sons or daughters over 21 of US Citizens
- Married children of US citizens who are of any age
- Brothers and sisters of US citizens who are over 21
- Spouses or children of US green card holders
For Canadian citizens that fall into the category of immediate relatives, it is usually a quicker process to receive a Family Green Card than those that are categorised under Family Preference. Further, the immediate relative category has unlimited places each fiscal year whereas the family preference category has a limited number of places available to family relatives.
Family Green Card
If you move to the US through the family sponsorship pathway, you are likely eligible for a Family Green Card. Therefore, Canadian Citizens who have relatives who live in the US and are US citizens may be eligible for a Family Green Card if they meet the relevant eligibility requirements.
Moving to the US through PARTNER SPONSORSHIP
The IR-1 Visa is for a spouse of a US citizen who is seeking permanent residency in the United States. If you are a Canadian Citizen who has legally married a US citizen, you can likely move to the United States and obtain permanent residency through the IR-1 Visa.
Marriage Green Card
If you as a Canadian citizen are legally married to a US citizen and have moved to the US through the partner sponsorship pathway, you are likely eligible for a Marriage Green Card. our spouse as a US citizen can submit a form with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for you to have permanent residency in the US as a Canadian citizen. There are requirements including proof that you are financially supported so as not to be a public charge and health examinations. You as a Canadian citizen can file a form with the USCIS requesting to change your immigrant status and this will initiate your side of the process.