American citizens do not require a visa to visit Canada for personal or business reasons. As a visitor, unless otherwise indicated by a Canadian immigration officer at a Canadian port of entry, you may remain in Canada for up to six months. However, to gain entry the immigration officer must be satisfied that you are a bona fide visitor, which means that you intend to leave Canada at the end of your visit. As a visitor you may not centralize your mode of living in Canada, and as a general rule you may not work in Canada 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.
In order to reside in Canada on a longer term or permanent basis you need to ensure that you have the proper authorization to do so. For example, there are provisions under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that allow intra-company transferees from the US to work in Canada. Transferees must have at least one year of full-time work experience with the foreign enterprise and be coming to Canada to perform comparable work for the Canadian affiliate. Work in Canada must fall under one of three categories:
- Executive – an employee who primarily directs the management of the enterprise or a major component thereof.
- Senior Managerial – an employee who manages all or part of the enterprise and supervises/controls the work of other managers or professional employees.
- Specialized Knowledge – an employee who can demonstrate specialized knowledge of the enterprise’s product or service or an advanced level of expertise in the enterprise’s processes and procedures.
In order for the foreign worker to receive a work permit, the Canadian business will have to demonstrate a qualifying relationship with its foreign counterpart, as well as a qualifying relationship with its employee.
Another way to reside in Canada beyond the six months provided by a visitor visa is to study at a Canadian post-secondary institution. To do so, you must first obtain a letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution. This letter must be included with your study permit application. You must also demonstrate you have enough money to cover the first year of tuition, as well as living expenses and return transportation to the US. Please keep in mind that if you have any criminal convictions our outstanding criminal charges your study permit application might be refused. After completion of your program of study, you might be eligible to apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit or for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class.
Work after completion of study program
Upon completing studies from a participating Canadian post-secondary institution, you may apply for a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) that would allow you to work in Canada for any Canadian employer in any industry, for up to three years after graduation, depending on the length of their program of study. It is an open work permit and does not require a job offer at the time of application.
This is an option if you have studied full-time at a qualifying institution for at least eight months. If your study program is shorter than eight months you cannot apply for a PGWP.
You need to apply for a PGWP within 90 days of receiving written confirmation (e.g. an official letter or transcript) from the educational institution indicating that you met the requirements for completing your program of study. The 90 days are calculated from the day final marks are released or the day they receive written confirmation, whichever comes first. Also, your study permit must still be valid at the time you apply for the PGWP.
You can apply for permanent residence through the Express Entry system. EE is used to manage applications for the following immigration programs:
- The Federal Skilled Worker Program,
- The Federal Skilled Trades Program, and
- The Canadian Experience Class
Provinces and Territories can also recruit candidates from the Express Entry system through their Provincial Nominee Programs.
The Express Entry process involves two stages. First, individuals will submit an online profile outlining details of their skills, work experience, language ability, education and other details that will help in assessing eligibility. Those individuals who meet the criteria for one of the federal immigration programs are then entered into a pool with other eligible candidates. Second, candidates in the pool are ranked against one another using a point-based system. Points are awarded based on the information provided in the candidate’s online profile. Those candidates with the highest scores will be issued an “invitation to apply” (ITA). Upon receiving an ITA, a candidate will have 60 days to file their application for permanent residence in Canada.
If you are married or in a common-law relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, there is an option of being sponsored to stay in Canada as a permanent resident under the Family Class sponsorship program.
We can help you decide what options are best for you. For a detailed assessment of your immigration options, contact our Canada Immigration Lawyers for a consultation by emailing us or by calling 416-847-3347.