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Canada and Visas

Immigration to the U.S. from Canada is quite common, given the two countries’ proximity, shared primary language, and friendly relations. But to live in the U.S., Canadian citizens need a visa or green card. Visas available to Canadians wishing to move to the States include:

  • K-1 fiancé visa;

  • O-1 extraordinary ability visa, for scientists, actors, entertainers, and artists;

  • H-1B visa, for those with a job offer to work in the U.S.;

  • TN visa; for those with a job in the U.S.;

  • L-1 intracompany visa, also for those with jobs in the U.S.;

  • E-2 treaty-investor or treaty-trader visa, for Canadians investing in a U.S. business; and

  • F-1 and M-1 student visas.

An experienced immigration attorney can help you determine which visa is best for you and can aid you throughout the application process.

K-1 Fiancé Visa

The K-1 visa allows an unmarried Canadian fiancé of a U.S. citizen to enter the U.S. to marry the citizen sponsor. The couple must be legally free to marry at the time of application and thereafter, meaning that neither party is married to another person, and must have met in person within the last two years. Further, the marriage must take place within 90 days of entering the country.

O-1 Extraordinary Ability Visa

The O-1 visa has limited use, as it requires that the user have extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, or athletics, or extraordinary achievement in the motion picture or television industries. Those eligible for this visa include writers, scientists, professors, athletes, actors, and singers. Extraordinary ability is defined as national or international acclaim, as evidenced by awards, publications, and a reputation for excellence.



H-1B Visa

One of most popular work visas is the H-1B visa. It allows an applicant to work temporarily in a specialty occupation requiring professional skills. The applicant must have a job offer from a U.S. employer, who sponsors the applicant.

Specialty occupations generally require a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent, though sometimes, relevant experience is enough. There are special provisions for workers holding graduate degrees, fashion models, and entrepreneurs.

The employer applies on for the visa on the employee’s behalf. It is valid for up to three years, and then can be renewed for another three. After that point, the employee must leave the country for one year before applying for a new visa. However, the worker may apply for permanent residency while on the visa.

TN Visa

The TN visa was created under the North American Free Trade Agreement, between the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. It allows a person to enter the U.S. to work in a professional occupation if:

  • The job qualifies under NAFTA’s list of professions;

  • The applicant fulfills the specific criteria for the profession;

  • The job opening requires an employee in that professional capacity; and

  • The employee will be working for a U.S. employer.

The TN visa application requires that the employee have a job offer, and is valid for three years. It is easier to apply for and to have approved than other work visas, but only works for a narrow group of professions, many of which require a bachelor’s or advanced degree. The employee must show an intention to return to Canada upon expiry of the visa, and can prove that with documents maintaining ties to Canada.


L-1 Intracompany Visa

The L-1 visa allows a company to transfer a manager or executive from a Canadian office to one of its U.S. offices. The employer must be doing business in the U.S. and be affiliated with the Canadian company. The employee must have been working for the Canadian employer for at least one continuous year in the past three years. The visa is valid for three years.

If the Canadian company does not yet have a U.S. affiliate, it may send a manager or executive to the States to set up an office, using a one-year L visa.


E-2 Treaty-Investor or Treaty-Trader Visa

The E-2 visa allows Canadian foreign nationals to invest in business enterprises in the U.S. They require an active commercial enterprise, rather than a passive business, such as real estate investment. The investor must oversee and direct the day-to-day operations of the business. Further, the investment must be substantial, around $100,000 or more, and at risk, meaning the investment could be lost if the business is not successful. The business may also send employees to work as executives, supervisors, managers, or skilled employees.


F-1 and M-1 Student Visas

The F-1 visa is the most common for those coming to study in the U.S. It requires full-time enrollment in an approved school, and generally, no off-campus work is permitted.

The M-1 visa permits vocational or non-academic studies other than language study. Generally, no unrelated employment is allowed.

If you are considering immigrating to the U.S., please contact the Law Offices of Alex T. Barak to schedule an initial telephone consultation with Alex Barak.

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