The United States and Canada share a long geographical, political, and cultural history. An important part of this history is the exchange of peoples across the two countries’ long border. Every year, foreign nationals in the US come to Canada on both temporary and permanent bases. Upon arrival in Canada, many find that their prior experience in the US has prepared them well for the work and lifestyle that awaits them in their new home.
Why Do Foreign Nationals in the US Immigrate to Canada?
Canada has the highest immigration levels of any G8 country. Hundreds of thousands of temporary and permanent residents come to the country each year to take advantage of the thriving labour market, safe communities, world class education systems, public healthcare, and unparalleled natural beauty. These and other factors have helped the country achieve one of the highest standards of living in the world today.
There are a number of reasons why US visa holders choose to work, study, or live permanently in Canada. Oftentimes individuals will be residing in the US on a temporary visa such as the H1-B (temporary work), J1 (management trainee), and F1 (student) visas. When these individuals are for some reason unable to achieve Permanent Residency in the US, pursuing Permanent Residency in Canada presents an option to remain in North America. Often, the transition from temporary status to permanent resident status is easier in Canada than in the US.
When an immigrant becomes a Canadian citizen, they have the option of pursuing temporary employment in the United States under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since a NAFTA-based work permit can be renewed indefinitely, Canadians have an array of work and living options available to them.
Immigration Options for US Visa Holders
Canadian immigration programs have, in general, looked favorably upon holders of US visas. In the past, the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program had a specific stream for US H1-B (temporary worker) visa holders.
This program is no longer available. However, experience in North America continues to provide a strong advantage for those looking to immigrate. There are a number of temporary and permanent residency options that residents of the US are well-placed to pursue.
The Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) class of immigration is being revised in such a way that US residents are likely to benefit. Legislation that will come into force in January 2013 will place a higher emphasis on language skills. US residents typically possess a high level of English and as such may do well under the revised system. In addition, the new program will require that applicants have their foreign educational credentials assessed for their Canadian equivalency. Individuals who completed studies in the US will find that their degrees are often equivalent to a similar degree in Canada.
No intake quota has yet been announced for the FSW class. However, it appears likely that a cap will be placed on application intake. Some proactive individuals are already preparing their applications in advance, so that they may submit before potential quotas are filled.
In addition to the FSW class, applicants without a job offer in Canada can also pursue Permanent Residency through the popular Quebec Skilled Worker (QSW) program. The QSW program is currently open and receiving applications from eligible applicants with expertise in one of 110 areas of training/fields of study.
Temporary work permits allow foreign workers to come to Canada for up to four years at a time. A temporary work permit in Canada usually requires a job offer from a Canadian employer. Temporary work in Canada can often be used as a stepping stone to an application for Canadian Permanent Residency.
US Residents Adapt Well to the Canadian Lifestyle
Individuals who have worked in the US are in a good position to quickly find work and adjust to Canadian culture. They are already accustomed to the North American work style. Similarly, they are likely to be proficient in English, which Citizenship and Immigration Canada has stated is “a key factor in the success of new residents in Canada.”
US visa holders also benefit from being within an easy drive or flight away from most major Canadian cities. This relative proximity can be of great advantage to those wishing to search for jobs, interview, or visit their future homes before moving to Canada. Visiting Canada can be advantageous for some immigration applications. For instance, the QSW program awards points for having visited the Province of Quebec.
“Regardless of the program they apply to, US residents often have the skills and cultural know-how to succeed in Canada,” says Attorney David Cohen. “Not only does this help them build a strong application for Canadian immigration, but it will help them to hit the ground running upon arrival in Canada.”
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