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- Canada has a variety of visa options that would support US citizens seeking work in Canada.
- Various forms of skilled worker entry are available, as well as family sponsorship and business immigration options.
- For a US citizen that seeks to work for a company in Canada but remain in the United States, an Employer of Record (EOR) solution is an option.
As a country that has embraced immigration and global mobility, Canada welcomes US citizens wishing to relocate and work there. Still, the many different routes to working in the country can be a bit confusing. The best one for each individual will depend on the type of work they wish to do and their qualifications.
Here, we explain the key legal routes for a US citizen working in Canada.
1. Skilled worker entry
Some skilled workers may be able to obtain a permanent visa without having first been offered a job by a Canadian company. This can be through the Express Entry program and/or through the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Skilled workers wishing to immigrate to Quebec must go through the Quebec Regular Skilled Worker Program (QWSP).
US citizens who have already received a job offer from a Canadian company may apply for a work permit.
Canada is a large and beautiful country with an advanced economy and a high standard of living. Unsurprisingly, working there would be attractive to many foreigners, including US citizens.
Though it comprises a large part of the North American landmass, Canada has a relatively small population, and it actively promotes immigration: Can Americans work in Canada? A skilled and educated US citizen can apply for a permanent visa to Canada and find employment once they are accepted. Others may obtain a Canadian work visa or permanent residency by accepting a job offered by a Canadian company. Entrepreneurs may temporarily or permanently relocate to Canada by investing in a Canadian business, starting their own, or trading goods between Canada and the US.
Direct family members of a Canadian citizen may also obtain a permanent resident visa through a family sponsorship. Finally, remote workers who do not wish to relocate to Canada may work for a Canadian company by engaging the services of a Global employer of record (EOR).
1.1. Express Entry
Express Entry is the primary way that skilled workers enter the Canadian labor market; approximately 25% of immigrants to Canada arrive through the program.
Candidates for Express Entry must apply on the Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website to determine their eligibility for the program. To qualify for Express Entry, Americans must meet the qualifications in either the Federal Skilled Workers Program (FSWP), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program, or the Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP). The FSWP serves intermediate or above English or French speakers with a degree, diploma, or certificate. Candidates must also have one year of work experience in one of the job categories in the National Occupation Classification (NOC) listed as category 0,1,2 or 3. The CEC and FSTP are created for applicants who already possess a Canadian work visa and wish to apply for a permanent visa.
Eligible candidates receive a ranking by the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and enter the Express Entry pool. Every two weeks, the candidates with the highest CRS scores in the pool receive an Invitation To Apply (ITA) for a permanent residence visa. CRS scores are based on several factors: education, work experience, language skills, and age. An existing job offer is not a prerequisite for Express Entry, but having one will increase the CRS score. If the applicant has been accepted into the PNP, their CRS score will also increase significantly. An Express Entry profile is valid for one year, visas are generally issued within six months of receipt of an ITA.
1.2. Provincial Nominee Program
The PNP encourages even immigration throughout Canada’s provinces and territories. Over 80 different PNP “streams” target workers and entrepreneurs with different skills and education. Some PNP streams require a valid Canadian work visa, work experience, or degree from a Canadian university, while others do not. Information about the PNP can be found on the IRCC website.
1.3. Quebec Regular Skilled Worker Program
The QSWP is similar to the Express Entry system. Applications are processed through Arrima, the Quebec government’s online portal.
1.4. Work Permit
Workers in certain fields will be required to receive a “positive” or “neutral” score on a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order to receive a work permit, while others will not. The LMIA is intended to determine whether the job in question can be fulfilled by a citizen or permanent resident of Canada. If the hiring of the US citizen will not negatively impact Canadian workers, the application will proceed to the IRCC for issuance of a work permit. If the position is located in Quebec, the employer will also be required to apply for a Certificat d’Acceptation du Quebec (Quebec Acceptance Certificate, or CAQ), which is submitted to Quebec’s Ministére d’Immigration, de Francisation et d’intégration (MIFI). Similar to the LMIA, the CAQ is a confirmation that the position occupied by the foreign worker does not harm the Quebec labor market.
There are a number of Canadian work visa programs that do not require a LMIA:
- Under the Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) Professional program, US citizens who hold qualifications in one of 60 professional categories are eligible to apply for a work permit without a LMIA.
- Workers that can prove that they will provide “significant social or cultural benefit” to Canada also do not require a LMIA. Evidence may include their academic record, significant work experience, international awards or other recognition of achievement in their field, publications, or membership in distinguished organizations related to their field.
- Workers that have been transferred by an international company to Canada, academics, charitable or religious workers, and workers nominated by a provincial government for permanent residence may not require a LMIA.
How to apply for a work permit — online portal
US citizens can now apply for a Canada work permit online. The below image demonstrates how this process works. Note, you will need to register in order to complete this process.
Workers in the IT sector and other high growth industries may apply for Canadian work visas through the Global Talent Stream program. This process requires the completion a LMIA and meeting certain requirements. The process is fast tracked, and may be completed in one month.
For more information on Canadian work permits, refer to the Canadian government information page.
2. Family sponsorship
Approximately 100,000 out of the 400,000 immigrants to Canada each year arrive in the country through family sponsorship.
Spouses, common-law partners, parents, dependent children, and grandparents may all be sponsored by any Canadian citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18. Additionally, Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have no immediate family members living outside Canada, or who have adopted a relative that can be defined as a dependent child may sponsor non-immediate family members such as siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles.
In order to sponsor a family member, the sponsor must be able to support the basic needs of the family member for three years. Basic needs include food, clothing, shelter, and health expenses not covered by the public health service. If the sponsored family member is a parent, grandparent, dependent child who has their own dependent children, or dependent child who has dependent children with their own dependent children, the sponsor will be required to meet the Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) requirements. LICO requirements specify the minimum income a sponsor must meet. The amount is updated yearly and is based on the number of people within the family unit. This amount is referred to as the Minimum Necessary Income (MNI). The family unit includes the sponsor, the spouse of the sponsor, dependent children of either or both partners, the individual being sponsored, any parents, grandparents, partners or spouses, and dependent children of the sponsored individual, as well as any partners, separated spouses, or dependent children of the sponsored individual who will be staying in their home country and not be moving to Canada.
3. Business immigration options in Canada
Business owners and entrepreneurs have many options for working in Canada as well:
- Many provinces have PNP streams available to entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in a specific field in the province. They are able to apply for a visa following a route similar to other PNP candidates.
- A US citizen investing a substantial amount in a new or existing Canadian business may obtain a work permit in a similar way as a worker in a CUSMA professional category.
- If a US citizen wishes to engage in “substantial trade” (i.e. more than 50% of their total trade) between Canada and the US, they may apply for a work permit as a CUSMA investor.
Entrepreneurs who plan on opening a business in Canada as the sole or majority investor may apply for a work permit. If they can demonstrate that their work in Canada will be temporary or seasonal, they may be able to do so without a LMIA.
4. Remote work via an Employer of Record in Canada
A US citizen who wishes to work remotely for a Canadian company may be able to do so without a Canadian work visa or permanent resident visa at all. In this case, the Canadian employer would have to work with a Global employer-of-record (EOR). For tax and other legal purposes, the EOR would be the official employer through their US-based corporate entity. All work and job-related decisions would still be directed by the Canadian company, which would pay the Global EOR a monthly fee for their services.
CUSMA has provisions that allow professionals in 60 specific job categories, entrepreneurs, and traders to apply for Canadian work visas through a streamlined process. If applicable, the employer would not be required to complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a process required of other employers in order to prove that the US citizen would not negatively affect the Canadian labor market through their employment.
With the many different visa options open to US citizens, the requirement can vary widely. In brief, though, they would need; sponsorship by a Canadian company, an invitation by a provincial or the national government to apply for permanent residency, sponsorship by a direct family member, or the intent to invest in and open their own business in Canada.