U.S. visa options for Canadian citizens, by Darius Amiri, immigration law chair at Rose Law Group

Visa Options for Canadian Nationals

By Darius Amiri, Rose Law Group Immigration Dept. Chair

As the Chair of an immigration practice located in the heart of beautiful Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona, I am often approached by Canadian Nationals looking for long term immigration options to the United States. Generally, a citizen of Canada does not require a special visa or permit to enter the United States and may simply cross the border or fly into the Country for a period of up to six months by virtue of their Canadian passport. Many of our Canadian clients first arrived in Arizona in this manner and found themselves ultimately wanting more of what the Copper State has to offer. Many Canadians also own second homes or investment properties in Arizona, and again, find themselves wanting to turn a short-term visit or trip into a long-term visa or lawful permanent residency. Here are a few of the available immigration options for Canadians looking to immigrate or to obtain longer term visas to the United States than six-month period their Canadian passport typically allows.

1. NAFTA Professional (TN) Visa

The TN Visa is Special visa for NAFTA Professionals only available to citizens of Canada and Mexico who seek temporary entry to the United States to engage in business activities at a professional level. The Profession must qualify under the immigration regulations. For example, an Engineer is an accepted NAFTA profession whereas a Graphic Designer is not.

If the TN Visa is approved, it is generally valid for maximum of 3-year increments and can be renewed indefinitely so long as the terms of the original application remain the same.

The pros of the TN Visa are there is a relatively low barrier to entry, there can be a quick turnaround time from applying to approval (under normal circumstances), it can be renewed indefinitely, and the fees are relatively low, and it is exclusive to Canadian and Mexican nationals and allows for spouses and dependent children.

The cons are that the visa does not provide a direct path to a green card, or lawful permanent residency, must be renewed frequently, must maintain the same employer, or do a new TN application to maintain lawful immigration status, and since it is relatively easy to obtain, can be scrutinized more heavily for prospective violations on renewal attempts.

2. E-2 Investor Visa

The E-2 Visa is a visa for an investor with nationality of a treaty country with the USA (Canada does qualify). If the business is a foreign corporation, at least 50% of the corporate nationals must be nationals of the treaty country. Additionally:

  • The investor must have control of the US business which is demonstrated by at least 50% ownership of the enterprise and controlling interest.
  • Investment amount must be “substantial”, golden rule is at least $100,000 investment, but depends on type of business. Generally, the lower the cost of the business the higher percentage of qualifying investment is anticipated by immigration.
  • Business must be a real operating venture, and source of funds obtained for investment must have been lawfully obtained.
  • Investor must be in a supervisory or managerial position

If approved, the maximum period of stay is 2 years for the E2 Visa. The Visa is renewable in 2-year increments indefinitely, so long as business remains active and ownership interest remains.

Among the pros of the E2 visa are a quick turnaround time if filed from within the United States along with a request for premium processing (additional fees apply), a renewable term indefinitely for 2-year increments, allows work authorization for spouses and dependents, and is only available to investors of treaty countries with USA. Among the negatives are the threshold investment requirement, the fact that is must be renewed frequently, the requirement to maintain the initial investment in the business, and the fact that there is no direct pathway to lawful permanent residence or citizenship.

3. EB-5 Visa

The EB-5 Visa is an immigrant visa for Investors who want to get lawful permanent residency in the United States. The minimum threshold is 1.8 million investment for a direct investment in a US-based business. Alternatively, can invest 900,000 in a project in a targeted employment area. The investment must create at least 10 full time jobs in the United States because of the investment. The investor must demonstrate that the funds were lawfully obtained, the funds must be placed at risk into the investment, and the investor must be engaged in the active management of the new commercial enterprise.

Once the EB-5 visa approved, the investor is eligible for a conditional two-year green card, at the end of the two-year term, they must prove that the investment has created 10 full time US jobs and fulfilled the other required conditions, then a 10-year permanent green card will be issued.

This is the only immigrant visa that can be obtained through investment, meaning it provides a direct pathway to residency where the other options do not.Relatively quick turnaround time for EB-5 approval once filed, due to the availability of premium processing. The visa alsoallows for spouses and dependents.

The downside is the EB-5 visa is very expensive, because of high levels of fraud historically they can be heavily scrutinized, the investment must create 10 US based jobs, or the green card could arguably be denied, and the EB-5 status revoked, and in terms of an investment, more returns could be gained in other investment devices, but the exchange is that this investment allows for a green card.

L-1 Intracompany Transfer Visa

The L-1 Visa is a visa that that allows a US Employer to transfer an executive or manager from an affiliated foreign office to a domestic office in the United States. There must be a qualifying relationship between the parent company and the subsidiary. The employee must have been working for the company for at least one year out of the previous three prior to seeking admission in the US under this visa category. The employee must have executive or managerial capacity.

If approved, the period of stay is 1 year if foreign company is establishing new office in US, otherwise 3 years, renewable in 2-year increments for a total of 7 years.

The pros of the L1 Visa are that they often filed by multinational employers and therefore have a high approval rate, in some cases are granted on a blanket basis. They also set up for a nice transition to an EB2 or EB3 green card which can be filed by the same employer. Furthermore, there is no investment on behalf of the intending immigrant required with the L1 Visa. Conversely, the L1 requirements are strict, the term is generally capped after seven years, and there is a requirement that the foreign national work with the company for a year before it applies for the visa, which means a period must be spent working for the employer outside of the United States.

These are some of the most common visa types for Canadians we see at our immigration practice at Rose Law Group, but this is by no means an exclusive list. For more information please feel free to contact Darius Amiri, Chair of the Immigration Practice, at Darius@Roselawgroup.com.

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