Upon obtaining citizenship, immigrants to Canada also become eligible for certain U.S. immigration benefits. Canadian citizens enjoy visa-free travel to the U.S. in most categories, additional opportunities for U.S. employment, and streamlined procedures for seeking U.S. immigration benefits.
Visa free visitor travel to the U.S. (B-1/B-2)
Canadian citizens do not need a visa, or a visa waiver to apply for admission to the United States as a visitor (and in many other nonimmigrant categories). Instead, Canadian citizens may proceed directly to a U.S. port of entry with their valid Canadian passport and seek admission to the U.S. without first obtaining a visa, or visa waiver.
In addition to vacations and other trips for pleasure, Canadians may seek admission to the U.S. in visitor status for certain limited business activities such as negotiating contracts, engaging in commercial transactions, and participating in conventions. Importantly, employment, labour for hire, and formal courses of study are not permitted in visitor status, however, Canadians have access to enhanced procedures for obtaining U.S. work authorization.
U.S. Employment Authorization as a Professional (TN)
Canadians coming to the U.S. to engage in business activities at a professional level may be admitted to the U.S. with work authorization. To qualify, an applicant must have Canadian citizenship and practice one of the defined professions. For most professions, an applicant must have a recognized degree, but for some (e.g. Graphic Designer, Industrial Designer, Hotel Manager), a Post-Secondary Diploma plus experience will suffice. Scientific Technicians and Management Consultants may qualify without any degree or diploma, but must be able to demonstrate experience in these fields to qualify for TN classification.
Canadians have the advantage of applying for admission to the U.S. in TN status directly at a Class ‘A’ port of entry. Alternatively, their U.S. employer may file a petition on Form I-129 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Upon receiving an approval notice, they may bring this notice to a U.S. port of entry to request admission. Regardless of whether they apply through USCIS or directly at the border, Canadians do not need to obtain a visa from a U.S. consulate before seeking admission to the U.S. in TN status.
Multinational Executives, Managers, and Specialized Knowledge Employees (L)
Anyone who has been employed for one out of the past 3 years in a position that is managerial, executive, or involves specialized knowledge, may come to the U.S. to render services in the same capacity to a parent, subsidiary, affiliate, or branch office of the same company in the L category. Although Canadian citizenship is not required for L classification, Canadians who qualify for this category may seek approval of their L-1A petition at a U.S. port of entry and receive same-day adjudication. All other beneficiaries in the L category must have their employer file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), wait for approval, and then apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate.
Treaty Traders and Investors (E-1/E-2)
Citizens of a country that has a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with the United States, who are coming to the U.S. to
- carry on substantial trade between the U.S. and the treaty country, or
- develop the operations of an enterprise in which they have invested a substantial amount of capital
may qualify for an E visa. Canadians may qualify for these visa categories under the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement. Because India, China, Iran, Russia and other countries do not have a requisite treaty with the United States, citizens of these countries will not qualify for E visas until they become Canadian citizens (or citizens of another country that has a treaty with the U.S.). Additionally, E visas are available to employees of companies that carry on substantial trade with the U.S., or have made a substantial investment in the U.S. To qualify as an employee, however, the visa applicant must have the same nationality as the company’s owners. For employees of companies owned by Canadians, this means that they must have Canadian citizenship as well.
Becoming a Canadian citizen is a significant milestone that provides many benefits. As a result of Canada’s treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with the United States, Canadian citizens have access to benefits that extend beyond Canada’s geographic boundaries. All new Canadians (and old ones, too) should be aware of these benefits and encouraged to access them.