BY PETER A. VERESS
If you are considering working internationally or coming
to Canada for work, consider this: immigration rules often
dictate who can work in North America, and these rules are
changing almost weekly. With the most recent changes in March
2003, it is important to obtain the latest work visa information
and advice when considering work across borders. Asking a
few questions ahead of time can help prevent unforeseen delays
at the border or costly rescheduling.
Working in the U.S.A.
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly
US INS, is the authority dealing with both immigrants and
non-immigrants to the U.S. Over the last few months, BCIS
has implemented several security measures to deal with security
For example, BCIS has begun monitoring all non-immigrants
in the U.S.A. A visitor's place of birth, as well as citizenship,
is very relevant to the new Department of Homeland Security
now responsible for U.S. border functions.
One effect is that people born in Arab and Muslim countries
are routinely fingerprinted, photographed and examined under
oath upon entry, causing frustration and delays. In two well-publicized
cases, people traveling on Canadian passports were returned
to their country of birth - and without notice to Canadian
Regulations governing entry requirements to the U.S. have
also been significantly tightened. As of March 17, Commonwealth
citizens who are permanent residents of Canada are no longer
automatically visa-exempt. Unless their country participates
in the Visa Waiver Program, they now need a visa to enter
The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of participating
countries to enter for up to 90 days without a visa, for purposes
of tourism or business travel. The program currently applies
to most European countries.
For the time being, Canadian-born citizens enjoy a number
of benefits. They do not need a visa for short-term visits.
They can apply for a U.S. work permit at the port of entry
(bringing prepared documentation is advised), thereby allowing
Canadians to bypass the lengthy processing times at the service
centres. Most beneficial of all is NAFTA, which is below.
Working in Canada
The rules for Canadian immigration also changed, in June
2002. Coming to Canada permanently as a skilled worker is
now more difficult, although obtaining permanent residence
if you are working temporarily on a work permit has become
Obtaining a work permit is a two-step process. The employer
must first prove that no qualified Canadians or permanent
residents are available, which takes about 6-10 weeks. If
approved, the employee can then apply for the work permit,
which may take anywhere from a few days to several months
depending on whether an entry visa or medical examination
Some work permits can be issued without the employer step.
These include work permits under NAFTA and GATS, or for intra-company
transfers which provide significant benefit to Canada.
Work permits are generally granted for one to three years
and can be extended. Spouses (including common law spouses)
can usually work, and minor children under 18 can attend school.
Canada now accepts permanent residence applicants who have
flexible skills to become successful in the Canadian economy,
regardless of their occupation. They must obtain 75 points
on a 100-point scale using selection criteria such as education,
language ability, work experience and ties to Canada. Generally
speaking, the most qualified candidates are holders of Canadian
NAFTA facilitates the movement of professionals between the
U.S., Mexico and Canada. For example, engineers can obtain
a Trade NAFTA, or TN, work permit for the U.S. simply based
on their registration and a job offer from a U.S. employer.
In general, professionals who are NAFTA citizens can work
for an employer in any of the three countries if: (1) their
occupation is on the list (engineers and geologists are covered);
(2) they meet the specific criteria for their occupation in
the destination jurisdiction; and (3) the employer needs a
worker in that capacity. A NAFTA work permit is valid for
one year and can be renewed.
Navigating the maze of changing regulations can be a daunting
challenge, with real consequences and risks involved. If you
have questions or concerns, visit the listed websites or
contact the writer.
Peter A. Veress is a founding partner in VRV Immigration
Consulting Ltd., a full-service immigration consulting firm
providing expertise on Canadian, U.S. and international visas
for individual and corporate clients.
Reach Peter Veress at
(403) 269-2224 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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