Each year, hundreds of thousands of Canadians travel southwards into the US. For those planning to work, study, or visit, special benefits are afforded to Canadian nationals, in comparison to other foreign nationals.

Learn how being Canadian might make it easier for you to come to the US. In general, there are no major exceptions for Canadians when it comes to applying for permanent residence, so this article deals only with non-immigrant visas.

A Passport is Required for Entry from Canada into the US.

Although most Canadian citizens do not need a visa to come to the US temporarily, a valid Canadian passport is required to cross from Canada into the US.

This applies to all forms of border crossings, including land, air, and sea. The passport must be valid through the expected date of return to Canada, but does not have to be valid for an additional 3 or 6 months, as is sometimes the case with other foreign nationals. Without a visa, Canadians are permitted to stay in the US for up to 6 months at a time.

Canadian Citizens may be Able to Work in the US without a Visa.

This is one of the best benefits afforded to Canadian citizens. To receive this exception, several qualifications must be met.

The stay in the US must be temporary and intent to maintain residence outside the US must be demonstrated. The visit must involve commercial activity, and the employer’s main location of business must be outside of the US. In addition, the work must fall under one of several categories outlined by USCIS. This includes, but is not limited to, research, design, supervising crop harvesting, attending trade fairs, and servicing equipment.

Of note, Canadians taking advantage of this opportunity are not allowed to receive a salary from within the US.

Canadian Passport
Canadian’s require a passport to enter the US.
TN Visas are Viable Alternatives to H-1B Visas for Canadians.

Canadians wishing to work in the US on longer-term basis should strongly consider applying for a TN visa. All TN visa applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in their field, and some may require a graduate degree or board certification. Multiple occupations can qualify an applicant for a TN visa, including, but not limited to:

1) Medical professional (including physician and other specialists)
2) Lawyer
3) Engineer
4) Scientist
5) Teacher (at university, college, or seminary only)
6) Computer Analyst
7) Architect
8) Accountant

TN visas are granted for three-year periods and renewal can be requested and granted without leaving the US.

One of the benefits of TN visas over H-1B visas is that there is no limit to the number of TN visas that can be approved. In addition, while H-1B visas can only be held for a maximum of 6-10 years, one could theoretically continue renewing a TN visa indefinitely. Finally, the types of work that qualify an applicant for a TN visa are generally more broad than those required for an H-1B visa.

For more information about the limits on H-1B visas, check out our article on the H-1B cap.

Four Items are Required to Apply for a TN Visa.

Four items are required to complete the TN visa application. This includes:

1) a job offer detailing daily job activities, job qualifications, salary, benefits, and the expected duration of employment,
2) proof of professional qualifications to complete the work at the described level of proficiency,
3) proof that the category of work qualifies for TN visa approval, and
4) a valid Canadian passport.
Canadians may not Apply for Adjustment of Status while on a TN Visa.

Of note, one of the disadvantages of a TN visa over an H-1B visa is that TN visa holders are not eligible to apply for an adjustment of status. This means that if your overall goal is to apply for permanent residence, an H-1B visa is likely preferable.

If you are lawfully in the US at the time of application for the TN visa, you may adjust your status to the TN visa without leaving the US.

Canadians Wishing to Study in the US have Several Visa Options.

It is generally easier for Canadians to gain approval for study in the US than for other foreign nationals. The F-3 visa was established in 2002 to cater to Canadians who commute from Canada to the US for study. This visa is limited to approved educational institutions within 75 miles of the US border.

Canadians may also find it easier to apply for F-1, M-1, or J-1 student visas. To apply for these visas, a Certificate of Eligibility (form SEVIS I-20 for F-1 and M-1 student visas, and form SEVEIS DS-2019 for J-1 exchange visitors) must be completed and a fee must be paid. Once these forms are completed and the fee is paid, they can be presented to a US customs official upon entry, along with a valid Canadian passport. Of note, spouses and children can also be admitted with this visa as long as a marriage certificate or long-form birth certificate is presented upon entry.

Canadian student
There are several options for Canadians wishing to study in the US.
Canadians can Still be Denied Entry Based on Grounds for Inadmissibility.

Despite the many policies that make entry easier for Canadians, denial of entry based on grounds for inadmissibility can still be enforced. This may include membership in a terrorist group or several other characteristics.