Tips for crossing the Canada-US border for immigration


Canada United StatesUS citizens and foreign nationals in the United States have the opportunity to immigrate to Canada even during the coronavirus pandemic.

Canada continues to process permanent and temporary immigration applications. For U.S. citizens and visa holders, this means that you can still come to Canada to work or reunite with your family.

The rules for traveling to Canada from the United States are not as strict as in other countries, however, American travelers must demonstrate that they are coming to Canada for essential reasons.

Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) lists the following examples of what could be considered essential travel:

Learn more about Canadian family sponsorship

Restrictions on the Canada-US border are currently in effect until May 21, although the Globe and Mail reports that the restrictions may be extended until June 21.

Despite federal government rules, at the end of the day, officers from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) determine whether the reason given by travelers for coming to Canada is considered “essential”. The CBSA has its own set of criteria to assess whether travelers can be admitted to Canada or not, according to the Toronto Star.

On the immigration front, American citizens are benefiting from a few initiatives that have accelerated the work permit process since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Temporary immigration facilitated for American citizens


US citizens may be eligible for easy treatment when applying for a work permit under the North American Fair Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which will soon be replaced by the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). These work permits generally do not require a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). NAFTA has three categories:

  • NAFTA professional: for those qualified to work in one of the 60 targeted professions, such as education, science, medicine, finance, law and others.
  • NAFTA intra-company transfer: For people who have worked for a branch of a company in the United States for at least one year in a managerial, managerial or other position involving specialized knowledge.
  • NAFTA traders and investors: for people who want to trade goods or services between Canada and the United States, or investors who have made a substantial investment in a Canadian business.

Intra-company transfer

Companies located in Canada and the United States can send employees to work in Canada. The intra-company transfer program allows employees working in the United States to work in a Canadian company without LMIA.

Global talent flow

This expedited process is normally available to all foreign nationals, but since biometric centers are closed, only US citizens can use this option at this time. The Global Talent Stream is for people with eligible job openings in the Canadian technology industry. This flow can process work permits in as little as two weeks.

Again, in all cases, the reason for the displacement of a worker must be considered “essential” for the benefit of Canadian residents and the economy.

Get help with Canadian work permits

General guidelines for crossing the border

If your trip is essential, some of the following tips may make it easier for you and the CBSA officer:

Do not try to enter if you are symptomatic.

You will be turned back. Stay at home and get better.

Make sure your request is well documented.

For workers, make it clear that you have a job waiting for you in Canada and that your job is an essential service. It is also important to note that your registration is non-discretionary and not optional. For example, if your duties can be performed remotely, it could be considered “optional” to travel to Canada to work.

For family, have documented proof of your relationship with the immediate family member, their status in Canada and the reason why you must cross the border to see them. The reason should be related to permanent reunification or the care of someone who could not otherwise receive care in Canada.

Have a detailed plan of how you will quarantine for two weeks.

Make sure you have a foolproof plan to isolate yourself when entering Canada, or prove that you are exempt. If you cannot adequately prove that you will be able to isolate yourself for two weeks, away from vulnerable people and with access to basic necessities, you will need to quarantine in a government approved facility.

Call the CBSA in advance.

In some cases, it may be beneficial to call the border crossing in advance and ask in advance if they will be willing to process your work permit, although a positive response by phone does not guarantee that the Entrance will be granted once you arrive.

Telephone numbers for border crossings can be found on the CBSA website.

Find out if you qualify for a Canadian immigration program

Need help with the temporary work permit application process? Contact [email protected]

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