The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains in power following last week’s Canadian federal elections. Despite losing a clear majority, Trudeau’s Liberals are still the largest party in Parliament with enough seats to form a minority government. With what is largely a continuation of the status quo, immigration priorities are likely to remain unchanged, with Canada continuing a policy of encouraging employment-based immigration.

Similar to the US, Canada has entry and work authorization requirements that vary based on several factors including

  • the reason for travel,
  • the length of stay, and
  • the traveler’s citizenship.

The following is an overview of the most popular immigration categories. This is intended as informational only. If you have a question about a particular scenario, contact one of our immigration attorneys for guidance.

Business Travel

US Equivalent: ESTA and B-1/B-2

Those going to Canada for business meetings or to attend conferences can enter Canada as business visitors. Business visitors who are US citizens may travel to Canada without pre-authorization. Citizens of all other countries, even those who are US Lawful Permanent Residents, must obtain an approved Electronic Travel Authorization (“eTA”) or a visitor visa before traveling to Canada. These approvals do not authorize the performance of hands on work and should not be used in place of required work authorization.

Intra-Company Assignments

US Equivalent: L-1A/B

Employees temporarily assigned to the Canadian branch of their current employer can obtain work authorization as intra-company assignees. Like the US L-1, the employee must have worked for the company for at least 1 year before the transfer. Unlike the L-1, the employee must remain an employee until the time of transfer (no gap allowed).

NAFTA Professionals

US Equivalent: TN

As a NAFTA signatory, Canada has a work permit category specifically for US and Mexican citizens. This category uses the same profession list as the one that applies to the US TN, so while it is a great option for engineers and accountants, it is not suitable for all workers.

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

US Equivalent: OPT

Graduates of many Canadian “learning institutions” are eligible for post-graduate work authorization very similar to OPT. The length of work authorization depends on the length of the program. Graduates of an eligible 2-4 year program are usually granted work authorization for up to 3 years.

Various additional immigration options exist for Canada. In the future, we will write more about the differences between US and Canadian immigration as well as some of the less common work permits, such as the Francophone Mobility program.