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Canadian Immigration Options for US Visa Holders


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Posted on Nov 15, 2022 at 09:15pm EST

An H-1B visa is a United States work permit that allows foreign-born citizens who have specialized knowledge, or ‘merit’ fashion models, to work in the United States.

There are aspects of the H-1B visa program that can cause complications for workers, such as the time limit. Some H-1B visas are valid for up to three years with the option of an additional three-year extension. Once the extension is complete, visa holders must leave the United States for a full year without any type of re-entry, making it difficult for visa holders to settle down or start a family.

There is also a low limit on the number of visas the United States issues each year, 65,000 and an additional 20,000 visas for candidates with higher education, such as a master’s degree. While this may seem like a substantial number of visas, it is quite small compared to the total size of the US workforce.

Schedule a free consultation about your work permit with the Cohen Immigration Law Firm

Given these difficulties, many skilled workers seeking permanent residence turn their attention to Canada. There are several temporary work permit options available to those with specialized knowledge, and many of them can be used as leverage to obtain permanent residency.

In general, it may be more convenient to choose Canada as your place of employment. Here are some options to consider:

temporary residence

Global talent stream

The Global Talent Stream is designed for foreign nationals working in the technology and IT sectors, or what an H-1B would define as a “specialty occupation.”

It is considered part of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and before hiring, employers must first obtain a neutral or positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to be eligible. ESDC assesses whether hiring workers from outside Canada will have a positive, neutral or negative impact on the Canadian labor market

The stream was created to facilitate the growth of Canada’s tech industry and aims to achieve a two-week processing standard once the potential employee submits the final application.

Intra-company transfers

Foreign citizens with H-1B visas are often employed by multinational companies, which means they may have branches in both the US and Canada.

Intra-company transfers (ICTs) occur when employees of multinational companies relocate to the company’s Canadian branch. The transferee is usually someone in a management position or has other specialized knowledge.

In addition, employees of US companies who wish to establish a presence in Canada can apply for a start-up work permit within the company. This type of permit allows employees to start the operations of a Canadian branch of a multinational company.


Mexicans who have already obtained an H-1B visa may be eligible to work in Canada through the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). Candidates must be qualified to work in their occupation and may only work in Canada in the position for which they were hired.

Using your experience for permanent residence

Express Entry

Work experience gained through any of these work permits can be used toward an application for permanent residence through Express Entry.

Express Entry is an application management system that Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) uses to administer the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class.

Once a candidate self-assesses whether they are eligible for an Express Entry program, they can create a profile on the IRCC website. IRCC will then assign a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score that is based on work experience, education, language skills, and other human capital factors. The higher a candidate’s score is, the more likely she is to receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

Once a candidate receives an ITA, they have 60 days to submit their final application. IRCC has a six-month processing standard for all new applications.

Provincial Nominee Programs

It is also possible to become a permanent resident through the many streams in the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

All Canadian provinces except Quebec and Nunavut have PNPs that work with IRCC. Under these programs, provincial governments select candidates they believe will be a good fit for the province. Several Canadian provinces have immigration streams that are designed to attract talent for in-demand occupations such as technology and healthcare.

Find out if you are eligible for Canadian immigration

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