The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-15-2011, 11:58 AM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Live in US, work in Canada: how difficult to do legally?

I am a US citizen. A long time ago, I applied for a job at my former university in Canada and was gently let down by being told that unless no qualified Canadian applicants were found, my application could not be considered. I've since come to understand that this is the case for almost all jobs in Canada, barring a few specific skilled worker positions listed on on this Canadian immigration page. Fair enough.

Since then, I've been wondering about another option I want to keep open in the future. There are two companies based in Canada which I could conceivably work for from the US--one a consulting firm, the other a computer firm, both of which are headquartered in Canada but do business in both countries. Neither firm, though, has opened a US office, and they aren't planning to do so in the future.

Would it be possible as a US citizen to work for either of these companies while continuing to live in the US and declining to seek Canadian residency/citizenship? The CIC site I linked above has a lot of information about what to know if you're a foreign citizen wanting to move to and work in Canada, or a landed refugee seeking work in Canada, but seemingly not anything about just working in Canada. Frustratingly, my internet searches on the subject only seemed to turn up the exact opposite situation--live in Canada, work in the US.

Last edited by Duke; 12-15-2011 at 11:59 AM..
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:10 PM
alice_in_wonderland alice_in_wonderland is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Your physical location won't change the fact that Canadian companies are mandated to hire Canadians unless it can be proven that only a foreign person has the qualifications necessary.

Now, if it was a consulting deal, I think that would be different.

Also, depending on what your skills are, the computer firm may very well be able to provide justification that you have a skill set different than a Canadian applicant. Obviously, if the firm is Future Shop and you're selling laptops, it probably won't fly, but if it's very specialized programming or something you could make a go of it.

Last edited by alice_in_wonderland; 12-15-2011 at 12:11 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:21 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 22,510
It is fairly common for people to do that but it isn't usually a regular employment arrangement. One way is to set up your own company in the U.S. with you as the sole employee (not as hard or expensive as it sounds). The Canadian company can then use you as one of their vendors to provide services. You would be responsible for your own benefits and taxes under this arrangement so you would typically charge more per hour than you would make as an employee. You could also look at independent contracting arrangements which is similar.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:38 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
My kid went to school in Canada (BA and MA), applied for and received a work visa, and is currently happily employed up there.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-15-2011, 12:50 PM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
The issue is actually allowing people to immigrate and take a job; to obtain permission to get them entrance to the country, the company must provide proof they have looked for and failed to find a qualified Canadian. The paperwork and delay is sufficiently annoying that most companies will tell you "get yourself legally entitled to work in Canada then we'll consider you."

What your status is, if for example you live and work in NY or MI (or even CA or TX) but are a regular employee of a Canadian-only company? Thanks to antiquated laws, nobody's equipped to deal with that. I assume they would have to set up a complete payroll system with american deductions and remittances, and learn American HR practices and laws. Better to not do that. As mentioned above, make yourself a contractor (company) and sell your services and you'll be fine. Canadian companies like Americans, hire contractors from all over the world, as long as they don't have to consider them employees. We too get tech support from "Bob in Cleveland" with a strong east Indian accent.

You can even get temporary permits to come up as a contractor's employee to do some work on the site or attend meetings; although, don't be like one guy we had from Australia - his company forgot to do the paperwork until it was too late; so he told the border people he was coming up to visit his buddy and do some fishing instead of a week of consultant work. They let him go and started phoning around to verify his story, but nobody had been warned of the situation (and do you want to lie to the police?) so the RCMP came and picked him up at the worksite and escorted him to the next plane out of Canada...

Canada generally has some established guidelines that distinguish contractors from employees; these typically revolve around hours of work, how independent you are, etc. usually these are to prevent companies from calling an employee a contractor and get out of paying payroll taxes and other requirements like vacation and holiday pay, minimum notice etc. This is why it's usually advantageous for you to be a company instead of a person when signing the contract.

The question of course will be whether the company will want to do business with you with these arrangements. If so - go for it.

Last edited by md2000; 12-15-2011 at 12:51 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-15-2011, 01:06 PM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by BrotherCadfael View Post
My kid went to school in Canada (BA and MA), applied for and received a work visa, and is currently happily employed up there.
That's interesting--when I went to university in Canada fifteen years ago Canadian Immigration told me in so many words "don't even think about applying for a work visa, because your chances of getting it are less than zero." Have times changed?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-15-2011, 02:44 PM
The Lurker Above The Lurker Above is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke View Post
That's interesting--when I went to university in Canada fifteen years ago Canadian Immigration told me in so many words "don't even think about applying for a work visa, because your chances of getting it are less than zero." Have times changed?
It depends on what you went to university for. I'm not sure when this aspect of NAFTA went into effect, but American, Canadian, and Mexican citizens in certain professions can move to and work in any of the three countries on a 'temporary' basis. One needs an offer of employment and certain qualifications (see the Canadian information in Appendix G section 3.8 in http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resourc...w/fw01-eng.pdf <-- pdf warning).

I'm under the impression that the employment offered has to be pretty closely related to the degree/professional designation to count, ie. an engineer can't get in with an offer of employment to work as an economist. Also I've read that working under NAFTA doesn't count for gaining permanent residency or citizenship in Canada but is much easier to get since the employer doesn't need to show that they cannot hire a Canadian to fill the position.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-15-2011, 07:33 PM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Chicago-ish, IL
Posts: 9,294
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Lurker Above View Post
I'm under the impression that the employment offered has to be pretty closely related to the degree/professional designation to count, ie. an engineer can't get in with an offer of employment to work as an economist. Also I've read that working under NAFTA doesn't count for gaining permanent residency or citizenship in Canada but is much easier to get since the employer doesn't need to show that they cannot hire a Canadian to fill the position.
I've prepared NAFTA petitions on the U.S. side, and the degree generally does need to relate to the position being offered. However, sometimes one can legitimately frame the job description in such a way that the degree seems like a logical match when at first blush, it might not. For example, my dad has an enginering undergrad degree, an MBA, and decades of professional experience as an engineering manager. Although he is not a hands-on engineer these days, one could certainly make the case that his job requires an engineering degree.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-16-2011, 09:34 AM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Hmmm...that would be a particular problem in my case, because up until very recently there weren't any universities offering degrees (and I still don't think there are any in Canada) in the specialized field I'm working in. I suppose I'll have to just talk to CIC about that when the time comes.

Thanks for your words of wisdom, everyone!
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-16-2011, 09:41 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
If I may ask, why did you go to school in Canada?
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 12-16-2011, 10:39 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by Duke View Post
That's interesting--when I went to university in Canada fifteen years ago Canadian Immigration told me in so many words "don't even think about applying for a work visa, because your chances of getting it are less than zero." Have times changed?
Back when I was in college the Canadian government had an amnesty program for illegal immigrants (around 1976, IIRC?). The way it was worded, several of my fellow students who were here on student visas from the USA found it applied to them too. (IIRC, had to have been in the country 2 years). Of course before that, you could apply from inside the country.

To crack down on such behaviour, we have the rules that for example you can no longer apply for immigration from inside the coutry, so we have special cases where people go to the US border crossing and apply from there. It would not surprise me if the government took a hostile attitude to students, espcially undergrads, hoping to short-circuit the immigration process. From what I've heard, the line-up has been quite long unless you have specialized skills and a job offer.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 12-16-2011, 10:46 AM
XT XT is offline
Agnatheist
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The Great South West
Posts: 27,121
Quote:
Since then, I've been wondering about another option I want to keep open in the future. There are two companies based in Canada which I could conceivably work for from the US--one a consulting firm, the other a computer firm, both of which are headquartered in Canada but do business in both countries. Neither firm, though, has opened a US office, and they aren't planning to do so in the future.
Purely anecdotal and probably dated, but I worked for several years for a Canadian IT services company and even had an apartment (leased by the company) in Ottawa. I didn't have any particular problems or issues, though there was a lot of travel involved since our customers were in both Canada and the US (and I still had a house in the DC metro area).

Quote:
Would it be possible as a US citizen to work for either of these companies while continuing to live in the US and declining to seek Canadian residency/citizenship? The CIC site I linked above has a lot of information about what to know if you're a foreign citizen wanting to move to and work in Canada, or a landed refugee seeking work in Canada, but seemingly not anything about just working in Canada. Frustratingly, my internet searches on the subject only seemed to turn up the exact opposite situation--live in Canada, work in the US.
Again, possibly a dated answer (when I did this it was the 90's), but I never even entertained trying to get Canadian citizenship and I didn't have any particular issues being an American citizen and working for a Canadian company.

-XT
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 12-16-2011, 11:09 AM
Duke Duke is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
If I may ask, why did you go to school in Canada?
It was one of five grad schools I'd applied for, with the other four in the US. Surprisingly, it was the only one that offered me a scholarship--all the other ones gave me wishy-washy statements like "well, there might be a scholarship, there might be a grad assistantship, but we don't really know and we're certainly not going to offer one right off the bat, because maybe you'll end up being a full-pay student and then we could offer those to someone else." Plus, my real goal was to study for a doctorate in British history in England (yes, that was a lifetime ago), and a number of my professors thought Canada was a better stepping stone than the US. Two of my classmates also went to Oxford, so I'm assuming they were right.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 12-16-2011, 11:15 AM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
I'm a US Citizen (only). I have been told, in no uncertain terms, by my employer, that I may not do any work for the company whatsoever while physically outside the United States. This apparently would include just opening my corporate email from a cafe in Montreal - forbidden. When on a vacation, I temporarily worked remotely on an urgent matter and they made me make a statement that I was within the United States (I was). They don't care WHERE in the US I am, just that I am within the borders. So, Alaska is fine, Yukon is RIGHT OUT.

Last edited by robert_columbia; 12-16-2011 at 11:16 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 12-16-2011, 11:10 PM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright View Post
If I may ask, why did you go to school in Canada?
My kid went there because (a) they accepted her, and (b) it was much less expensive than the cheapest state school in our area.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 12-17-2011, 08:20 AM
md2000 md2000 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2009
Quote:
Originally Posted by robert_columbia View Post
I'm a US Citizen (only). I have been told, in no uncertain terms, by my employer, that I may not do any work for the company whatsoever while physically outside the United States. This apparently would include just opening my corporate email from a cafe in Montreal - forbidden. When on a vacation, I temporarily worked remotely on an urgent matter and they made me make a statement that I was within the United States (I was). They don't care WHERE in the US I am, just that I am within the borders. So, Alaska is fine, Yukon is RIGHT OUT.
I suspect this policy was drawn up in the Dark Ages. Nowadays, I fervently hope nobody would consider opening email or answering a call about an emergency ("what's the password for the backup/restore system???") as work enough to qualify for legal ramifications. I would assume whatever law they are afraid of would have repercussions in other states too - answer your email from Disneyland and they have to pay California employment taxes... OTOH, you can't be too careful.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:26 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.