Immigration Questions: Canada to US

Hey everyone,

For anyone that is familiar with immigration laws and procedures, I’ll make this concise with a listing of sorts.

Sig. Other:
Sex: Female

Age: 26 (almost 27)

Occupation: Vet Tech (5-6 years, 2 different places). Makes roughly $12/hr.

Education: 2-year degree, Animal Sciences

Location: Toronto (a suburb, but Toronto will do)

Residence: Lives with parents. Unable to move out financially (at least comfortably).

Expenses: Not a whole lot. Daily living (not provided by family), and that’s about it. Socialized health insurance and no car.
Age: 23

Occupation: Clerk Typist II (PA State Gov’t). $13.14/hr, full benefits, etc.

Education: 4-year B.A. degree from Penn State in Political Science.

Location: Greensburg, PA

Expenses: Rent, utilities, student loans, car insurance, daily living expenses. Think that covers it.

We’ve been discussing it for quite some time now. I know it will be a complicated and long-winded process, but does anyone have experience doing this in a SIMILAR situation. By similar, I mostly mean age/trade/location as I would imagines those are the 3 biggest factors.

Will getting married make the process easier? If so, by how much?

I am unsure of the veterinarian industry 'round these parts and how easy it would be for her to secure a job. I’m also unsure of this process and if obtaining a Visa is necessary for residence. I believe it’s necessary for employment, but I’m not entirely sure on the entire process.

Believe me, I will be contacting the Dept. of State at some point in the future and “get the ball rolling”, but I’d like to know what I’m up against and what to expect.

Can anyone shed some light? Once again, in your replies, make sure you aware of the fact that I KNOW this will be difficult. If you can avoid lecturing me, please do so. I am just looking for someone that has been in a similar situation with either good or bad results.


Age/trade/location are actually not factors at all. In rough terms, she would only be able to immigrate here on an employment visa if a US employer was unable to find an American vet tech, so that’s out. There’s lots of qualified vet techs here.

So that leaves marriage, and how easy that is depends firstly on your status. I assume you are an American citizen?

I used to do family-based immigration work (that is to say, as opposed to employment-based immigration) and I will tell you what I tell everyone: consult a qualified immigration attorney. There are some very serious consequences to mistakes and ignorance. Immigrating as the spouse of a US citizen is easy in relative terms, but it is very serious legal business. That said, you should check with non-profit agencies to see if you can work with a sliding-scale immigration attorney if you qualify. Catholic Charities is a good place to start. I also found this organization, Global I’d call them and see if they can help you or if they can refer you to an agency who can.

So she will be unable to immigrate here on a Visa as those are based on American demand. Makes sense (logistically anyway). I’m a bit surprised that location/age/trade are mostly irrelevant, but I guess that’s what you get when dealing with something like this…

I am an American citizen, yes, by birth.

I’ve heard that contacting an attorney is the proper way to approach this, even if it means shelling out a lot of money to do it. I’d rather have it done properly than mess something up myself and throw a wrench in the entire process.

I appreciate the advice and the link! I’ll check it out when I get home from work.

Any additional insight you can provide would be most helpful.

EDIT: That site is exactly the kind of thing I’m looking for. Thanks!

The only other insight I can provide is to expect the process to have Kafkaesque elements. :slight_smile: Then, if it all goes off without a hitch, then that’s just a bonus!

If you are going to marry her, start putting together evidence of a bona fide relationship (pictures of you together, letters/emails, phone bills, etc.). Do not, do not, marry until you’ve talked to an attorney.

Paging Eva Luna. Eva Luna to Thread 12840579, please.

From what I understand, there are two types of visas you can get on the basis of marriage. One is an immigrant visa for a spouse; once she’s secured this, she would be allowed to work. (I think.) The other method is a non-immigrant visa. These are “temporary” visas that allow spouses and fiancé(e)s to enter the country; you can then apply from within the U.S. for either type to be converted to Permanent Resident status (i.e., Green Card.) For the fiancée type, you have to get married within 90 days of her being granted the visa, so a fancy wedding requiring six months of planning wouldn’t work in that scenario.

My impression (and this is only a vague impression formed from years of internet surfing) is that the fiancé route is frequently easier than the other two routes if you’re not already married. So I would second niblet_head’s advice not to actually tie the knot until you know what your options are. She may also have to forgo any visits to see you while the application process is churning along: if she tells a border officer decides that she’s just visiting you, but he decides that she’s really crossing the border to live with you permanently, then he could deny her entry and then the denial of entry would count very strongly against her in the visa process. Kafkaesque is not a bad word for it.

A blogger I used to read, Eric Burns-White, went through pretty much the same process with his fiancée some years ago. (His fiancée was based in Montreal rather than Toronto.) His blog generally has tumbleweeds blowing around it nowadays, but you might find some useful stories in the archives. You might even try e-mailing him, though whether he’d want to explain the story to a total stranger is unclear.


Thanks for the great replies, both of you. Much appreciated.

I’m married to a Canadian citizen. The process of obtaining a green card (permanent resident, permitted to work at anything she likes) was actually really easy.

She was already here when we met. She had a visa that permitted her to work, but it wasn’t permanent – it had to be renewed regularly. If she’d lost her job, it couldn’t be renewed. She couldn’t change jobs at will. The visa was attached to that particular job.

Then we got married, and sought a green card for her. It was surprisingly trouble-free to get it. We didn’t hire a lawyer, just filled out the forms ourselves. It went without a hitch.

Not the same as your situation, I know, but I’ve found it a hassle-free process to get a green card for a spouse.

I immigrated to the US on a K1 (fiance) visa in 2005. We did the paperwork without the help of a lawyer, but I would never advise anyone against using an AILA lawyer if they have the means and inclination.

The main advantage that I could see in already being married would be that a spouse does not have to apply for adjustment of status (basically, a Green Card) after marriage. Most people I talked to who went down the “get married, then apply” route seemed to find that the initial paperwork took longer, but of course a person who enters as a fiance(e) can’t work until they’ve adjusted status.

While I was going through the process, I found this forum very helpful. Haven’t been a participant there in years, as I’m way out of touch with current procedures and processing times etc, but it might be worth looking around to read some of the stories and experiences.

I seem to be getting mixed opinions on whether or not to marry before beginning the process.

If I decide to use a lawyer for the process, I will probably just adopt whatever course of action he or she decides (even if it’s opinionated and could go both ways).

What, nobody has congratulated you on the upcoming nuptials yet? Congrats and Mazel Tov!

FWIW, we went the K1 (fiance) visa route when I married Shayna in 2002 - we handled the paperwork ourselves, and while it took considerable attention to detail and a robust sense of humor, we found it perfectly doable. It’s a slow and uncaring bureaucracy, but it’s not malevolent. Of course, if we’d hit a snag, we probably would have cursed ourselves for not getting a lawyer involved.

We started the K1 process in January, married in May and immediately filed for change of status. A few months after that, I received a temporary work permit - then a conditional Green Card about 8 months after the wedding, and finally conditional status was lifted after two years.

Shayna put considerable effort into organizing our paperwork as per INS specifications: Holes punched at top, dividers between different parts of the application, all that sort of thing. I can’t tell if that helped speed things up per se, but it certainly made us rest easier against the eventuality that somehow, form number 3 out of 5 should slip out of our case files and get lost. Several people commented on the neatness of the paperwork, and you do want the people working on your case in a happy state of mind.

If memory serves me, we spent about $2000 in fees.

One thing you can do right away is to hit the USCIS website for the list of required documents and have the both of you get started on gathering the necessary papers - both official (birth certificates, criminal records (hopefully blank) etc.) and unofficial (plane tickets from visits, photos of the two of you together).

Best of luck!

I just went through immigration to the US from Canada. We didn’t hire a lawyer but I strongly suggest that you do. The total process cost us about $5000 but that includes things like police reports and such.
One thing that would concern me from your OP is the amount of money you make and that is the first thing I would ask a lawyer about. Their assumption is that you will be supporting her and you need to prove she won’t become a burden on the state. I forget the percentage you need to make above the poverty level, but I am thinking it is 125%.
For us the process took a year and eight months from the time we started until the time we had our final interview.
Immigrating as a spouse is probably the easiest way to do things, but it certainly isn’t easy. It’s expensive and you have to do a lot of work. For us it was certainly worth it.
Good luck!