Visas and Permanent Residency

One of the most popular visas for Canadian professors moving to the US is the H-1B. The H-1B is a temporary employment visa that the educational institution hiring a Canadian professor obtains on the professor’s behalf. The visa is initially issued for three years and can be extended for up to six years.

H-1B visas are currently capped on a yearly basis by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). There may also be other difficulties in obtaining this visa. Professors may have an advantage when it comes to the H-1B visa, however, as certain individuals who will be working at US post-secondary institutions may not be subject to the general H-1B cap. Thus the H-1B visa is commonly used by Canadian professors to move to the US.

It is preferable to the J-1 visa, another popular visa which Canadian professors may obtain to work in the US on a shorter term basis as part of the Exchange Visitor Program. The J-1 is much more restrictive than the H-1B as it expires upon completion of one’s exchange program, such as a postdoctoral fellowship; also, J-1 visa holders must generally return home to Canada for two years before being allowed to return to the US to work.

The TN visa is another option for Canadian professors moving to the US. Under NAFTA, Canadian professors are eligible to work in the US with a TN visa. TN visas are restrictive; although they can be extended as many times as desired, they are non-immigrant visas, meaning professors working in the US on a TN visa must be able to prove that they intend to return home to Canada rather than permanently reside in the US. This requirement is problematic for professors who hope to obtain a Green Card and live in the US permanently.

To become a permanent resident of the US and acquire a Green Card, Canadian professors moving south must find an employer willing to sponsor them for permanent residency. Applying for permanent residency is not possible while a professor is in the US on a J-1 or TN visa, but it is possible if a professor is in the US on an H-1B visa.

Permanent residency is attractive as it allows Canadian professors to remain in the US indefinitely, without facing the restrictions associated with the visas mentioned above. Moreover, a professor who moves to the US and becomes a permanent resident also ensures their eligibility for Medicare. Finally, permanent residency leads to US citizenship, which some Canadian professors may ultimately desire.