It is important that Canadian IT professionals moving to the US get the right US work visa for their particular situation as there are many options available, each with its own set of pros and cons. Those moving to the US with the intention of being self-employed and establishing their own company face particular immigration hurdles that we can guide you through. IT professionals moving south to work for American companies, however, have two common options from which to choose, among others.
One of the most popular visas for Canadian IT professionals moving to the US is the H-1B. The H-1B is a temporary employment visa that the employer hiring a Canadian IT professional obtains on the IT professional’s behalf. The visa is initially issued for three years and can be extended for up to six years.
It should be noted that 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.
The NAFTA-governed TN visa is another option for Canadian IT professionals. The TN visa is relatively quick and easy to obtain if you clearly fit into one of the eligible occupations under NAFTA legislation. Typical TN visa occupations that IT professionals fit into are Computer Systems Analyst and Engineer (Software).
However, TN visas can be restrictive; although they can be extended as many times as desired, they are non-immigrant visas, meaning IT professionals 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 IT professionals 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 IT professionals moving south must find an employer willing to sponsor them for permanent residency. Applying for permanent residency is not possible while an IT professional is in the US on a TN visa, but it is possible if an individual is in the US on an H-1B visa.
Permanent residency is attractive as it allows Canadian IT professionals to remain in the US indefinitely, without facing the restrictions associated with the visas mentioned above. Moreover, an IT professional 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 IT professionals may ultimately desire.