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Canada as a Business Destination: Immigration Considerations

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Trump and the Changing Political Landscape in the U.S.

Canada is known for its openness to international talent irrespectively of country of origin. There are no restrictions for the issuance of work permits for any citizenship and there are no signs that there will be any. Obviously, Canada takes very seriously the security of Canadians and mechanisms are in place to ensure that those coming to Canada do not threaten their well-being, but once regular security checks are done, Canada issues and will continue to issue work permits to those who meet the requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and its regulations.

International corporations interested in establishing in Canada a subsidiary where to relocate employees who are currently facing uncertainty as to their future in the U.S. are certainly welcome to our country.

The nation-wide rules concerning the intra-company transfer of employees allow for issuance of work permits to managerial or specialized-knowledge employees being relocated to Canada (this is the equivalent of L1A and L1B visas in the United -States). It is necessary to show the corporate link between the current employer abroad and the future Canadian employer and one year seniority of the employee abroad. Once these two requirements are met, the work visas can be obtained in a few weeks. (For citizens of countries exempted from the visa requirement, the work permits can be obtained even faster since there is no need to go through a visa office and the work permit can be requested at the border, when the person enters Canada.) In all cases, there are security checks and, in some cases, depending on the country of origin, medical exams, but, again, the whole process takes a few weeks only.

U.S. citizens (and Mexican citizens) can also obtain work permits in Canada without much hassle if they exercise a profession listed in NAFTA (including engineers, management consultants and computer systems analysts).

If for some reason it is not possible to avail ourselves of the fast- track for "intra-company transferees", there are in Québec facilitated procedures (which do not exist in other parts of Canada) for professionals in several occupations including a few relevant to the technology Industries. These facilitated procedures, although not a precise equivalent of H1 visas in the U.S., provide a second option to get work permits relatively easily for skilled employees in companies willing to settle in Montréal (or anywhere else in Québec).

Spouses of skilled workers can obtain open work permits allowing them to work for any employer and children of all foreign employees are authorized to attend primary or secondary school (exempted from any fees if attending public school).

Equally, there are no restrictions based on citizenship for the issuance of study permits for graduate (and undergraduate) students who qualify otherwise for these permits. Some Canadian universities took immediate measures, for instance, to facilitate the admission of citizens of countries affected by President Trump's Executive Order of January 27th, 2017 (by extending admission deadlines). We understand that the said Executive Order was later invalidated (then replaced by a second order, which was, again, subject to judicial scrutiny). The point is that in times of uncertainty in the United States concerning immigration rules, Canada offers alternative options to international students.

Those interested in coming as permanent residents could apply either under the federal Express Entry program, or some provincial programs. Please note, however, that in general, having work experience in Canada facilitates access to permanent residence; so, applying first as workers and then applying for permanent residence is a good approach.

In the province of Quebec, there is also an Investor Program, which, following an announcement made on March 30th, will re-open on May 29th. In a nutshell, investors willing to settle in Quebec must have a legally-obtained net worth of $1.6 million CAD and make a passive investment of $800,000 CAD (which are returned to the investor with no interest five years thereafter; alternatively, financial intermediaries offer loans to finance the necessary investment).

As said, it's Canadian policy to welcome citizens of all countries of the world, if they meet admissibility requirements. Immigration Canada, for instance, issued shortly after the Executive Order, a Temporary Public Policy offering temporary solutions to citizens of the seven countries affected by the said Order. These were, of course, temporary options. But, behind the temporary nature of this public policy, there is an explicit will to affirm "Canada's international reputation as a welcoming country, regardless of one's faith or nationality and for which diversity is seen as a strength".


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