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What are the laws about leaving the US for a job in Canada?
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I have an opportunity to move from the US to Prince Edward Island with approximately $8,000 (US) per month income. What is legally required for me to do that?

Border Crossing, San Anselmo, CA

Dear Border Crossing:

We are assuming that you are referring to Prince Edward Island (PEI) in Canada. We can offer you the Canadian rules on temporary entry to Canada for employment. Under the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), a US citizen can easily obtain a work permit - officially called Employment Authorization (EA) - for temporary employment in Canada. Here are the details:

If you are an American or Mexican citizen and you are seeking to enter Canada on a temporary basis to engage in the trade of goods, provision of services, or in investment activities, there is a good possibility that you will qualify for eased entry under the NAFTA.

Note: "American citizen" includes residents of the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico but does not include residents of Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and the United States Virgin Islands.

General requirements

There are four general requirements you must meet in order to be granted temporary entry to Canada under the NAFTA:

1. You must be an American or Mexican citizen.

Note: A valid passport is the best proof of citizenship. In the absence of a passport, which American citizens do not require in order to travel to Canada, proof can be provided in the form of a certificate of citizenship or a birth certificate. Becasue the birth certificate is not a secure document, be prepared to show some additional identification which bears a photograph, such as a driver's licence.

You do not qualify for eased access under the NAFTA if

  • You are a permanent resident of the United States or Mexico, but a citizen of a non-NAFTA country; or
  • You are working in the United States or Mexico on an employment authorization, but are a citizen of a non-NAFTA country.

You may, however, continue to have access to Canada through the normal procedures for the entry of temporary foreign workers.

2. You must qualify in one of the four categories of business persons defined in the NAFTA: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, or traders and investors .

3. You must be seeking temporary entry only.

Temporary entry means that you have no intention of remaining in Canada permanently. Your status in Canada will be that of "visitor". If you wish to remain permanently, you must go through the normal immigration procedures for permanent residence and apply from outside of Canada.

4. You must meet the universal immigration requirements governing temporary entry to Canada.

Remember that even if you are covered under the NAFTA, you may be affected by other provisions of Canada's Immigration Act and Regulations. The existence of certain medical conditions or a criminal record, for example, may mean that entry cannot be granted.

Depending on the type of job you will have and where you have lived during the past year, you may be required to have a medical examination. If you want to work in the field of health services, you will need a medical examination and a satisfactory medical assessment before you can be issued an employment authorization.

If any of these circumstances applies to you (or your accompanying family members), it would be wise to seek advice from a Canadian embassy or consulate before travelling to Canada.

Remember that the NAFTA does not replace the general provisions for temporary entry to Canada, but merely adds to them. When you are seeking entry to Canada, a Canadian immigration officer will decide whether it is more advantageous to you, as the client, to be admitted under the general provisions for temporary foreign workers or under the NAFTA. In either case, all other provisions of Canadian immigration law remain in effect with respect to travel and identity documentation and the protection of public health, safety, and national security.

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