Despite the media attention surrounding immigration from Mexico, it’s important to remember that the United States shares a border to the north with Canada as well. Given Canada’s proximity to the United States, it is no surprise that there are some special requirements and restrictions for Canadians seeking entry into the United States, even though Canadians can receive status to all of the more common visa categories.
It is important to note that there is a difference between a visa and a status. A visa is merely a placeholder in the line to obtain status. A visa is much like a plane ticket –you have a seat reserved on the plane, but a person can be stopped or prevented from boarding the plane for a number of reasons. Similarly, applying for a visa means a person is applying for a spot in line into the US, and receiving a visa that means the spot in line is secure. However, that same person may not be granted status despite having a visa and can still be turned away.
Thus, for Canadian citizens, they do not need a visa unless they are seeking E, K, S, or V nonimmigrant status. However, they must still obtain the status necessary. For example, although a Canadian citizen need not seek an F-1 visa to study in the United States, they must still satisfy all of the F-1 status requirements in order to study in the United States.
Also, under the Visa Waiver Program, Canadians can seek entry into the United States without a visa if they meet certain conditions. The travelling Canadian must be a Canadian citizen, not a permanent residence or other status under Canadian laws. If travelling by air or sea, the Canadian citizen must also show proof of a return ticket. The Canadian citizen must also be traveling to the United States for transit, tourism, or a short term business visit. They cannot seek extensions of their stay past the approved stay period, but can adjust status if based on marriage to a US citizen or an application based on asylum.
There is also a special TN status available to Canadians and Mexicans as well.
The TN status is similar to the H-1B status, but there are some advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that receiving TN status can be much faster as it can be dealt with at the border and not through USCIS. Also, it is not subject to any visa limitations, while the H-1B visa is subject to its visa cap. However, one disadvantage is that the TN status does not allow for the Canadian citizen to adjust status to a green card, while an H-1B visa does.
If you are a Canadian citizen and have questions about seeking entry in the United States or have general immigration questions, contact our office to consult with attorney Sweta Khandelwal.