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5 Major Differences of Canadian and US immigration Systems

A business woman holding a Canadian flag.

Being the two countries that make up the continent of North America, the United States and Canada share many similarities, including the fact that they are both global top destinations for immigration. Having said that, there are a few marked differences in how the immigration system is organized, which may make one of the options more or less feasible depending on an applicant’s unique situation.

This post will introduce at a high level 5 notable differences of Canadian immigration and US immigration. Please refer to our detailed posts to find out more.

1. No nation-specific quotas in Canadian immigration

Unlike the US, the Canadian system does not have nation-specific quotas (numerical limits). This could mean applicants from countries such as China or India, which are oversubscribed in many U.S. immigration categories, could potentially access a wider variety of options in the Canadian immigration system which does not have such limitations.

2. Age is not an eligibility factor in US immigration

Employment-based US immigration pathways do not consider age as one of the eligibility factors; the US system does not treat applicants differently solely based on their age. By contrast, in many Canadian immigration pathways, age is a factor and influences the outcome of a petition – either by rewarding an applicant more points for being younger, or by setting a minimum eligibility requirement for a specific program based on age.

As a representative example, the points-based Express Entry system for Canadian permanent residency awards 100 extra points to an applicant who is between 20-29 years old, while an individual older than 45 years would get 0 extra points.

3. Time spent working in the country can help for Canadian immigration

The more time you have spent working in Canada on a temporary work permit, the more advantageous it will be for applying for permanent residency. For example, 5+ years of Canadian work experience can add a maximum of 80 points to one’s Express Entry profile. Even more points can be added if this work experience is combined with a Canadian degree or foreign work experience.

By contrast, the US immigration system does not award any extra benefit for green card eligibility for an applicant having spent many years working in the United States. Having said that, an applicant’s career in the US could bring indirect benefits, such as development of professional connections or raising one’s profile, which may help meet the criteria for certain categories of merit-based immigration programs, for example the EB-1 or EB-2 NIW.

4. Language tests are not a requirement in many US immigration programs

US immigration pathways do not formally require the applicant to take an English test to prove their language abilities, and language proficiency will not normally be a part of an applicant’s eligibility analysis if it is not related to meeting the program’s requirements, for example, an applicant does not need English fluency to meet a minimum investment amount, source of funds, and job creation requirements for an EB-5 investor immigration program.

By contrast, proficiency in either English or French is a threshold requirement in many Canadian immigration pathways and applicants need to prove proficiency by scoring above a certain level in designated language tests. This could serve as a limitation for some applicants.

5. Sponsoring employer is not required in Canadian immigration

Another major distinction between the Canadian and the US system is the role of a sponsoring employer. In most cases, to apply for immigration as a worker to the United States, you will need a sponsoring employer. Only the EB-1A, EB-2 NIW, and EB-5 categories allow an applicant to self-petition.

By contrast, the presence of a sponsoring employer is not a threshold requirement in the Canadian point-based immigration system. Having a job offer supported by a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) can give an applicant a leg-up by 50 additional points. However, it is not a requirement, and it is very common for applicants to earn an invitation for permanent residency on an individual basis, based on their credentials and prior work experience only.

Interested in learning more? Check out our blog posts:

Immigration by sponsorship

National Interest waiver

EB1A Extraordinary Ability green cards

EB5 Investor Immigration Petitions

Schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys here.

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