Immigration strategies for cross-border companies

Cross-border companies that want to expand their workforce in North America face unique challenges. However, there are several immigration strategies that companies can use to build a strong team that is spread across multiple locations. In this blog, we will outline the steps to create a North American workforce using these strategies.

Step #1: Determine your labour needs in Canada and the U.S.

The first step is to identify the labour needs in Canada and the U.S. This requires a careful analysis of the business’s current and future requirements. Companies must determine what skillsets they require and where these skills are most in demand.

Step #2: Determine if you have existing employees anywhere in the world who can fill these gaps.

If the company has existing employees with the right skills, it may be possible to transfer them to Canada or the U.S. In an era of tight labour markets and increasing costs, it is not always practical for a companies doing business across borders to have employees carrying out the same function in both countries. In some cases, the best solution is to deploy a worker employed in one country to work in the other.

Step #3: Determine if an immigration strategy exists that can get employees into Canada and the U.S. cheaper, faster and more efficiently.

There are various immigration strategies that can be used to get employees into Canada and the U.S. These include:

Intra-company transfers: This is the most common immigration strategy for cross-border companies. It allows multinational companies to transfer their executives, managers, and specialized knowledge workers to Canada and the U.S. This strategy streamlines the immigration process and allows employees to start work quickly.

Free Trade Professionals and Technicians: The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) allows certain professionals to work temporarily in Canada and the U.S. without a work permit. These professionals include engineers, accountants and lawyers.

Treaty Traders and Investors: The U.S. E-1 and E-2 visas allow executives, managers and essential employees from certain countries to work in the U.S. A Canadian equivalent can also be used to transfer these types of employees to Canada.

The Canadian LMIA vs. the U.S. H: In Canada, employers may need a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire certain foreign workers to work in Canada. In the U.S., employers may need to obtain what are called  H-1Bs to hire foreign workers in the U.S. Typically, the Canadian LMIA and the U.S. H-1B are much more complicated and time consuming immigration solution. Companies should carefully consider the different requirements and timelines for these applications as these options should often be viewed as the last resort.

Other U.S. specific immigration strategies: There are various immigration strategies that are unique to the U.S., such as the O-1 visa for extraordinary ability workers and virtually immediate U.S. permanent residency for indigenous Canadians who meet the U.S. statutory definition of an “American Indian Born in Canada.”

Other Canadian specific immigration strategies: In addition to some of the options discussed above, Canada has several immigration strategies that are unique to the country. These include reciprocal employment, the 15 or 30 day work permit exemption, Mobilité Francophone, and the Global Talent Stream.

Cross-border companies that want to create a North American workforce must carefully consider their labour needs and immigration strategies. Our immigration lawyers have extensive experience helping employers navigate and develop immigration strategies for their workforces. Contact a member of our Immigration team to learn more.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.