Author: Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB
Last Updated On: June 29, 2024

Comparing US and Canada Immigration Options

US Canada Immigration

Alexandru, a 33-year-old engineer from Romania, dreamed of new opportunities. He researched both Canada and the United States extensively. Determined and ambitious, he wanted a fresh start. He focused on immigration options in both countries. First, he examined skilled worker programs. Then, he explored family sponsorship possibilities. Moreover, he considered temporary visas and permanent residency pathways. Each option presented unique benefits. He needed to make the right choice for his future. Excitement and uncertainty filled his days. Every discovery brought him closer to his decision. Which country would offer the best opportunities for Alexandru?

Immigration Receptiveness of Canada and the United States

Canada and the United States both attract immigrants globally. Each country offers numerous pathways for immigration. Canada actively promotes immigration to support economic growth. According to the 2021 census, immigrants comprise about 23% of Canada’s population. Moreover, Canada intends to accept 485,000 immigrants in 2024 and increase that number by half a million in 2025.

Similarly, the United States remains a top destination for immigrants, boasting the highest number of immigrants worldwide. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers diverse immigration programs catering to family reunification, employment-based immigration, refugees, and more. This reflects the country’s long history of immigration. Data from USCIS shows the United States naturalizes around 700,000 new citizens annually.

Both countries value the contributions of immigrants, and their policies reflect this commitment. Choosing between them depends on individual goals and circumstances.

Immigration and Visa Options in the United States

The United States offers various immigration options for individuals seeking to live, study, or work in the country. Here are the main immigration pathways:

1. Family-Based Immigration

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can sponsor certain family members to immigrate to the United States. Categories include:

  • Immediate Relatives (spouses, unmarried children under 21, parents of U.S. citizens)
  • Family Preference Categories (unmarried adult children, married children, siblings of U.S. citizens, and spouses and children of lawful permanent residents)

2. Employment-Based Immigration

There are several employment-based visa categories for individuals with specific skills or job offers:

  • EB-1: Priority Workers (persons with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, multinational executives and managers)
  • EB-2: Professionals with Advanced Degrees or Exceptional Ability
  • EB-3: Skilled Workers, Professionals, and Other Workers
  • EB-4: Special Immigrants (religious workers, certain long-term employees of the U.S. government, etc.)
  • EB-5: Immigrant Investors (individuals who invest a significant amount of capital in a new commercial enterprise that creates jobs)

3. Diversity Visa Lottery Program

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, also known as the Green Card Lottery, provides a limited number of visas annually to individuals from countries with low immigration rates to the United States.

4. Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Worker Visas

These visas allow individuals to work in the U.S. for a limited period. Common types include:

  • H-1B: Specialty Occupations
  • H-2A: Temporary Agricultural Workers
  • H-2B: Temporary Non-Agricultural Workers
  • L-1: Intracompany Transferees
  • O-1: Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement
  • P-1: Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers
  • TN Visa (Trade NAFTA Professionals): This is for Canadians and Mexicans working in specific professional roles outlined by USCIS.

5. Student Visas

Visas for individuals seeking to study in the United States:

  • F-1: Academic Students
  • M-1: Vocational Students
  • J-1: Exchange Visitors (for participants in exchange programs)

6. Refugees and Asylum Seekers

The U.S. protects individuals who have a well-founded fear of persecution or are at risk of torture:

  • Refugees: Individuals outside the U.S. who are of special humanitarian concern
  • Asylum Seekers: Individuals already in the U.S. or arriving at the border who seek protection

7. U Visas and T Visas

Visas for victims of certain crimes and human trafficking:

  • U Visa: For victims of criminal activity who have suffered substantial mental or physical abuse and are willing to assist law enforcement
  • T Visa: For victims of human trafficking who assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking cases

8. Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)

This status is for certain undocumented children who have been abused, abandoned, or neglected. It provides a pathway to legal permanent residency.

9. Temporary Protected Status (TPS)

TPS is granted to nationals of certain countries experiencing ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. It allows individuals to live and work in the U.S. temporarily.

10. Humanitarian Parole

Humanitarian parole allows individuals to enter the U.S. temporarily for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.

Each pathway has specific eligibility criteria and application processes. To learn more and determine which option best suits your situation, visit the official U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.

Immigration and Visa Options in Canada

Canada offers several visa and immigration options to individuals and families seeking to live, study, or work there. Here are the main immigration pathways:

1. Express Entry

Express Entry is an online system used to manage applications for permanent residence from skilled workers. It includes three economic immigration programs:

2. Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

Provincial and territorial governments can nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and settle in a particular province. Each province and territory has its immigration programs targeting specific groups, such as:

  • Skilled workers
  • Semi-skilled workers
  • Business and entrepreneurs

3. Family Sponsorship

Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their relatives to come to Canada. Eligible relatives include:

4. Quebec Immigration Options

The province of Quebec has multiple immigration options. However, almost all these options focus on francophones. Visit the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI) official website for more information.

5. Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP)

The AIP is designed for skilled workers and international graduates who want to settle in one of the four Atlantic provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador.

6. Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP)

This program aims to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers who want to work and live in one of the participating communities. However, IRCC will likely replace this program with new options in fall 2024.

7. Start-up Visa Program

Entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas can apply for permanent residence in Canada through the Start-up Visa Program. Applicants must have the support of a designated organization (venture capital fund, angel investor group, or business incubator).

8. Agri-Food Pilot

This pilot program helps address the labour needs of the Canadian agri-food sector by providing a pathway to permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in specific industries and occupations.

9. Caregivers

Canada offers immigration pathways for individuals with experience as home childcare providers or home support workers. Applicants may apply for permanent residence through specific caregiver programs after meeting certain work experience requirements in Canada. However, IRCC intends to make major changes to this program in fall 2024.

10. Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds

Individuals who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada may apply on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. This option is for people with exceptional cases, including those facing extreme hardship if they return to their home country.

11. Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Canada protects individuals who have a well-founded fear of persecution or are at risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This includes:

12. Study Permit and Work Permit Options

Canada allows hundreds of thousands of study permit and work permit seekers in Canada. These options facilitate permanent stay for many of these temporary residents.

Each pathway has specific eligibility criteria and application processes. Book a consultation session with me to find detailed information and determine which option best suits your situation. Please note that I only offer consultation for immigration to Canada.

Comparing American and Canadian Options

The following tables compare immigration options in the US and Canada. While these tables offer a broad overview, it is essential to consult official resources or immigration experts for comprehensive and personalized information.

Comparison Table 1: General Immigration Pathways

Immigration Options to the United StatesClosest Options in CanadaRemarks
Family-Based ImmigrationFamily SponsorshipBoth countries prioritize family reunification.
Employment-Based Immigration (EB-1, EB-2, EB-3, EB-4, EB-5)Express Entry (FSWP, FSTP, CEC), Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Start-up Visa ProgramBoth countries have multiple categories based on skills and job offers.
Diversity Visa Lottery ProgramNo Direct EquivalentCanada does not have a lottery system like the U.S. Diversity Visa Lottery.
Temporary Worker Visas (H-1B, H-2A, H-2B, L-1, O-1, P-1, TN)Temporary Foreign Worker Program, International Mobility ProgramSimilar temporary worker programs with specific visa categories.

Comparison Table 2: Special Categories and Protections

Immigration Options to the United StatesClosest Options in CanadaRemarks
Student Visas (F-1, M-1, J-1)Study PermitsBoth countries provide options for international students.
Refugees and Asylum SeekersRefugees and Asylum SeekersSimilar protection mechanisms for those facing persecution.
U Visas and T VisasVictims of Family Violence, Public Policy for Vulnerable WorkersBoth countries offer protections for victims of crimes.
Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS)No Direct EquivalentSIJS is specific to the U.S.; Canada has different child protection mechanisms.

Comparison Table 3: Humanitarian Options

Immigration Options to the United StatesClosest Options in CanadaRemarks
Temporary Protected Status (TPS)Temporary Resident Permit (TRP)Both countries offer temporary protections for nationals of certain countries.
Humanitarian ParoleHumanitarian and Compassionate Grounds, Public Policy ExemptionsBoth countries provide temporary entry for urgent humanitarian reasons.

These tables outline the main immigration options for both countries, highlighting their similarities and differences. ​

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    Al ParsaiAl Parsai, LLM, MA, RCIC-IRB
    Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant
    Adjunct Professor – Queen’s University – Faculty of Law
    Ashton College Instructor – Immigration Consulting
    Author – 88 Tips on Immigration to Canada

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    Al Parsai, LL.M, RCIC-IRB

    Al Parsai is a distinguished Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (L3 RCIC-IRB – Unrestricted Practice) hailing from vibrant Toronto, Canada. Al's academic achievements include an esteemed role as an adjunct professor at prestigious Queen's University Law School and Ashton College, as well as a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from York University (Osgood Hall Law School). A respected member of CICC, Al's insights are further enriched by his experience as the dynamic CEO of Parsai Immigration Services. Guiding thousands of applicants from over 55 countries through the immigration process since 2011, Al's articles offer a wealth of invaluable knowledge for readers.