It is not news to anyone that travelling to the US or obtaining a legal US work permit has been increasingly difficult over the last few years. Under the current administration, there have been extensive procedural and policy-related changes which often come with no notice, forcing travellers and businesses alike to be reactive. These changes include more questions at airports/land crossings for those heading south for fun in the sun and extensive questioning for employees requesting short term work permits for their companies to remain compliant with immigration and tax laws on both sides of the border.
Businesses and individuals have seen United States Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) no longer requiring adjudicators of non-immigrant and immigrant applications to defer to prior adjudications, including prior approvals. Instead, officers are reviewing first-time applications with a critical eye and more frequently issuing requests for additional evidence.
More recently, a proposal was made for a substantial increase in the USCIS government fees, some by more than double the current amount. This could potentially double the cost of an application, creating an even more significant hurdle to obtain or extend lawful status in the US. In addition, this potential fee increase doesn't include the subsequent enlarged legal fees that coincide with increased scrutiny requiring more detail, legal analysis, and potentially necessary litigation to gain approval. Further still, this scrutiny doesn't only affect those applying at USCIS: Canadian citizens, who previously had the luxury of continuing to extend applications and generally make applications at the ports of entry to be a streamlined process, are running into ever-changing roadblocks and intensified inspections.
But what does this mean for Canadians and Canadian businesses specifically?
For one thing, multinational companies and employers overseas are looking at changing their immigration and mobility strategies. They are evaluating if the relocation and immigration costs for their expatriate populations or permanent transfers are worth the increased financial burden, the uncertainty, and the hassle of going to the United States. Many are (and perhaps those that aren't, should be) considering moving portions of their business to Canada. In recent years, Canada has taken strides to open up the immigration policy to be friendlier to foreign nationals and businesses that are looking to move temporarily or permanently. For instance, the International Experience Canada program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign nationals on working holiday visas, young professionals, and those on international co-op internships without requiring the previous red tape of a labour market impact assessment. Additionally, Canada implemented the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with ten other countries to facilitate new mobility options in and out of Canada. Furthermore, in contrast to the US fee increase, the Canadian government is looking to reduce fees when it comes to Canadian immigration. Prime Minister Trudeau recently asked Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino to action a plan which would eliminate the citizenship fees. Removing the current $600+ application fee will make the citizenship process for many Canadian Permanent Residents financially feasible.
As our world becomes more mobile, businesses, employers, employees, and tourists alike are looking to find destinations with reasonable requirements, processes, and fees. Canada is making changes. Many of these changes are seen as moves to make Canada a destination for international businesses to place expatriate populations and develop the Canadian economy with foreign investment. The more expensive and harsh US immigration policies may end up being a great thing for Canada. More business, more culture, more Canada.
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