Canadians Can Be Exempt From New U.S. Visa Rules, Says Immigration Group

June 25, 2020 Updated: June 25, 2020

OTTAWA—New restrictions on visas for workers entering the United States don’t apply to Canadians who don’t plan on living south of the border permanently, says the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

A “practice alert” for the group’s 15,000 members, issued late Wednesday, says a liaison committee it has with U.S. Customs and Border Protection has confirmed that exemption.

President Donald Trump this week ordered a suspension on issuing several types of visas allowing foreign citizens to work in the United States, on the grounds that his country’s pandemic-rattled economy doesn’t have enough jobs for Americans as it is.

The proclamation lasts until the end of the year. It particularly covers workers seeking H-1B visas, which U.S. employers use to temporarily employ specialists in fields such as high-tech.

The ban also includes H-2B visas for seasonal non-agricultural workers, L visas for managers and executives in multinational companies, and J visas for students and workers in exchange programs.

But Canadians who want to work in the U.S. without immigrating permanently don’t necessarily need those work visas.

The language of the proclamation seemed plain enough, immigration lawyer Henry Chang said by email.

“We therefore believed that the presidential proclamation did not apply to [Canadians]. Unfortunately, in the absence of clear guidance on this issue, the position taken by United States Customs and Border Protection varied from port to port,” said Chang, who is a partner at Dentons in Toronto who specializes in Canadian and U.S. business immigration.

He said it’s now clear that so-called visa-exempt Canadians aren’t lumped in with others who won’t be eligible to work in the United States.

A request for comment sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection after regular business hours wasn’t immediately answered.

Trump’s proclamation explicitly forbids only the issuing of new visas. People who already hold them can continue to use them.

Though Canadians don’t necessarily need visas to work in the U.S., having one does come with protections and advantages. Someone with an H-1B visa can seek permanent residency and start on a path to U.S. citizenship, for instance.

The Department of Homeland Security says about 4,600 Canadians received H-1B visas last year.