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Can anyone give advice on moving to US/Canada for relationship?
June 6, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

He's American, I'm Canadian; we're not married - anyone have advice or experience with immigration either way to be together?

So, we're currently living in our respective countries and we take turns doing a 9 hour drive (each way) to visit each other for a weekend once per month. This has been going on for a year and a half now, and we're pretty ready to make some changes to actually live with each other.

The problem we're facing is that we're not sure which way to go. There are good reasons for both. Immigration is complicated, and it seems as if it will very likely involve one of us not working for some period of time. Here are the items we have had to consider:

Work
-He has a slightly better job than I do and could support us both easier if I couldn't work at first. His job is in the private sector as a systems admin for a medium sized business. He didn't finish school and is concerned that if he moves to Canada, he won't be able to get a job that gives him the flexibility, autonomy, and pay that his current one does (he does all the planning, budgeting, etc. for his current job).
-I work at a University in Canada which is unionized. I will get pay increases steadily, but I don't get bonuses like he does. My pay cap is definitely lower than his, though I have a bit more security in my job due to the Union. Working at a university offers the perk of being able to take courses for free.
-We both receive good benefits packages.
-As he works in the private sector, it is potentially easier for me to get a job there since he can work with connections and I have my BA. For me to get him a job here is more complicated since we have to go through HR and union issues, despite any connections I may have.

Finances
-I am almost finished paying off my student loan (less than $1000 to go!). I just bought a new car and have car payments to make each month. I have a little debt on credit cards, but nothing serious or that can't be taken care of with reasonable payments within 6 months.
-He is still paying some of his student loans but has no car payments and no credit card debt.

Education
-I have a degree; BA Cross-Disciplinary Studies.
-He started a degree but due to financial complications was deregistered.
-With where I work, I can take courses for free. If he could get a job here as well, he could finish school for free too.

Family
-He is not in contact with his family, and would have no one to fall back on should he uproot to Canada and have things not work out. We don't want to plan for failure, but it IS something to consider.
-My family lives within a few hours of me. I am not extremely close with them, and in a few years my parents plan to move pretty far north. However, I do have people to fall back on should I really need it if things were to not work out if I moved to the US and had to come back.

Emotional
-He is a traditional sort of guy who takes pride in being able to "take care" of me. I'm ok with this; we see eye-to-eye on it really, and I don't want this particular point to turn into a feminist-type debate. For him to be out of work, I fear will really do something bad to him emotionally, and he is already very prone to depression and high anxiety due to being an overachiever and perfectionist (I suffer the same issues).
-I have 2 cats I'd have to move, while he has no pets. Not really a huge deal, but just another item on the 'to consider' list.

Immigration
-While neither of us is really particularly crazy about our own country (no die-hard patriots kinda thing), we both take some amount of pride in our citizenship and we aren't sure if we should try for permanent residence or actual citizenship change.
-Canada's choices include being able to live in the opposite country while you're waiting for your visa - but not being able to work. It also involves potentially applying for a conjugal partner permanent resident status, which would mean we could do the move without having to get married.
-We really want to live together, and we're willing to get married. We both see each other as "the one" but it would be nice if we could do the immigration in a way that would allow us to get engaged and married on our own terms, and not by a government deadline as is offered with the US K1 option.
-We're concerned about the K1 option because of the burden of proof for the relationship. The border won't stamp our passports when we go through, so there's no real record of our visits. We talk online every day using Gtalk and on skype using video chat. However, to prove your relationship they are asking for letters and phone calls, which we have very few records of since we use the internet for almost all our communication.

Has anyone made the move either way? Can you give me any details or advice on the process, or even an opinion, given the information above, on which way we should consider going? I have looked at the visa sites and while some of the information about the actual technical process is helpful, it would be really great to hear from people who have done it.

Much appreciated. :)
posted by Serendipitous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm American-born and I married and moved Canadian. It's easier bureaucratically to go that way, I believe. Prove you love each other (give them: copious event photos with notes on the back, printed chat logs and emails, and notarized letters of endorsement from friends with jobs in a position of trust; our stack was about 1" thick), get tested for TB, agree to sponsor him on the dole even if you break up and pay the fee ($1500 at the time) and you will easily get PR status. It's a long wait, like two years, to be able to work but fairly straightforward, no lawyers required. I became a Canadian citizen after filling out a few more forms and waiting the appropriate number of years; I'm a dual citizen now.

I'm leaving the political spin out of this except that I would not consider moving to the US to be a rational decision at this point if one also had a reasonably comparable choice of moving to Canada or indeed any other first world nation.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:13 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


Canada, for the same reasons seanmpuckett gave, except that I'm from the perspective of someone who moved from Canada to the US.
posted by aramaic at 8:24 AM on June 6, 2012


One note - Canada and the States do not share credit information. When I moved here from the US as a dual citizen I lost my entire (excellent) credit history and had to start from scratch. I'm not sure that it works quite so stringently crossing the border in the other direction, but consider that one of you may have your credit history wiped any way you decide to go. But yeah, Canada for sure!
posted by mireille at 8:39 AM on June 6, 2012


He has a slightly better job than I do... He didn't finish school and is concerned that if he moves to Canada, he won't be able to get a job that gives him the flexibility, autonomy, and pay that his current one does (he does all the planning, budgeting, etc. for his current job).

This is a very legitimate concern. Not having a degree can be a big deal for job flexibility; no matter how experienced you are or how irrelevent your BA is to your job description, a lot of employers require you to be able to tick the box. How far from done is he? Can he finish at Thomas Edison?
posted by DarlingBri at 9:00 AM on June 6, 2012


I don't know about Canadian law, but in the US you can't go from non-citizen to citizen. You need be a permanent resident for a certain period of time first, or just remain a permanent resident. (if you choose the US, visajourney.com has some good info)

I've never been to Canada so I cannot comment either way. But his not having a degree thing can become quite the issue, especially since he prefers being the breadwinner.
posted by Neekee at 9:08 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


In Canada, your boyfriend would need to become a permanent resident (and live in Canada for several years) before the option for citizenship arises. Plenty of people live in Canada as PRs forever. There is really no need to have Canadian citizenship to live here. Of course, as a PR your boyfriend wouldn't have the same rights as a citizen, so it would be up to him to decide how much he cares about that.

Also, the conjugal partner class is very specifically for people who wish to be married but are unable to - not those who can get married but chose not to. For example, a gay couple living in a country where same sex marriages/unions are not legal. If you want to sponsor your boyfriend, you will have to live together for a year and gain (and be able to prove) common-law status, or get married.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:09 AM on June 6, 2012


I moved to the US from Australia to be with my guy because he had the better paying career, I had a job I hated, also at the time my family could fly to visit, his mother can't fly for medical reasons. If we had it to do again he'd move to Australia for pretty much all the same reasons steampuckett put up, and I miss the lifestyle.

Pretty much all immigration/marriage options moving to the US require you to do things on the governments timeline, which I agree is a complete and total pain in the ass, and does seem to involve a lot more just jumping into a marriage and hoping it works out.

Permanent residence is always an option you get to keep your citizenship that way, you can get dual citizenship moving to the US, they don't expect you to renounce your other citizenship, I believe Canada lets you have dual citizenship too so you can have both. Dual citizenship for US citizens gets confusing as from what I've read you there is nothing against it,and there is nothing really saying it is OK, it is a weird grey area they sort of tolerate.

The biggest deciding factor for both of us was family, as we are both super close to our families.

Side note re mireille - I managed to get my Aussie credit history taken into account when applying for a mortgage by getting copies of my Aussie credit history and letters from banks saying I paid off my all my loans on time but it was a pain in the ass, and the mortgage was through a very helpful CU.
posted by wwax at 9:11 AM on June 6, 2012


It sounds like you're both young... you could check out the reciprocal Working Holiday visas that are available between Canada and the US. They're usually the easiest way to get an "open" (no need to have pre-arranged employment) work permit or visa, and are usually good for one year or so.
posted by keep it under cover at 9:14 AM on June 6, 2012


Thank you for all the answers thusfar. :)

DarlinBri - I think he said that he will lose his credits soon, so he may have to start over. It is a problem - but if he can get a job here at the uni, he can finish his education free, even if it means taking a few extra years to do it. Though this job issue is a very big concern for both of us.

Keep it under cover - thanks for the info, we weren't sure about the conjugal partner option. I know that I could only visit the states for 6 months, for example, before my 'visitor' visa would run out and I'd have to return. Is it the same for him visiting Canada? I ask (anyone) because I'm not sure how you acquire 'common-law' status or have him live here if he can only visit for a limited time (and even then they may not let him in at the border if his intention is to stay). Can they stay in the country after you have applied and while you're waiting for the application to go through? (Just not work)?
posted by Serendipitous at 9:15 AM on June 6, 2012


I don't think there is a working holiday arrangement between Canada and the US.

You might want to look into the NAFTA visas that are available, though--the US version is called a TN1 visa. You do need to fit into a list of specific professions. Here's a link to more information about the US side--I don't know how much it differs on the Canadian side. If one of you meets the professional requirements and can get a job offer, this visa is probably the best bet for getting the two of you in the same place quickly in order to establish common-law status.

I'm a Canadian in a relationship with an American, so I've looked into this. Unfortunately I don't qualify for the TN1, and since we are a gay couple, marriage wasn't an option. Luckily she was able to find a job in Canada, so we're going to be able to move together without seeking relationship visas. I think if you can, finding an employment-type visa for one of you is probably the best first step. It's likely to be a faster process.

You're right that there would be a time limit on him visiting Canada as well--I think probably 3-6 months. (Canadians can stay in the US for only 3 months with no visa, I think.)
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:37 AM on June 6, 2012


One thing you may want to check into is the situation with your car -- your loan may not permit you to take the car out of the country permanently/long term and register it in a different country. That may mean you have to pay off the loan before you can move it across the border.

As an example, from Toyota Canada's webpage on Financed vehicles:

If you are taking your vehicle outside of Canada for longer than 30 days, you must notify TFS immediately and choose one of the following options:

Buy out the vehicle
Complete a Transfer (to someone living in Canada)
Negotiate with the dealer to terminate your contract and buy out the vehicle
Relocation to the USA is stricly prohibited.

posted by jacquilynne at 9:46 AM on June 6, 2012


How much experience does he have (years wise) as a sysadmin? I'm a Canadian sysadmin/IT manager type who also never finished college and to be frank have never had trouble finding a decent job on the strength of my previous experience. Many companies in the tech sector up here don't place as much weight on your diploma as your work history and current skillsets, and if he's currently in a position where he's doing planning and purchasing for a mid sized business that speaks well of his capabilities.
posted by barc0001 at 9:56 AM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think there is a working holiday arrangement between Canada and the US.

It's true that there is no formal bilateral agreement, but American citizens can still benefit from the International Experience Canada program through organizations such as SWAP. See swap.ca. I know an American citizen who is currently working in Canada on an open work permit via SWAP.

You might want to look into the NAFTA visas that are available.

NAFTA facilitates work permits/visas in just four categories: traders, investors, professionals/technicians, and intra-company transferees. OP, it doesn't sound like your boyfriend would qualify as a trader or an investor. As for professionals/technicians, there are certain categories of professionals and technicians who qualify, and from what I remember, the IT categories are very specific and limited - in addition to falling within a specific category, your boyfriend would have to meet the educational requirement, which is usually at least a bachelor degree, and your boyfriend would have to prove that he is travelling to Canada for the purpose of pre-arranged employment/services pursuant to a job offer or contract. Lastly, intra-company transferee would require his American employer to be transferring him to a Canadian parent, affiliate, or subsidiary company.

I know that I could only visit the states for 6 months, for example, before my 'visitor' visa would run out and I'd have to return. Is it the same for him visiting Canada? I ask (anyone) because I'm not sure how you acquire 'common-law' status or have him live here if he can only visit for a limited time (and even then they may not let him in at the border if his intention is to stay). Can they stay in the country after you have applied and while you're waiting for the application to go through? (Just not work)?

The validity period for Canadian visitor records is the same - 6 months. He could always apply to extend his visitor record, and the extension could be granted, but as you suspect it's risky. He could be refused at any time, and forced to return to the US on very short notice with no job to return to. I really advise you to speak to an immigration lawyer about this, but if you decide to have him come to Canada (I have no idea about the US side of things), I think (and IANAL) the best first step is to have him apply for a one year open work permit via SWAP. This will get him in quickly and easily, for the longest period possible.

The work permit will likely be for one year less one day. This may or may not be on purpose by CIC to prevent people from using this program to gain common-law status. If so, then while he is in Canada, he works his butt off to find a good job with an employer who is willing to help him stay in Canada. There are a couple ways to do this, but again, his lack of degree may well be a problem - not just for landing the job in the first place, but for proving to the Canadian government that he is more qualified than unemployed Canadians for that job, or that he brings significant benefit to the Canadian economy, which is hard to show without a post-secondary education or significant or very unique experience in the field.

If the work thing doesn't pan out, then you may have no choice but to get married. And really, in my opinion (again, IANAL), getting married is going to be the easiest, fastest, least frustrating way for him to immigrate to Canada.

Really, consider speaking to a lawyer. I hope I've helped, but a lawyer might know of some exception somewhere that I'm not aware of, and will be able to give you a clearer picture of the odds of certain options succeeding over others.
posted by keep it under cover at 10:34 AM on June 6, 2012


Definitely some great stuff to think of here (I hadn't thought of the car thing, never heard of SWAP, and wasn't sure what the economy was like in Canada for sys admins). This is why I asked you guys and you have come through!

Thank you!

We have been leaning towards me going US side, though as several people have pointed out, the US way is a lot more beaurocracy and red tape than the Canadian side of things, which makes the latter more appealing imho.

We've spoken to an immigration lawyer for the K1 visa going US way, and while we're willing to pay the extra expense, we were a little scared off by their list of requirements for proof of the relationship (joint leases and bank accounts, pictures of my living space at his place, for example - how could I really have that if I only visit once every other month because of their rules?!). We also spoke briefly with a lawyer about a K3 (upwards of 6 grand for that one and I wouldn't be able to work for 2 years).

The K1 also has the slight downfall of making engagement and marriage a formality, rather than a natural movement of our relationship, which has caused a lot of emotional stress on both him and myself. But as far as that part goes, I think both of us need to just get our eye back on th ball, so to speak, and remember that the important part is the end game of being together. I have to say though, having to "discuss" getting engaged according to a deadline really takes some (almost all) of the fun/romance out of it.

We did consider the work visas (HB1 and HN1? The NAFTA one for sure) with me going US side since I could potentially qualify as an accountant, and it turns out that not only do you have to wait until you get to the border to find out if you are accepted (risky!), but it is very difficult to transition from the NAFTA work one to a different VISA later without having to return to your home country for an undisclosed amount of time. The US side really has a problem with people switching from one status to another and makes it really risky/difficult.
posted by Serendipitous at 11:17 AM on June 6, 2012


Get married. It will make his emigration to Canada much easier.

I emigrated from the US to Canada in 1997. The opposite move, my partner to the US, would have been impossible or at least extremely problematic because we are a same-sex couple and could request "humane and compassionate" consideration as such. And this was 8 years before same-sex marriage was legal across Canada.

Yes our circumstance doesn't apply to you- but would you actually want to emigrate to a country where same-sex couples are treated as strangers before the law for immigration purposes? Would you want to raise children in the US?
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:21 AM on June 6, 2012


A little detail about moving up to Canada -- your BF will have to leave all his shit behind (officially) until he gets his PR status. No moving truck full of stuff. They don't like that at the border -- unless you want to spin a yarn about how you are moving home, but I wouldn't suggest it because your travel history won't support it. Yeah you can bring things up peacemeal, but big ticket items, forget it. Basically what can fit in a trunk and/or backseat and is plausibly "just visiting" gear is the absolute most you can get away with.

When he gets his PR for Canada, that's when everything can be moved, in a truck eg U-Haul. You create a spreadsheet with EVERYTHING you want to bring across the border when you "land" (that's when your PR visa gets stamped, and you are officially a resident -- you must cross a border for this to happen). This list is itemized and must include value and serial numbers for stuff that has serials, and you bring the list with your stuff and the border people look at it and look at your truck full of shit and they x-ray the truck and look in it and say "Welcome to Canada Dude!" And everyone has some Tim Hortons*.

You get to import ONE car when you land, and it has to be your car -- 100% owned -- and it has to be your personal vehicle, and they don't like it if you sell it right away either. And you have to get it certified as having passed Canadian inspection. So that's just a detail, but relevant decision point -- we chose to sell my car rather than import it because: less hassle, and didn't need two cars up here.

Common Law marriage is a Thing in Canada, but honestly getting the paperwork done and making it all legal makes the PR application casebook look better -- and making that casebook look as good as possible is What You Want To Do.

Don't forget the health insurance factor. If you guys live down there, you have to deal with that whole fustercluck. Don't underestimate how awesome it is to not have to worry about how you will pay the doctor bill. Dammit I said I wouldn't get political.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:50 AM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


The K1 also has the slight downfall of making engagement and marriage a formality, rather than a natural movement of our relationship, which has caused a lot of emotional stress on both him and myself. But as far as that part goes, I think both of us need to just get our eye back on th ball, so to speak, and remember that the important part is the end game of being together. I have to say though, having to "discuss" getting engaged according to a deadline really takes some (almost all) of the fun/romance out of it.

I understand 100%. I wrote you a MeMail about my experience with this.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:08 PM on June 6, 2012


We've spoken to an immigration lawyer for the K1 visa going US way, and while we're willing to pay the extra expense, we were a little scared off by their list of requirements for proof of the relationship (joint leases and bank accounts, pictures of my living space at his place, for example - how could I really have that if I only visit once every other month because of their rules?!). We also spoke briefly with a lawyer about a K3 (upwards of 6 grand for that one and I wouldn't be able to work for 2 years).

Your lawyer either has crap for brains or is being ridiculously cautious, or you're misunderstanding what was said to you.

Requirements for establishing the relationship for a K1 are pretty simple for you: send copies of schmoopy but non-dirty emails, and pictures of you together, along with notes to saying why you wouldn't have phone records or passport stamps. That's realistically all that's needed. At the K1 interview they might ask you what your beau's parents' names are or where you met, if the agent is feeling suspicious. Bank accounts? That's ludicrious.

If you move to the US as a fiancee or new bride, you'll initially receive a two-year conditional green card. Towards the end of its life, you'll have to establish that your marriage is genuine and not immigration fraud -- that's when you'll want to show bank accounts, that someone is on someone else's health insurance, etc. The more evidence the better.

If your lawyer is confusing these two processes, crap for brains. If, however, you confused the two, that's just normal being flustered and your lawyer is still sort of crap for brains for not making certain you understood the difference.

We also spoke briefly with a lawyer about a K3 (upwards of 6 grand for that one and I wouldn't be able to work for 2 years).

Also wrong. After you marry under a K1 or enter under a K3, you can file for an Employment Authorization Document when you file your AOS paperwork. A realistic guess would be that you might be unable to work until 60-90 days after filing the EAD paperwork. Plus whatever time elapses between you entering the US and the AOS/EAD paperwork being filed, of course.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:31 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


FWIW, I don't mean that in a YAY MOVE TO AMERICA sense. It's entirely possible that moving your beau up to Canada makes more sense for you, esp. if either of you have any health care issues. I'd just rather you didn't make your decision on the basis of misinformation, is all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:40 PM on June 6, 2012


Sorry to post more. The proof of relationship stuff can seem pretty daunting to start with. From my experience only, I am not an expert in anyway, but this is just what happened with us when you are applying for your temporary residency card that lasts 2 years they are looking more for signs that you have known each other for a while and that the relationship developed normally.

So things like letters would be good, phone bills showing calls and texts to each other, copies of chat logs, texts even if desperate. Photos of the 2 of you together, which each others family or friends is best to show that you are fully integrated into each others lives. Signed affidavits from family and friends. Copies of plane tickets if you have traveled together. Holiday photos. You won't need crazy amounts of paperwork style proof to start it's definitely more to show the history. Though having that stuff can help of course. If they record your crossing into and out of the US at the border, even if not in your passport they will be able to check all that when they do your paperwork and most likely will.

After 2 years when you apply to change from temp visa to permanent one then you are expected to have all the combined paperwork for bills, bank accounts etc. Don't do what my husband did and not add me to any of his bills or leases even though he said he would, it was a pain when it came time for paperwork. For that 2 years document everything like a fool, get combined names on everything and take a million more photos together. You want to drown them in paperwork at this point.

For moving to the US hese forums can be very helpful to read and I found this book super helpful if only for the checklists and step by step form filling in info. Between the two and my sick love of filling in forms and organizing paperwork I was able to get through to Permanent Green Card stage without a lawyer as our money situation was tight.

If you have any questions feel free to memail me.
posted by wwax at 1:01 PM on June 6, 2012


We're concerned about the K1 option because of the burden of proof for the relationship. The border won't stamp our passports when we go through, so there's no real record of our visits.

You can request these records under the Freedom of Information Act (U.S.) or the Access to Information or Privacy Act (Canada).

And please note that it only takes one border agent who thinks you're spending too much time in their country to ruin your day.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:29 PM on June 6, 2012


Oh hello, are you me (Canadian) and Mr. Kitkat (American) two years ago?

We were/ are in the exact same situation as you... except we've started immigration processes for BOTH places (first him to Canada and then, recently, me to US under the K1). Why we are applying to both places is a long complicated story, involving me losing my job, but for simplicity sake I will speak only to the Canadian process, and will also leave out details about evidence etc. if other people have already provided such information.

Incidentally, I work in the field of Canadian immigration, so I have a sense, legally and procedurally, of what I am talking about (usual IANAL and IANA immigration consultant disclaimer aplies).

Story:
Mr. Kitkat finishing grad school in US. Me in Canada working. We've been in a relationship (some of it long-distance) for 5 years at that point.

We decided Mr. Kitkat will move to Canada after graduating primarily because of my job (at the time).

We decided I will sponsor him for PR as a 'common-law partner'. Because he was under 30 years old, he applied for and got a 'working holiday' visa (akin to the aforementioned SWAP visa) valid for 6 months. He came to Canada on that visa, and moved in with me for that six month period. At the end of the working visa, we applied to change his status to 'Visitor', which as a US citizen allows him to remain in Canada for another 6 months as a visitor.

This got us up to the 1 year of living together which is needed to prove common-law status (and get proof of this! Add his name to a rent agreement, open a joint bank account etc). Because we've been a couple for 5 years, we also have masses of evidence of being in a genuine romantic/ conjugal relationship (photos, schmoopy emails, testimony from friends etc).

We send off the PR application for PR and WAIT. Mr. Kitkat is allowed stay in Canada as a Visitor while waiting for PR. If PR processing exceeds the 6 month validity of his stay as a visitor, he can apply to 'renew' his status as a visitor for another 6 months (and so forth until final decision is made on his application).


Considerations that people may not have mentioned

1. MONEY. It is significantly more expensive to immigrate to the US than to Canada (once you factor in various future adjustment of status fees etc). Also, check sponsorship requirements for US and Canada. For either country, the sponsor needs to meet a certain income threshold/ requirement in order to qualify as a sponsor. This may or may not affect your decision to go to the US or to Canada. You will also need to be prepared to be the breadwinner while waiting on a potentially lengthly immigration process (see 2)

2. "For him to be out of work, I fear will really do something bad to him emotionally, and he is already very prone to depression and high anxiety due to being an overachiever and perfectionist (I suffer the same issues)."

I CANNOT EMPHASIZE HOW IMPORTANT IT IS FOR YOU TO DISCUSS THIS AND TO MAKE A GAME PLAN TO ADDRESS THIS POSSIBILITY.

The immigration timeline is completely out of your control and you should be prepared financially and emotionally for an extended period of time where one person is without work - particularly if your/his self-worth is tied to employment. For example, we are still waiting for decision on Mr. kitkat's application and it is exceeding our hoped-for timeline by over 6 months.

3. Whichever country you end up in, would you/ your partner have future plans to possible move back to the other country? The US and Canada each has its own residency requirements in order to maintain PR or green card status. Familiarize yourself with these if moving between countries is a future possibility.

4. Bureaucracy. The US K1 process is more onerous than the Canadian common-law PR process in several ways, one is that an interview is mandatory for the K1, but - depending on the particulars of your partner's background - an interview may be waived in the PR process. Also upon getting PR, your partner can work, apply for health care etc - it is the equivalent of getting the permanent green card in the US. You will not have to marry as long as it is understood that you are in Canada as common-law partners (ie. living together in a conjugal relationship)

Whereas in the US, getting your K1 is only getting the VISA, after which you will have to marry and apply to adjust status to get your conditional green card (after 2 years which you will apply again to adjust to permanent status).


God, I have masses of more info but these are the key points I wanted to share. This is not an easy journey, nor is it as hard as a lot of people make it out to be. You can totally do this alone w/o lawyers etc if your cases are fairly simple (ie. no criminal background, no past immigration issues). Memail me if you have more questions, or need a sympathetic ear about either the PR or the K1 process... and GOOD LUCK!
posted by kitkatcathy at 1:49 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


kitkatcathy reminded me of one more thing that could have a huge impact on your plans (if you bring him to Canada) - "implied status."

If your boyfriend is able to get a work permit to come to Canada, and you get married or attain common-law status and he applies for PR with you as his sponsor - as long as he submits an application to extend his work permit simultaneously with his application for PR, prior to the expiry of his work permit, he gets to enjoy "implied status."

This means he would get to keep working until you get a decision on your sponsorship application. Now, he wouldn't have a physical document in hand, hence his status is "implied." This means he shouldn't leave Canada in the meantime, as there is a good chance he may not be allowed back in without a paper status document. But Service Canada explicitly states that with implied status, a foreign worker is permitted to keep working and the employer should accept/continue to use the expired SIN.

When you receive first stage approval from CIC, then your husband would receive a new paper status document that he can keep renewing until the final decision on the application. Or in our case, whoever was handling our application skipped first stage approval altogether and approved the whole shebang at once, and my husband was a landed immigrant without any further work permit fuss.

This can get tricky though, so make sure you consult a lawyer if you plan to go this route. But it meant everything for my husband to be able to keep working. He would have been crushed if he had to quit his job and just wait. Not to mention that financially, it would have been really, really hard.
posted by keep it under cover at 2:40 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


We're concerned about the K1 option because of the burden of proof for the relationship. The border won't stamp our passports when we go through, so there's no real record of our visits. We talk online every day using Gtalk and on skype using video chat. However, to prove your relationship they are asking for letters and phone calls, which we have very few records of since we use the internet for almost all our communication.

Having gone through the entire K1 process, I'm here to tell you that while there's a lot of paperwork and intimidating requirements, it's really not as bad as you think! I was in a long distance relationship spanning several years and continents, we didn't cohabit (obviously) or have a joint bank account (we weren't married), but this did not prove to be a problem at all. However, we had many photographs, travel itineraries, GTalk and Skype records, E-mails, and those worked just as well. He compiled a scrapbook about our relationship while I printed out screenshots of our G-chat and Skype chat records, and my Gmail inbox. When I brought the inches-thick file to my embassy interview (I was the alien fiancee), they really only just glanced at the scrapbook and "Aww-ed" for a bit (my partner made it REALLY cheesy).

We did all of this without an immigration lawyer, but Visa Journey was invaluable. Beyond waiting around for the paperwork to be processed and approved, everything went smoothly and largely without a hitch (I sent in a cheque for the wrong sum, but that was easily rectified). I think you'll be fine if you decide to choose this route.
posted by peripathetic at 3:24 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm American, he's Canadian. We wanted to live together in Canada and the only way for us to do that was get married so that's what we did almost 12 years ago. Immigration to Canada has changed it's rules several times since then so any exact details are probably not helpful. It does cost money (I'd say $2000 +/-, that includes everything - permits, physical, vehicle), you have to have a physical (I was diagnosed as diabetic at the time, but it apparently didn't affect my application), I was allowed to stay in Canada while my Landed Immigration application was processed, I got a work permit and worked (I lied about finishing high school to employers, not Immigration - never, ever lie to Immigration). It took about three years to complete, but I know other couples who got it done in about 18 months.

If something should happen between the mister and I, I will stay in Canada (I'm still just a Landed Immigrant but intend to become a citizen). I don't like the politics in the US and with my existing health issues I'd never be able to get health insurance.

Please feel free to meMail me if you think there's anything else I can help with. Good luck!
posted by deborah at 11:05 PM on June 6, 2012


I wanted to thank everyone again for their comments, suggestions, and support. You are all wonderful.

I'm going to have a discussion with le BF and we'll definitely talk about a lot of what you have all said here.

Thanks again!
posted by Serendipitous at 8:40 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


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