American working in Canada
January 18, 2009 8:47 PM   Subscribe

What does an American who wants to look for work in Vancouver, Canada need to know? What steps are necessary and what's the best order to do them in? If you get a job, what is the usual way to handle questions like health care, American Social Security payments, currency you're paid in? Other questions I can't even imagine. (details below)

My son-in-law is an architect with extraordinary computer skills. He has been working for a software company, sent around the country as a consultant to companies who purchase complex architectural software. He's just been laid off. He lives in Bellingham, Washington which is a 20 minute drive from the border. He'd like to stay in his (newly purchased) home, and Vancouver seems the best bet for having jobs and being within commuting distance. There seem to be jobs that would fit his skills, he has a great work history and excellent credit. But he knows nothing about the process of cross-border employment, and would rather not learn the hard way.

Any suggestions to make the process easier will be appreciated!
posted by kestralwing to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Hi, I'm from BC and I have quite a bit of knowledge of government programs aimed at recruiting foreign tech workers.

Your question is very broad, and I would encourage you to MeMail me. As a start, however, you should take a look at the Provincial Nominee Program.

I know there are some people who commute (as contractors) over the border, but you should really find out more about NAFTA labour regulations (I don't know much about these).

However, I am more than willing to help point you in the right direction.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:07 PM on January 18, 2009

I don't know a whole bunch about the labor side of things, but I live in the Lower Mainland, and I can tell you I sure wouldn't want to commute from Bellingham to Vancouver every day if I had any choice in the matter. Disregarding the wait times at the border crossings, to be in downtown Vancouver that's at least 70 minutes each way late at night with no traffic. Factor in rush hour and the borders and it's probably 2 hours each way.

If he is looking for a job in the Lower Mainland and gets the rest of the legalese equation squared away I'd suggest focusing his search in the Surrey/Langley area to make the commute more manageable, though I don't know how many firms in those areas would be looking for his skill set. There are a ton of construction companies in Surrey, so it might be all right...
posted by barc0001 at 3:34 AM on January 19, 2009

From what I understand, the process of getting a work permit moves at a glacial pace. I'm pretty sure that a NAFTA permit requires a job offer and an employer who's willing to jump through the requisite hoops to hire him instead of a Canadian.

Health care might be a problem; I would imagine that unless they employ a lot of people who reside in the U.S., they wouldn't even have a plan that covers basic care, since that's what the provincial health plan is for. As a nonresident, I'm pretty sure he's ineligible for that plan.

And I can't stress enough that he must tell only the truth to the border guards.
posted by oaf at 4:47 AM on January 19, 2009

NAFTA permits are a snap. Yes, you need a job offer. However, there aren't too many hoops to jump. You show up at the border with your (offer letter, university transcripts, resume, etc), you leave with your TN status. You don't even need an appointment.

The commute, on the other hand, is a killer. Listen to barc0001. That stretch from the border to downtown Vancouver is longer than you think.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:40 AM on January 19, 2009

I believe that architecture is a NAFTA approved career, so he would be able to get a work permit through that program if he and the job had the right credentials. This would require a legitimate job offer as an architect, though. As for the hoops, my experience was it required a letter, a few forms, proof of education, an hour wait at the immigration stop at the airport and some money. Super easy, in fact. When you work in Canada, you are treated like a Canadian. American taxes, social security, and health care would obviously not be observed, so he would have to take care of that independently. Generally speaking, unless you are making very large sums of money, if you pay income tax in one country you are exempt from paying it in the US, but you would still have to file in both countries each year, which can be a pain.
posted by slowfasthazel at 6:44 AM on January 19, 2009

I also don't have any thoughts about the cross-border working issues, but I'll third the recommendation that your SIL seriously rethink the commute he's looking at. After getting a NEXUS pass he should try leaving his house around 7 in the morning and see what time he makes it into the downtown core. My guess is he'd be very lucky to be in by 9. The Peace Arch and Pac Hwy crossings are the most congested in the country, and positively evil at their worst. Besides the border, there are 3 water crossings involving bridges/tunnels between the border and downtown, each of which can be very congested at any given time.
posted by cgg at 9:00 AM on January 19, 2009

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