Moving To the USA
March 9, 2011 6:24 AM   Subscribe

I am possibly moving to the United States from Canada for a job, and I'd like to get some insight into some aspects of the immigration process.

I am considering a job offer that will require me to move to Seattle, bringing along my wife, son, two cats, and two gerbils. The employer indicates that they'll arrange a work visa for me, but my wife is a medical professional here and would like to be able to work as well. What steps must we take in order to ensure that -- if she can find a job -- she'll be eligible to work in the US?

If it makes a difference, she's an X-Ray tech/CT tech with a significant amount of experience.

Additionally, I've heard that our pets may present a problem at the border. What do I need to do there?

Lastly, what are the unknown unknowns for my situation? It seems straightforward, but what parts of this move can come up and bite me in the ass?
posted by ChrisR to Law & Government (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Bringing dogs into the US. Bringing cats into the US. Seems like it won't be an issue, really.

Can't help you with your other questions. Good luck!
posted by cooker girl at 6:41 AM on March 9, 2011

Situation might be lot easier for you since you since you are a canadian citizen. I think canadians has some kind of a work authorization program. But if you employer would like to do a visa then you'll get a H1B visa. Past few years USCIS issued only 65,000 H1B visas per year and they used to fill up on the first day. But now with the current economy situation it has gotten better. You can even pay an extra $1500 and get the via in 2 weeks.

Since you wife is not a doctor I don't think she'll have a problem. AFAIK for doctors you have to complete an internship in US to get the license.
posted by WizKid at 6:44 AM on March 9, 2011

Your wife may qualify for an H1-B visa. Because of the economy, the situation has improved significantly for those seeking H1-B visas. They used to go within days but two years ago, it took months and last year, several went unused. I think your wife's status may somehow be tied to yours. Once you get an offer, I think it's reasonable to bring this up with your employer.
posted by kat518 at 6:55 AM on March 9, 2011

OK so the way it works by default is that you and your wife apply at the same time; you (va your employer) for an H-1B visa, and she for an H4 visa. The H4 allows her (and your child) to reside with you in the US but does not allow her to work. If she wants to work, she should apply for her own H-1B when you do.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:59 AM on March 9, 2011

I just asked a coworker who is here on an H1B and who has a wife with a professional license: She is on an H4 visa, like DarlingBri said. According to him, our employer's legal counsel has said that his wife will need to be sponsored for her own H1B by her own employer.

Because you are both (presumably) Canadian citizens, you both should qualify for TN status (also improperly called a "TN Visa") that allows Canadian or Mexican citizens to work in the US for up to three years. There are some additional limits on occupations that can qualify under TN, so if your employer is sponsoring you for an H1B, I'd go that route and have your wife try for TN after checking with an immigration attorney.
posted by fireoyster at 7:20 AM on March 9, 2011

Getting a work visa is not simple. I am a Canadian who worked in the States for a few years under the TN-1 visa. You need to meet certain specific requirements to qualify at all and then need to bring specific documentation with you to the border crossing. The criteria for acceptance are vague and in the end you're at the mercy of the individual Immigration and Naturalization Service employee who you happen to get. The visa is good for one year. Every time you cross the border, they will scrutinize your eligibility again. At the end of the year you can either apply for extension by mail or cross the border out and then in, going through the whole application process.

People have an idea that there's some special leniency applied to Canadians by US immigration people--"oh, there just harmless Canadians"--but there isn't. Showing up at a border crossing with all your possessions in tow, etc., and then being denied permission is one stressful possibility. Make sure your potential employer really means their offer of getting you a visa and that they understand that it's not trivial.

Whatever visa you get, your status is not permanent, which makes it difficult to do long-term planning and settling in. How can you buy a home if you might have to leave the country at some point, etc.?

I don't know about the H1B, but at least for the TN1, your visa is good for one employer only. If you don't like the job, or they don't like you, you're stuck--you have no permission to take other jobs (you're also ineligible for unemployment insurance, even though you've been paying in.)

Good luck--if it it's a job and situation that you'd really enjoy for a couple of years, it could be worth it, but make sure you understand what you're getting into.
posted by Paquda at 7:42 AM on March 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Additionally, I've heard that our pets may present a problem at the border. What do I need to do there?

Assuming they're dogs or cats, health certificate and proof of rabies vaccination. No big deal.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:45 AM on March 9, 2011

Note that a work visa or status does not necessarily mean that you are immigrating- for example if your employer has you do TN-1 status, then technically you can't have the intent to actually immigrate (ie apply for a green card and ultimately permanent residency) and if your spouse comes with you on TD status, she can't work on that status and instead she might have to find a job and then have that employer set her up on H1-B or get her own TN-1.

I recommend that you self educate on what type of visa they're setting up for you, as well as the lengthy immigration process if you are considering staying in the US long term. Make sure that you know what you need to do in case of sudden job termination because you have to file essentially immediately with USCIS to inform them.

Also research and do the appropriate things for your Canadian tax situation when you leave. You will obviously have to file Canadian taxes for the year that you move and sometimes for years that you are not in Canada at all depending on what ties you still have to Canada.
posted by tangaroo at 7:57 AM on March 9, 2011

just to add to what Paquda said.
Getting a H1B is not simple, but it's not very complicated either. If you have the proper qualification, your employer should be able to get it for you. Make sure you have the visa, before making any plans to move.
unlike applying for visa at the border, you are almost guaranteed entry if you have the visa stamp before hand.
Your wife and child can come under H4 and then later your wife can apply for a H1B if she finds a job.
Initial H1B visa will be for 3 years and later you can apply for an extension for another 3 years. At the end of that you have to leave the country for at least an year before applying for H1B again. The exception to this rule is if you have a pending permanent residency application. In that case you can keep renewing the H1B until you get/denied PR.

Everything I said is accurate according to my knowledge, but please double check them with an Immigration lawyer.
posted by WizKid at 4:52 PM on March 9, 2011

You need an immigration lawyer; family work permit should be part of what the package you are negotiating with your potential employer. It will be fairly easy for your wife to get a work visa since she's a doctor, and the fact that you're both from Canada makes it easier again. But it's a complex and long-winded process. If you screw it up at any stage, then it can blow up on you or your relatives years later.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:55 PM on March 9, 2011

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