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I'm an American citizen, and our business is based out of the United States. Is it possible for my partner to move to the US under a work visa if he is Canadian?

  • He is 17, turning 18 in February.
  • He is a self-taught programmer like me.
  • The business is a software solution company.
  • He works professionally remotely and has been for a year making $4k a month.
  • My partner does not have a bachelor's degree.
  • My partner is still in high school.
  • My partner has a sister who is an American citizen, 20 years old.
  • My partner's uncle is an American citizen.
  • My partner's parents are not Americans.

What are our options? Is this possible?

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  • 1
    This question might get a better reception at Expatriates. – phoog Jun 11 '18 at 9:44
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There's probably no good way to do this.

Most people associate the term "work visa" with employer-sponsored visas. These visas generally require at least a bachelor's degree, so they would not apply here. You can read more about these visas at the USCIS page Temporary (Nonimmigrant) Workers. The E-1 and E-2 categories might work, as they are defined somewhat vaguely, but the requirements to invest "substantial capital" or to engage in "substantial trade" between the US and Canada seem unlikely to be met here.

Your partner's sister can sponsor him for immigration to the US under certain conditions; she must be living in the US, and she must be at least 21 years old. (An uncle or aunt cannot sponsor a nephew or niece for immigration to the US.) If she lives in the US, she could petition for him to immigrate after her next birthday. If the petition is approved, he will then have to wait for a visa to become available, because the number of applicants every year is higher than the number of visas available. The current wait time for a sibling from Canada (or from anywhere other than India, Mexico, or the Philippines) is around 13 years, so this does not seem like it will be very helpful in this case.

Another option would be to apply for immigration under the investor route, but that also seems unlikely unless your partner has access to some family wealth. The EB-5 visa provides for the immigration of people who can create at least 10 jobs by investing in a US business; the size of the investment must be at least $500,000 if the business is in a "targeted employment area," or $1,000,000 if it is elsewhere. Targeted employment areas are designated rural areas and designated areas with unemployment at least 150% of the national average.

A final option is the "diversity visa" lottery, more commonly known as the green card lottery. Eligibility is determined not by country of citizenship but by place of birth. People born in Canada are not eligible to participate, but if your partner was born elsewhere he might be eligible to enter.

Since none of these seems likely to help, at least in the near term, it may be that your best option will be for you to look into moving to Canada, or to set up the company so it can function with your partner in Canada and you in the US.

  • This sounds like the conclusion we had come to. I was hoping there was some other method. I do have one question: at what point can my partner move into the US considering the business will be US based; how much revenue does this business need to earn before the business can sponsor his residence (he still won't have a bachelor's degree by then but will have made vital contributions to the business' success)? – John Church Jun 14 '18 at 10:27
  • @JohnChurch you may want to ask an immigration lawyer. But making vital contributions to the business's success doesn't help much. If the business has a lot of business in Canada he might qualify as a treaty trader, but otherwise the monetary thresholds relate to how much money he invests in the business, not how much money the business makes thanks to his labor. Even huge multibillion-dollar multinational companies are limited to the options above, which mostly require a bachelor's degree. – phoog Jun 15 '18 at 3:27

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