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I am a US citizen working for a fully remote US company. We hire internationally as well, but as far as I know our non-US team members are contractors (we do have Canadian team members).

Outside of whether or not the business will allow me to work from Canada, are there Canadian laws (or visa requirements, etc) which either need to be fulfilled before I can move to Canada, or prevent me outright from moving to Canada?

I see similar questions on this site for other countries, but not for Canada. I'm hopeful that this is because NAFTA or similar make it easy to do this without restriction, but I'd appreciate any guidance folks have. Ideally I'd live there for a year or more, depending on what's allowed.

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  • What do you mean by moving to Canada? Do you intend to become a permanent resident of Canada? Or do you simply want to spend a few months in Canada (even if you do it regularly)?
    – xngtng
    Jul 25 at 20:50
  • I'd like to live in Canada for about a year or so while continuing to work remotely for my US company. At this time I don't have plans to become a permanent resident, but that may change after I've lived there (and I assume at that point I'd work with an attorney to fulfill the requirements to do so).
    – mkdir
    Jul 25 at 20:51
  • 1
    The reason non-US residents work as contractors for a US company (you can replace US with any country) is because cross border employment is not something the tax regulation of the world is currently prepared for. It is fully impossible legally -- our company paid the lawyers to look into it and they didn't like what they saw. You, on the other hand, have a US taxpayer identifier and would pay US taxes so the situation of your team members is completely different and is irrelevant to you.
    – chx
    Jul 26 at 3:25

2 Answers 2

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A work permit, include possible CUSMA/NAFTA facilitation, is usually only possible if you have a Canadian employer or you are self-employed in Canada.

If your principal purpose is to temporarily visit Canada and your activity does not qualify as working in Canada, you may carry out such activity without a work permit.

What kind of activities are not considered to be “work”?

An activity which does not really 'take away' from opportunities for Canadians or permanent residents to gain employment or experience in the workplace is not “work” for the purposes of the definition.

Examples of activities for which a person would not normally be remunerated or which would not compete directly with Canadian citizens or permanent residents in the Canadian labour market and which would normally be part-time or incidental to the reason that the person is in Canada include, but are not limited to:

[...] long distance (by telephone or Internet) work done by a temporary resident whose employer is outside Canada and who is remunerated from outside Canada; [...]

U.S. citizens do not require prior permission (visa or eTA) before seeking admission into Canada as a temporary resident. Your application for admission will be considered at the border.

Temporary residents without work or study permit (i.e. visitors) are usually admitted for a six-month period. You may extend your visitor status without strict limitation, however you are required to convince an agent that your purpose in Canada is temporary and you will leave Canada by the end of your authorization. For example, if you do not have a home to return to, this may count against you. If you tell the officer that you intend to move to (instead of visit) Canada, it may also negatively impact your application.


Other factors other than immigration laws

Note that you can still be liable to taxation in Canada if you become a tax resident of Canada (which is independent of your immigration status), which depends on the situation, may also create additional responsibilities for your employer. Taxation obligations may already exist for your employer if you carry non-incidental employment duties in Canada.

Even if for the purposes of the federal immigration law your activity may not be "working", provincial employment standards (minimum wage, break time, workers' compensation etc.) may still apply based on physical location of the employee. That is also partly why many businesses would rather not employ you as a remote employee (instead of as a self-employed contractor or an employee of a local agency) in another country.

You also would not qualify as a visitor for provincial healthcare coverage. Your U.S. or other insurance may have exclusions if you spend too much time in Canada.

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  • Wow, that official Canadian government website pretty much claims that immigrants take away jobs from hard-working Canadians.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jul 26 at 8:18
  • @Obie2.0 where did you see that
    – Bersan
    Jul 26 at 11:30
  • 1
    The employer has Canadian filing obligations even if the employee is not a resident of Canada for tax purposes: "Non-resident employees providing employment services in Canada are subject to the same withholding, remitting, and reporting obligations as Canadian resident employees. ... Jul 26 at 12:11
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    "Therefore, any employer, including a non-resident employer, is required to withhold amounts on account of the income tax liability of an employee in Canada even if the employee is likely to be exempt from tax in Canada because of a tax treaty. For the employer to be relieved of their obligation to withhold, the employee would have to apply for and get an income tax waiver from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)." Jul 26 at 12:11
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    @Obie2.0 And labour market assessments are overtly part of many employment-based immigration applications in Canada (LMIA), U.S. (PERM), Australia (LMT), New Zealand (Job Check), Switzerland and China (certainly a non-exhaustive list),. They all say on their websites loudly that admitting a foreign worker usually requires exhausting (or at least attempts to hire) domestic candidates first to sustain domestic labour market and prevent wage dumping.
    – xngtng
    Jul 26 at 14:51
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This commercial visa website says that

You can move to Canada with a remote job as long as you are working for a Canadian company. If, however, you are working for, let's say, an American company, you could stay in Canada on a temporary resident Visa and work as an independent foreign contractor, however you would need to return to your home country once your Visitor visa expires.

So it may be possible to do what you want.

And the official CA site for this visa is Applying for a visitor visa (temporary resident visa) – IMM 5256

Whether or not you qualify is up to them.

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  • 2
    United States citizens do not require visa to enter Canada for any temporary purpose. They are entitled to seek admission (and work and study authorizations as applicable) at any port of entry.
    – xngtng
    Jul 25 at 20:48

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