Coming to the U.S. From Canada: What You Need to Know

The U.S.–Canadian border customarily sees high amounts of traffic each day, from tourists to everyday commuters. Major travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic have made these border crossings more challenging for some. Whether you are looking to adjust your status in the U.S. for marriage or work purposes or simply enter the U.S., here is what you need to know.

Crossing the U.S.-Canadian Border

On March 21, 2020, the U.S. and Canada restricted non-essential travel between the two countries. This order is scheduled to remain in effect until August 20, 2020. Non-essential travel includes all travel related to tourism or recreational activities. Essential travel includes travel for work and study purposes, as well as for critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, safety, and security.

However, this restriction does not apply to U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, persons from foreign countries who hold valid travel documents, and persons from foreign countries in the visa waiver program. There also are individual exemptions to this restriction based on law enforcement, public safety, humanitarian, or public health concerns.

Anyone whom U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) encounters attempting to cross the border between ports of entry will not be detained; instead, CBP will return them immediately to Canada. Likewise, anyone who presents themselves at a port of entry without appropriate authorization or paperwork will be turned away.

As of right now, these restrictions do not apply to air travel from Canada to the U.S. They only apply to travel via land border crossings, such as by motor vehicle, train, ferry, and pleasure boats. Canadians also do not need to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the U.S., unless the particular region or state in the U.S. requires that they do so.  In recent weeks we have seen a small but rising number of travel allowed in land border crossing for non-essential purposes, such as vacation.

Fiance(e) Visas and Adjusting Status due to Marriage

Although the Trump Administration has enacted significant temporary restrictions on family-based immigration through the end of 2020, there are many exemptions to these restrictions.

For example, Canadian spouses of U.S. citizens may continue to apply for green cards or legal permanent residency. These individuals are likely to see significant delays in the already long processing times for green cards, but ultimately, no policy in place is preventing the processing of these applications. The temporary closure and restriction of services at USCIS field offices and processing centers has had an adverse impact on processing times. Additionally, although USCIS has temporarily delayed the planned furlough of thousands of workers due to budgetary problems, there are no guarantees that these massive furloughs will not occur before the end of the year. If these furloughs occur, processing times undoubtedly will further increase.

On the other hand, Canadian nationals who wish to enter the U.S. to marry a U.S. citizen must apply for K visas at the U.S. Consulate General Montreal. This type of visa allows these individuals to legally enter the U.S., marry a U.S. citizen as intended, and then petition for adjustment of status to that of a legal permanent resident. The individuals must marry within 90 days of the foreign national’s entry into the U.S. Many Canadians are faced with the issue of wanting to travel back and forth while engaged to a U.S. Citizen.  These individuals sometimes have prolonged engagement plans due to work or personal matters. They often worry that their travels may be questioned and ultimately banned from entry.  However, it is important to note that in such circumstances if the intent is truly to reside, work and carry life with substantial ties to and in Canada, while their fiancé may reside in the U.S., their travel without a K Visa may be justified. In such circumstances it is highly recommended that these individuals seek advice of an experienced immigration attorney.

Although these individuals can apply for employment authorization (EAD) upon entering the U.S., USCIS is currently taking anywhere from six to nine months to approve these applications. Same is true with respect to Travel Documents (“combo cards”). This timeframe is likely even longer due to the COVID-19 pandemic,

Adjustment of Status Due to Work

Canadians who are legally present in the U.S. on a work-related visa may be able to adjust their statuses to that of lawful permanent residents in some situations. These employment-based preference immigrant categories include:

  • EB-1 – priority workers, including individuals with extraordinary abilities in the arts, sciences, business, education, or athletics, professors and researchers, and some multinational managers and executives
  • EB-2 – individuals who are members of professions holding advanced degrees or have exceptional abilities
  • EB-3 – skilled workers, professionals, or other workers

The restrictions on work-related visas issued by the Trump administration on June 22, 2020, which extend until the end of 2020, do not affect the ability of Canadians already legally present in the country to pursue green cards. However, as is the case with family-based adjustment of status, processing times have substantially increased, and could increase further if USCIS employees ultimately are furloughed.

Contact us at LBE Law Firm Today and let us help you navigate through your immigration journey 

We offer our clients general legal representation in a wide variety of matters. However, a significant portion of our practice has always been immigration cases, including work, family and investment-based visa applications. We also handle bankruptcy filings, family law matters, and wills and estate planning. Contact us today at +1.424.273.5501 (Call, Text or WhatsApp) or via email at info@lbelawfirm.com

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