This article discusses can Canadian citizens do business in USA? The answer is yes, Canadian citizens can do business in the USA as long as they secure the right immigration status to conduct their activities and meet their objectives. The US is an attractive destination for Canadian businesses due its proximity, lack of language and cultural barriers, large and affluent consumer base, and well-developed infrastructure that facilitates trade between the two countries. Besides economic reasons, many Canadians are attracted to the lifestyle benefits of warm weather some US states can offer them such as Florida or Hawaii. However, despite cultural, economic, political and military alliances, Canada and the United States are separate countries that still require each other’s citizens to acquire an appropriate immigration status in order to live, work, study and do business in the other one’s country. Therefore, Canadian citizens are allowed to do business in the US but have to be aware of and comply with US immigration law and be sure obtain the appropriate immigration status that aligns with their business and/or personal objectives.
Doing business with US clients
For the Canadians that wish to do cross-border business selling goods and/or services across the border the most appropriate immigration status would be B1. Canadians are not required to obtain a visa before visiting the US for business or pleasure. At the border, Canadians who state that the purpose of their visit is business are given B1 status and can be admitted for up to 6 months at a time. However, with B1 status, the business activities Canadian citizens can undertake in the United States are limited, but can include the following:
- Consulting with business associates
- Traveling for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or a conference on specific dates
- Negotiating a contract
- Participating in short-term training
The B1 status is suitable for representatives of Canadian businesses that still wish to be located in Canada but do business with US clients. B1 status allows Canadian citizens to conduct business development activities in USA such as meeting with potential clients and partners, negotiating contracts and going to business conferences. The downside of the B1 is that business visitors are not allowed to work in the United States, meaning they cannot be involved in day-to-day management of a company and in general conduct any income generating activity while on US territory.
Investing in a US business
Canadian citizens can conduct some business activities in the US while on B1 status such as scouting for investment opportunities, but cannot run their own business while on B1, regardless of if they hold an official position in their business or not. To successfully be able develop a business in the US, Canadians have several options:
- E2 Visa – is for Canadian citizens who make a substantial investment in a US business. The visas are issued for up to 5-years and can be renewed indefinitely. The investor can bring her or his immediate family (spouse, children). This visa is suitable for Canadians who wish to either start a new business or acquire an existing one. The investment has to be made in a real and operating business and cannot be a passive investment in stocks, bonds or real estate. For more information visit our E2 visa page.
- E1 Visa – is for businesses that have a substantial trade with US, either the Canadian business is selling good/services primarily to the US or is consistently buying from US suppliers. It allows E1 visa holders together with their family to live and work in the US order to engage in international trade primarily between the United States and Canada. For more information please visit our E1 visa page.
- L1 Visa – this visa is suitable for Canadians who wish to expand their existing business by opening a new subsidiary, affiliate or a branch in the United States while maintaining the activities of their business in Canada or abroad. The L1 visa allows a Canadian company to send an executive, manager or a specialized knowledge employee to the United States for the purpose of setting up a new U.S. office or in order to join an already existing US office. The advantage of L1 visa is that Canadian citizens who do business in USA can apply directly at the port of entry (airport or land border crossing with the US). For more detail visit our L1 visa requirements page.
- EB-5 – allows a foreign investor together with their spouse and children to receive permanent residency (green card) in the United States in exchange for making a minimum investment into a U.S. commercial enterprise or Regional Center project. The minimum investment currently stands at $1.05 million or $800,000, if made in a rural area or an area with high unemployment. In addition, the investment has to create 10 full-time jobs in the US. The downside of EB-5 is that it is a lengthy process and requires a large amount of capital. For more information visit the EB5 page.
While Canadian investors and entrepreneurs have to follow US immigration law, just as everybody else, Canadian citizens can do business in USA and they do have some advantages such as being able to apply for L1 visa directly at a port of entry or having treaties which allow Canadians to obtain E1 or E2 visas. Canadian businesses also enjoy the benefits of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (formerly NAFTA) which reduces many tariffs and promotes fair trade relations.
If you are a Canadian citizen looking to do business in USA or otherwise invest in US business, contact our experienced business and immigration lawyers in Miami, Florida USA or book a consultation today with one of our attorneys. We offer full business and immigration legal services to the Canadian business community in South Florida and beyond.
Malescu Law P.A. – Business & Immigration Lawyers