Can a US Citizen Work in Canada?

Written by: Josh Katz, CPA

For many US citizens, the allure of working abroad is an exciting prospect. Canada is an attractive destination with its vibrant culture, diverse landscapes, and strong economy. However, before packing your bags, it’s essential to understand the legalities and processes involved in working across the northern border. This comprehensive guide will explore the various avenues for 
US citizens to work in Canada.

Canadian Work Permits

Securing a work permit is pivotal for any US citizen aspiring to work legally in Canada. These permits are the official documents granted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that authorize foreign nationals to engage in gainful employment within the country. They come in various forms, each tailored to specific circumstances.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)

TFWP is one of the primary avenues through which US citizens can obtain a work permit. To qualify under this program, applicants must first secure a bona fide job offer from a Canadian employer. The employer must also obtain a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from the Canadian government, demonstrating a genuine need for a foreign worker to fill the position.

International Mobility Program (IMP)

IMP offers a different route to work permits. This program is not based on the traditional employer-sponsored model and encompasses a range of situations covered by international agreements. US citizens who fall under these agreements can work in Canada without needing an LMIA, thus streamlining the immigration process.

It’s important to note that work permits are typically issued for specific durations and may be subject to renewal or extension. Additionally, they are tied to the employer who sponsored the application, meaning any change in employment would necessitate a new permit application.

Awareness of these distinct pathways to obtaining a work permit is crucial for US citizens looking to embark on a professional journey in Canada. Whether through the TFWP or IMP, understanding the specific requirements and responsibilities of each program is paramount for successfully transitioning into the Canadian workforce.

Table of Contents

NAFTA and the USMCA Agreement

US citizens seeking employment opportunities in Canada enjoy a unique advantage under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This groundbreaking trade pact facilitates seamless cross-border movement for certain professionals, eliminating the need for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) – a critical requirement in many other work permit applications.

Under the provisions of the USMCA, a defined list of professionals, including engineers, scientists, management consultants, and more, are granted expedited access to Canadian work permits. This streamlined process recognizes North America’s high demand for specialized skills and expertise and aims to foster greater economic collaboration.

This agreement has opened up new vistas for US citizens to explore work opportunities in Canada. For instance, an American engineer with a valid professional license and a job offer from a Canadian employer can apply for a work permit directly under the USMCA, bypassing the typical LMIA process. This expedites the application process and swiftly integrates skilled professionals into the Canadian workforce.

Moreover, the USMCA underscores the importance of professional mobility between the US and Canada. This interchange ensures that both nations benefit from exchanging specialized knowledge and experience, further strengthening their economic ties.


Therefore, the USMCA provides a unique pathway for US citizens to work in Canada by simplifying the application process for certain skilled professions. This agreement is a testament to the collaborative spirit between the United States and Canada, offering a mutually beneficial framework for professionals seeking to broaden their horizons across the border. Understanding the specific provisions of the USMCA can be a game-changer for US citizens looking to pursue career opportunities in Canada.

The Working Holiday Program

The Working Holiday Program presents an exceptional opportunity for US citizens between 18 and 35 to immerse themselves in Canadian culture while gaining valuable work experience. This program fosters cultural exchange, allowing participants to explore Canada beyond the traditional tourist experience.

  • Eligibility and Application Process

To kickstart this exciting venture, US citizens must first meet the age requirements and ensure they have a valid passport. The application process typically involves submitting the necessary documents, including proof of financial means to support oneself during the stay, a round-trip ticket, and sometimes a letter of introduction from the participant’s home country.

  • Securing Employment

Once in Canada, participants are free to seek employment in various fields. Whether it’s a temporary job in hospitality, agriculture, or even a professional internship, the Working Holiday Program opens doors to a diverse range of opportunities. The process is simplified, as participants are not required to have a specific job offer before entering the country.

  • Duration and Extensions

Participants in the Working Holiday Program can typically stay in Canada for up to two years. This extended period allows for a deeper immersion into Canadian life and culture. Moreover, participants have the option to extend their stay by exploring other immigration pathways or by applying for a different type of work permit if they wish to continue working in Canada beyond the program’s duration.

  • Benefits of the Working Holiday Program

Engaging in the Working Holiday Program offers numerous advantages for US citizens. It provides a chance to gain valuable work experience and encourages personal growth and cultural enrichment. Participants often form lasting connections, professionally and personally, and gain a broader global perspective.

The Working Holiday Program is a remarkable opportunity for US citizens to work in Canada while embracing a new culture. With its streamlined application process and the freedom to explore various job opportunities, this program opens doors for young professionals seeking an enriching international experience. Whether gaining new skills or forming lifelong connections, the Working Holiday Program offers a unique and transformative experience for those looking to expand their horizons in Canada.

Express Entry System

The Express Entry system is a points-based immigration pathway for US citizens seeking long-term employment in Canada. This streamlined process prioritizes skilled workers and aims to fill gaps in the Canadian job market.

  • Eligibility and Points Calculation

To be eligible for the Express Entry system, US citizens must meet specific criteria, including language proficiency, education, work experience, and age. Points are allocated based on these factors, determining an applicant’s Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. A higher score increases the likelihood of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

  • Creating an Express Entry Profile

The first step for US citizens is to create an Express Entry profile through the online portal. This profile serves as an official expression of interest in immigrating to Canada and outlines the applicant’s qualifications. Providing accurate information is crucial, as discrepancies can lead to delays or even rejection.

  • Receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA)

Applicants with high CRS scores stand a greater chance of receiving an ITA. This invitation grants them the opportunity to apply for permanent residence in Canada. Once issued, applicants have 60 days to complete and submit their application, including all required supporting documents.

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  • Permanent Residence and Integration

Upon completing the application process, US citizens receive confirmation of their permanent residence in Canada. This status allows them to live, work, and study anywhere in the country. It also opens up avenues for additional benefits, such as access to healthcare and social services.

Can US Citizens Work in Canada?

The short answer is yes. US citizens can indeed work in Canada through various avenues, ranging from temporary work permits to more long-term immigration programs. Understanding each option’s specific requirements and processes is crucial for a successful transition. Whether seeking short-term employment or considering a more permanent move, Canada offers a range of opportunities for US citizens looking to work abroad. Remember to consult with immigration professionals or official government sources for the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding your specific situation. Nonetheless, keep in mind that once you work in Canada, you will still be subject to US taxes as an American living abroad.