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How to Expand or Relocate a Canadian Business to America

Ms. Inglish is a successful employment & training pro, setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed in gainful employment.

Moving from Canada to America? (Falls on the border between Canada and U.S.A.)

Moving from Canada to America? (Falls on the border between Canada and U.S.A.)

Moving From Canada to U.S.A. for Business

The following information comprises guideline information and resources for moving a business from Canada to the United States and for entering America as a Canadian citizen in order to start a business.

U.S. Immigration Changes in the 2020s

In 2017, the United States Senate introduced bill S.354 to limit immigration to the U.S. This is the RAISE Act or Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act. The purpose of the bill is to reduce permitted annual green cards issued in America by one-half.

The bill, would also produce the following changes:

  1. Significantly reduce family-based immigration
  2. Institute a cap of 50,000 refugee admissions annually
  3. Eliminate the visa diversity lottery (green card lottery)
  4. Eliminate the demand-driven model of employment-based immigration and replace it with a points system (Please see material below)

As of June 2020, the bill had been revised and re-proposed (S.1720, S.1103, H.R.2278, S 2510) but not yet received a vote. Several additional proposed RAISE Act bills use the same acronym but do not involve immigration.

Canadians wishing to transfer their businesses (or start new ones) from Canada to the U.S.A. should follow the proceedings of this bill closely. The U.S. Congress legislative actions can be accessed and searched here.

From 2017 through 2020, major immigration policy changes were made to the requirements for obtaining a visa in order to operate a business in America.

Immigration, Visas, and a Point System

Canadians often ask how they might immigrate to the United States and start a business. This has become a more important question since American security was shaken by 9/11, Mexico/USA border problems, and intermittent immigration bans into the US. This became more of a major issue under the Donald Trump administration with its motto "America First."

From 2017 through 2020, major immigration policy changes were made to the requirements for obtaining a visa in order to operate a business in America.

A new requirement for immigrants became the mandate to score 30 points on a very difficult pre-entry examination as part of the Cotton-Purdue RAISE Act of 2017-2019. The 30-point rule sharply divided those who can enter the U.S. and obtain a visa and eventually a green card from those who cannot.

Ideal Immigration Candidate

  1. Is between 26 and 30 years old. The older you are, the fewer points you score—Age 50 scores no points.
  2. Possesses an earned PhD for 13 points. A high school diploma scores only one point. Less than a high school diploma scores no points.
  3. Invests a preferred $1,800,000 in America for business purposes for 12 points, but invests at least $1,300,000. It takes a substantial amount of money to enter the United States from other countries to start a business.
  4. Has won an Olympic medal in the last eight years (15 points) or a Nobel Prize (25 points).
  5. If not starting a business, has an American job offer at $155,800 annually (13 points) or more.
  6. Speaks fluent English.

It takes a substantial amount of money to enter the United States from other countries to start a business.

Immigration Rules for Bringing Business to America

Until the RAISE Act becomes law, to enter America to start a business according to current regulations, a Canadian must:

  1. Prove that they have either at least $500,000 to $1,000,000 in American dollars (USD) for business purposes in pursuit of an EB-5 Investment Green Card; or $50,000 to $250,000 American dollars for the E-2 Visa. The amount in either case would be increased under the RAISE ACT to $1.3 million to $1.8 million USD.
  2. Plan a business that will clearly increase the American economy (no nonprofits allowed).
  3. Create 10 permanent full-time paycheck jobs for people that are already either U.S. Citizens or Permanent Residents (green card holders) and are not the spouse or dependents of the person pursuing the visa for business purposes.
  4. Show intent to become a Permanent Resident with a green card or a U.S. Citizen. Provisions can be made for the immigration of spouses and dependents in the immigration package as well, but they cannot be workers in the 10 new full-time jobs created. The RAISE Act, if passed, will limit this number of relatives and dependents even further.

Business and work-related Visas to America are available to Canadians in the following specific categories only (those for business are in bold print):

  • US H1-B Visas
  • US H2-A and H-2B Visas
  • US L1 Visa
  • US E1 Treaty Trader Visas
  • US E2 Treaty Investor Visas
  • US E3 Australian Special Occupation Visas
  • US EB2 Visa: This visa is for people who are very talented and working in the arts, sciences, or business and can do so in America. The visa also covers people who have advanced degrees in medicine, law, a PhD and others. Foreign doctors (for this article, Canadian doctors) may have this visa if they will be practicing in an officially under-served area in America. A business owner may be able to qualify for an EB2 Green Card if their business will significantly help the US.
  • US EB3 Visas
  • US EB5 Investment Green Card: This certification is most specifically for starting a business in the US.
  • Employment-based Green Card
  • US Intern Work and Travel Program
  • US Student Work and Travel Program

E2 Visa is a Business Bargain

The E2 is great, because it is

  1. Renewable indefinitely and
  2. Requires a smaller investment than does the EB5 green card, as little as $50,000 to $250,000. This is more manageable than the previous $500,000 to $1,000,000 needed for the EB5.

Trade and Investor Entry

The US E1 Treaty Trader Visa is available to Canadians that plan to live in the US and facilitate trade with Canada. This is allowed because of a related treaty established between Canada and the USA on January 1, 1993.

The US E2 Treaty Investor Visa is for those that wish to come in to invest in an already-established American business and is also available by the same treaty (1993 for Canadians, mentioned above).

The investment must already have been made before the investor applies for this Visa, and the investor must show that he or she is a Supervisor, Executive, or Specialist in the company and also that the company is not his or her sole means of support. (Consult an attorney for greater detail regarding these visas.)

The US EB5 Investment Green Card allowing immigration into America is for individuals, including Canadians, that specifically want and have clear plans to invest in the creation of a new commercial enterprise. This is the green card for starting a business in any US State.

Eligibility Factors Related to Business

Eligibility for entrance into America for business expansion or startup is based on the Canadian applicant's serious intent to start a commercial enterprise that will:

1.) Clearly benefit the US economy and
2.) Create jobs for at least 10 individuals in the categories of a) permanent resident or b) US citizen.

Family members cannot be included and those with no or only temporary Visas cannot be included. Employees cannot be Independent Contractors, Temporary Workers, or Casual Labor; they must receive paychecks with all the required taxes and any other deductions legally required withheld (check with an attorney in the US State).

Jobs must be full-time, at least 35 hours every week. You must pay Unemployment Insurance premiums on any job 35 hours or more per week, so no shortcuts are allowed.

3.) A minimum of $1,000,000 USD to invest up front, but in cases of federally "targeted employment," the amount is $500,000 USD. "Targeted employment" means "in areas of the country where unemployment is at least 150% of the national average."

For example, if national unemployment is 7.6%, then the targeted area of unemployment would be at around 11.4%. Current unemployment rates can be found at the website of the US Department of Labor.


The incoming foreign business must be one that America needs and that will create at least 10 permanent full-time jobs. This means 10 permanent full-time jobs in an industry that benefits the country, and this might include wind turbine manufacturing, according to DOL projections through 2024. Sustainability and alternative energies are great for incoming businesses.

  • Note: Immigrating to expand a Canadian business may also qualify as a new business if it is increased by at least 40% in net worth or 40% of the current number of employees.
  • Note: The 10 new jobs created do not need to exist in the first year, but they should show up clearly on the required Business Plan in the three-year projections section. Many plans show a three-year, a five-year, and a 10-year set of projections.

Approved American Jobs that Canadians are Permitted to Fill

  • P-1 Visas: Athletes and Entertainment Groups
  • 0-1 Visas: Extraordinary Ability in science, arts, business, education, entertainment, or athletics. These must be major award winners in the Olympics, the Nobel Prize, an Emmy, Ivy League University Awards, and high visibility Fellowships).
  • R-1 Visas: Religious Workers
  • TN Visas: NAFTA Temporary Work Permit
  • I Visas: Media Workers
  • U.S. Medical Professions: 1) All others besides nurses and 2) Registered Nurses (RNs) among all nurses particularly.
  • USCIS - Green Card Through Investment - EB5 Visa: You must invest $1,000,000, or at least $500,000, in a targeted employment area (high unemployment or rural area). In return, USCIS may grant conditional permanent residence to the individual.

Other Visas and Alternative Pathways

Emigrating into the United States in order to begin a business in any of the 50 states with less funding than required by USEB5 can follow the same requirements as entering in order to work for someone else to receive a Green Card.

The pathway that offers the greatest hope for success, in this case, is to follow that immigration route, plan your business while you work, and after receiving a Green Card, establish the business.

Banks and other lenders may not wish to lend business startup money to an individual that is not a green-card permanent resident at the time.

Many Russian, Ukrainian, and Pakistani families have chosen the employment Green Card route to business ownership successfully over the last several years in Ohio, and I have seen them become very successful. In fact, Pakistanis have become extremely successful in business ownership within dining and accommodations businesses in my market area in Central Ohio.

Potential Trade Corridor: NAFTA Superhighway.

Potential Trade Corridor: NAFTA Superhighway.


  • “115th Congress, S. 354: RAISE Act.” 2017. August 8, 2017 <>
  • Fox, J. The Past, Present and Future of U.S. Immigration, Bloomberg View. August 8, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  • Ravishankar, R. A. Refugee entrepreneurs 'keep business alive' in upstate New York. UPI. August 8, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  • Saphir, A. Check your math, central banker says: less immigration equals less growth. Business Insider. Reuters. August 9, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2017.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on March 20, 2012:

That Canadian person hired would have to meet the US immigration requirements for the Green Card if he/she were to stay in the USA. See the USA Immigration website for information about what countries people may immigrate from in 20112, 2013 and forward. The list can change form year to year.

Guy on March 19, 2012:

What about starting a company with an american and then being "hired" by him/her?

Reyan on February 05, 2012:

Thank you guy's, I am looking for an immigration attorney in Phoenix are to see what options I have.

homie on January 15, 2012:

I think either e1,e2 or there is another type of visa which allows canadians to open up a business in U.S. but I am not sure about whether that visa would be an immigrant visa or just work and live visa.

There are few attornies who do just these sort of visa processing...I got in touch with someone 4-5 years back they were very confident to have such a visa for me and my family....but than I changed my mind and settled in Canada. just look online you would be able to find a good Attorney.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 15, 2012:

Reyann - I think you'll need to ask an immigration attorney or email and ask for sure.

So far, the law is back-and-white and concrete: $1 Million or Half a Million if the business is in a high-unemployment area in USA. You must hire 10 full-time employees as far as I know, but email and ask! Good luck!

Reyann on January 15, 2012:

Hi there,

I'm wondering if I buy a gas station business, but the investment will be far less than half a million, but I intend to have 5 full time employees within 3 years,and hoping to invest in real estate. will I be able to get any type of visa to allow me to live and work in AZ? I'm a Canadian citizen.

Thank you for your help.

TheSenior on February 24, 2011:

This is a fantastic hub and very informative - what I would add is for the bus owner to take heed that they need to have 10 full time employees and to find those 10 who will have no problem going out and transacting or staying in house and giving the best customer service.

I might add to hire a number of older people who know how to work and will be there to see the company thru - look for people that have a 'real' outlook on life and are 'team member' and not 'team players' in other words they can get the job done.

Eric Myers on November 23, 2010:

Very interesting article. I have a lot of friends who are considering purchasing some Arizona real estate and making the move down here. They are very entrepreneurial and if I know them at all they are going to try and start a business. Ill have to send them over this article. Thank you!

George Poe from United Kingdom on May 03, 2010:

Nice article, heading back later for another look...

George Poe from United Kingdom on March 31, 2010:

That's really useful content and good writing too.

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on February 22, 2009:

SweetiePie, I remember you telling me about the teaching thing before, but my biggest problem with that is that I'm not a teacher - not sure I'd be a good one if I tried.  Are you a trained teacher, or did you teach a subject that you're very knowledgeable in, but not formally trained?

JamaGenee, I know re the health care.  I haven't been to my doctor since 1997, so I'm not too concerned about that.  I'd be happy to just stay in AZ for the allowed 6 months, but unless I win the lottery, I need to work down there to support myself.  Thank-you for the reminder, though.  I'm not getting any younger, so I can't eliminate that concern altogether.

Joanna McKenna from Central Oklahoma on February 22, 2009:

Patty, greta hub! I knew it was hard for a U.S. citizen to legally move to Canada, but had no idea it worked the other way too. 

Shirley, just remember you'll be on your own for health care - a HUGE expense here.

SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on February 21, 2009:

Shirley I know many Arizona towns even in this economy are always in high demand of teachers.  It is just a thought, but if you were interested in establishing residence in Arizona I think teaching there would be a good way to start.  Also, fellow teachers love to support each other for business ideas, so by then you might even have some loyal customers.

I know this first hand from having taught out in the desert and many of the teachers were from overseas or other parts of the country. Teaching is not really for me, but it is a good way to get your foot in the door if you are interested in living in that part of the country.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 21, 2009:

There are 18 countries not elligble on the general Green Card Lottery and I don't know why, other than the stance sometimes given that US has had a large number of immigrants from those 18 and want to give other nations a more equal chance.

Maybe the airport jobs were temp. NAFTA permits. Hard to tell, there are so many Visas. Let us know what happens!

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on February 21, 2009:

Read it again and suspect that I will return and peruse yet again.

I just remembered that when my sister and I were at Skyharbour waiting for our plane (2006), my sister asked one of the people that checked me over (I got slotted for special search - fun!) if a Canadian could work at the airport.  There I stood, a large woman with elbow-length blue gloves bearing down on me, and she's chatting away with the official like nothing is happening. Anyway, the answer was yes, that you didn't have to be an American to work there.  I had a hard time believing it.  My guess would be that you'd have to work for the customs department or something.

Hey, think McDonald's or Wal-Mart would want a good Canadian employee?  Not sure I'm qualified, but I'm a hard worker.  :) 

I still don't know why we aren't eligible for the green card lottery.  :(

Shirley Anderson from Ontario, Canada on February 21, 2009:

Patty, thank-you!! This is a wonderful article. You guessed every question I had. I'm going to re-read it to make sure I've digested it properly. As you may guess (you're good at that), the million up front money is a bit of concern. Actually, if I had a million, I wouldn't worry about it, I'd just go enjoy the sun and mountains. :)

When I poked around at this on my own, I did find a site about the fostering of AZ/Cdn business relations, since we are the second largest trader. According to that site, there are a number of Canadian owned businesses there. Soooo, I went online to track down those companies and see if they had places to apply for working in AZ. Alas, it wasn't that easy.

Last week, I spoke to a woman who is supposedly planning on opening a biz or franchise there and wanted to discuss me going to be part of things somehow. I thought, YIPPEE!! However, she still had to look into everything. After reading your article, I would doubt that it will pan out, don't think she had any intention of having ten employees. We'll see. I remain hopefully, but it's hard to type with my fingers crossed.

I love the picture you included! Oh, and that guy below my pic is my lucky leprechaun. I keep him chained up, but it hasn't worked that well for me so far. Think I'll demand that he make me that million, but preferrably not in gold coins.

You are awesome, Patty! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!!!

Okay, I'm going back up to the top and read it again. :)