Exporting your construction services to the United States gives you an opportunity to expand your market and increase your profits, and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) makes it easier to work across the border. Thanks to an income tax treaty between Canada and the United States, you don’t need to worry about double taxation, either. The one thing that you need to handle for yourself and your employees is immigration rules and how they affect working in the United States. You have three immigration options available, each with its own level of work permission.
No Permission Necessary with a B-1 Permit
The simplest and fastest option is a B-1 permit, which allows you to work in the United States without getting a work permit. You can get a B-1 permit at the border when you travel into the United States, as there’s no advance application required and approval happens right away. It has a one-year maximum trip length.
There are still a few important requirements to obtain a B-1 permit. Your work in the United States must be temporary, and you need to leave upon completion of it. You may want to bring documents verifying your residency in Canada, such as a rental agreement or the deed to your home, to show that you intend to go back. You need to perform services for a business outside the United States, and you can’t receive payment from a source in the United States. If you want to improve your chances of approval, you can ask your lawyer to draw up an I-94 form for you.
Temporary Permission with a L-1 Work Permit
Another option is an L-1 work permit, which is technically called an Intracompany Transferee permit. The initial trip maximum is between one and three years, and immigration may allow you to renew your permit. It’s possible to get approval on an L-1 permit at the border, or you can apply in advance and wait four to six weeks for a decision.
An L-1 permit is intended for high-level employees, such as those in managerial or executive positions, and they must remain in that type of role while working in the United States. For your application to be approved, your company must have a petitioner company in the United States, such as a partner or affiliate. The L-1 permit is harder to get than a B-1 permit, but it has fewer limitations and you can get through the border more quickly.
Permanent Status with a Green Card
After your L-1 work permit expires, you can begin using B-1 permits or apply for a green card to have permanent working status within the United States. This allows you to work there without any restrictions. You can apply for your green card under the priority worker category if you’re in a managerial or executive position with your company and it has had a subsidiary in the United States for one year or more.
When you begin working in the United States, the most convenient option is likely going to be a B-1 permit. If you’re doing quite a bit of business over the border, then an L-1 permit and potentially a B-1 permit down the road may be beneficial.