It’s possible that many of your employees make occasional or frequent business trips to the United States. If this is happening at your business, then it’s important for your and your employees to understand the process of crossing the border to ensure it’s a quick and delay-free experience. The good news is that travel between Canada and the United States is common and fairly straightforward.
Are Your Employees Conducting Business or Working?
While it may seem like differentiating between conducting business and working is splitting hairs, this plays a key role when crossing the border, as the two require different permits. If you send your employees to the United States to perform a service for your company, that’s considered conducting business. Examples include sending employees to check out a conference or negotiate with a potential client.
If you send your employees to perform a service for a business or private party in the United States, that’s considered work. The rule here is that if the party could hire someone else who isn’t from your company for the same job, then your employee is travelling for work. One slight exception is after-sale service, which is when you sell a product to an American entity and then send an employee to provide service related to that product.
Crossing the Border With a B-1 Permit
Employees travelling to conduct business have it easy, as they can get a B-1 permit right at the border. Here are the basic requirements for an employee to get a B-1 permit:
- They must have a permanent residence in Canada
- This must be a temporary trip (the maximum initial duration of a B-1 permit is one year)
- They can’t perform any work activities while in the United States
While getting this permit is simple enough and employees can do so at the border, they should bring proof that they have a permanent residence in Canada, such as a lease or deed to a home. To verify why you’re sending employees to the United States, you can write a letter for them to present to the border patrol officer.
Getting Authorization for Work in the United States
If you’re sending an employee to the United States to work there, they need a work permit. The exact work permit necessary depends on the situation.
An employee who is going to the United States to work for a company there can apply for a TN permit. To be eligible, they must have a formal offer from that company for a profession listed in the North American Free Trade Agreement and they must meet the qualifications for that profession.
If your business has an office or affiliate in the United States or is planning to set up an affiliate company there, then an employee needs an L1 visa. Only managers and executives qualify for this visa, and they need to have at least one year of continuous experience in that role.
When you or your employees need to visit the United States, it’s all a matter of knowing which permit you need and preparing the required documents ahead of time so that your experience is easy and efficient.