How To Expand Or Move A Canadian Business To America

Moving from Canada to America?


Note: The following material is about moving a business from Canada to the USA and about how to enter the USA as a Canadian citizen in order to start a business in America.( It is also not about how to start a business in Canada.)

Moving To Arizona

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Grand Canyon
Grand Canyon | Source

Moving From Canada To USA

A Good Question About Immigration And Business Ownership

Shirley Anderson of Hubpages, an author and friend, asked how a Canadian might immigrate to the United States and start a business in Arizona. Thank you, Shirley, for your question.

The short answer is that in order to come to America and start a business per regulations, a Canadian must:

  1. Prove that they have at least $1,000,000 USD or $500,000 USD in special cases (see below).
  2. Plan a business that will clearly increase the American Economy (no nonprofits).
  3. Create 10 permanent full-time paycheck jobs for people that are already either US Citizens or Permanent Residents.
  4. Intend to become a Permanent Resident or US Citizen. Provisions can be made for the immigration of spouse and dependents in the immigration package as well, but they cannot be workers in the 10 new full-time jobs created.

Business Related Immigration Visas to the US

Business and work related Visas to America are available to Canadians in the following specific categories only (those appropriate to the question 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 Visas
  • US EB3 Visas
  • US EB5 Investment Green Card - most specifically for starting a business.
  • Employment-based Green Card
  • US Intern Work and Travel Program
  • US Student Work and Travel Program

Shirley Anderson --- Come On Down!

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The lovely Canadian, Shirley.He's not a relative, is he? Does he want to work, or just go on game shows like Letterman's Pot O' Gold?
The lovely Canadian, Shirley.
The lovely Canadian, Shirley.
He's not a relative, is he? Does he want to work, or just go on game shows like Letterman's Pot O' Gold?
He's not a relative, is he? Does he want to work, or just go on game shows like Letterman's Pot O' Gold?

Possibilities and Choices

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. 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 Canadians that specifically want and have clear plans to invest in the creation of a new commercial enterprise. This is the one for starting a business in Arizona or any other state.

Eligibility Factors

Eligibility is based on the Canadian applicant's seriousness 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, Temps, or Casual Labor; they must receive paychecks with all 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 per week, so no shortcuts are allowed; say, 34 hours per week).

3) A minimum of USD $1,000,000 to invest up front, but in cases of federally "targeted employment", the amount is half a million dollars. Targeted employment means "in areas of the country where unemployment is at least 150% of the national average." If national unemployment is 7.6% (2/09), the the targeted area of unemployment would be at around 11.4%. This would include areas of Michigan, for example.

In summary, the business must be one that America needs and one that will create at least 10 permanent full-time jobs. In Arizona, this would mean 10 permanent full-time jobs in an Industry that benefits the country. Sustainability and alternative energies are great for this, among others (see below).

NOTE: immigrating to expand a Canadian business may also qualify as new if it is increased by at least 40% in net worth or 40% of the current number of employees.

NOTE: The 10 new jobs do not need to exist the first year, but they should show up clearly on your Business Plan in the three-year projections. Many plans show a 3-year, a 5-year, and a 10-year set of projections (see below).

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 in order 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 permanent resident at the time.

Many Russian, Ukrainian, and Pakistani families have chosen the employment Green Card route to buiness ownership successfully over the last several years in certain Midwestern states. In fact, Pakistanis have become extremely successful in business ownership within the Dining Industry and Accommodations.


  • P-1 Visas: Athletes and Entertainment Groups
  • 0-1 Visas: Extraordinary Ability in science, arts, business, education, entertainment, or athletics (major award winners - Olympics, The Nobel, Emmy, Ivy League University Awards and Fellowships, etc.).
  • R-1 Visas: Religious Workers
  • TN Visas: NAFTA Temporary Work Permit
  • I Visas: Media Workers
  • US Medical Professions– 1) All others besides nurses and 2) Nurses - Registered Nurses (RNs) particularly. Travel Nursing is even more lucrative.

Arizona State Flag
Arizona State Flag


Universities often provide Business Incubators to help new business owners set up, hire, and start producing products and services. For example, the Top 10 Environmental Degree Programs in the Southwest includes Arizona State University, the leader in Sustainability in the Southwest that partners with local business and government to increase jobs and bring new businesses to the area.

Top Industries in Arizona through 2022:

  1. Sustainability,
  2. Healthcare,
  3. Science & Technologies,
  4. Travel/Tourism - includes food & beverage, accommodations and retail sales;
  5. Manufacturing - Electronics and Defense.

In 2006, Arizona was named 2nd Fastest Growing place for women-owned firms by the Center for Women's Business Research.

From Canada to Arizona

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A markerArizona -
Arizona, USA
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B markerOntario Province, Canada -
Ontario, Canada
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Establishing Oneself In America

Next Steps

Largest Arizona Employers

Largest Private Employers In Arizona 2016

  1. Banner Health - Health & Medical
  2. WalMart Stores
  3. Kroger - Grocery and more
  4. Wells Fargo & Co. - Banking & Financial services
  5. McDonald's - Food
  6. Intel
  7. HonorHealth
  8. Circle K Convenience Stores
  9. American Airlines
  10. Bank of America
  11. JPMorgan Chase & Co. - Banking & Financial services
  12. Raytheon - Aerospace and Missile Manufacturing
  13. Honeywell International - Aerospace Manufacturing. Space harbors are emerging in the Southwest and planned for growth in both government and private spaceflight and freight.
  14. Dignity Health
  15. Basha's Supermarkets

Potential Trade Corridor

NAFTA Superhighway.
NAFTA Superhighway.

More by this Author

Comments 18 comments

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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. :)

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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.  :(

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 7 years ago from North America Author

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!

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 7 years ago from Southern California, USA

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.

JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 7 years ago from Central Oklahoma

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.

Shirley Anderson profile image

Shirley Anderson 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

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.

Neil Ashworth profile image

Neil Ashworth 6 years ago from United Kingdom

That's really useful content and good writing too.

Neil Ashworth profile image

Neil Ashworth 6 years ago from United Kingdom

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

Eric Myers 6 years ago

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!

TheSenior profile image

TheSenior 5 years ago

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.

Reyann 5 years ago

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.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

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!

homie 5 years ago

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.

Reyan 4 years ago

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

Guy 4 years ago

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

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

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.

francis5k 4 years ago

interesting nice info!

Deepak 4 years ago

Business Immigration Visa assists businessmen and investors (High Net-worth Individuals/HNIs), residing in any part of the world, willing to make an investment in a foreign country and at the same time wanting to obtain residency/permanent immigration of that country.

visit for details

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