Talking to current US employer about wanting to work from Canada

Hi All

I am currently working in a small silicon valley startup company on an H1B and expecting to receive my PPR/CoPR this year. The official end date shown in the PR web portal is July 4th, but I am sure it is going to take longer due to the pandemic. Due to the well-known H1B issues, I am considering talking to my employer and asking them whether they are willing to let me work from Canada if I want to move there later this year. The thing is, I am learning a lot in this company and would very much like to continue working for them after moving to Canada.

For context, my boss had himself brought up the US immigration issue around 1.5 years ago and asked me what he could do to retain me in case I am dissatisfied with US immigration issues. He said he did not want to lose me to another employer due to immigration concerns. I told him I would seriously consider moving to Canada (at that time, I had not started the Canada PR process). He said he will look into the possibility of opening a company office in Canada. However, after 2 months, things changed for the company drastically and Canada office was no longer on the company road map. When I asked him about it again, he said they do not want to open an office in Canada but are OK if I want to move to Canada and work remotely from there (we did not discuss details of how exactly that will be arranged - through PEO, independent contracting, etc). I did not pursue this topic any further.

However, I am not sure if the timing of talking about it right now makes sense. There are some complicated things going on. The thing is - I myself am not sure if we would want to move to Canada by end of this year. My wife is on F1-OPT hunting for a job in US. If she does not find one by August, she has to convert to H4 visa. Due to pandemic, we have very low hope left that she will find a job. She has been trying to find a job since July 2019 and the pandemic will only make it harder. In that case, we would love to move to Canada once the CoPR comes through. If she finds a job, then we are considering staying in US for at least 2 more years.

My intuition is that probably there is nothing to gain by talking about it as I myself am not sure what is going to be my wife’s work situation after August. So talking about it may put my current job at risk (I do not have any offer from any other company and have not started interviewing anywhere). But the other thought I had in mind is that it is clear my boss wants to retain me and probably would love to know what concrete action he can take to retain me and put my immigration concerns at ease. If he is willing to relocate me to Canada, I get a lot of mental peace and stability in my mind that we can move to Canada immediately post August (or whenever PR comes through).

I am confused. Just wanted to run it by people who may have gone through similar concerns or have advice in general.

Any thoughts? @panditji @am1 @avj @mrandmrs @vignesh.pr @usa2can @ntn

If you can retain your h1b, and employer is fine with you working remote, explore this option with an immigration attorney:

  • maintain a US address (for banks, payroll etc) through a relative or friend.
  • tell employer that you’ll start by working remotely at some point
  • once you get PR, land and get PR card.
  • you can move at the time of first landing or later.
  • as long as employer runs the payroll, and renews your H1b, you can be employed.
  • advantage is you get to work for same employer, you keep your US salary and are employed during and after the move.
  • headaches would be things like taxes, and managing paper mail from outside US.

I know this works because there are many who for some personal reasons need up working for months together from India while on H1b.

I don’t know how/if it’d work in case of working outside US remotely for more than 6 months (most cases I know were about 6-8 months).

Check with:

  • one or two immigration attorneys yourself to see if this can be an option. (I suggest more than 1 because some are totally incompetent to handle immigration issues that are slightly off the beaten path).
  • an accountant in US and one in Canada to see how you can take care of taxes.
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Thanks a bunch ntn!

Thanks for well-written question and giving the context; it makes answering your question very easy.

  1. Secure your landing as soon as the pandemic will let you, so both of you get the PR soon and have a safety net; that way even your wife can search for job (in US if your final move is later), or in Canada if moving now. Note that you are expected to self-isolate for 14 days upon landing in Canada ( info ). During this time, your H1B will allow you to work remotely from Canada assuming you’re only soft-landing.
    You can only land if Government of Canada lets you. See link for more details and ensure that if you get your COPR and PRV soon you will be allowed to fly in and land. You’re still expected to self-quarantine so be prepared for that.
  1. Regarding looking for a job, a lot of companies have put on a hiring freeze. Which means finding a new job may be difficult until that is lifted. This also depends a lot on what your field is, which company is still hiring etc. You will have to do all this research for both of you to see what are the risks associated. My two cents: in any case if your wife has a hard time finding a job on F1-OPT in current situation, it will be nearly impossible on H4 since you’ve to wait next year for H1B, which is hard to get in first place. With a PR, both of you will at least be legally allowed to work absolutely anywhere in Canada, open a business, or work remotely for US. Considering you are already working remotely, at least one of you is working.
    I would recommend doing your research about how the remote work can be arranged. My assumption is your boss is probably not well-versed with the immigration hoops like we are, therefore I presume the onus will probably be on you to present plans and get official consent to work remotely.

  2. That being said, not all companies currently have hiring freeze and many companies are still hiring (at least in Computer Science). I would highly recommend kick starting the job search application in Canada immediately.

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Thanks for your responses avj! Really helpful. Totally agree with points 1 and 2 you mentioned above. I have a few follow up questions regarding point 3 you made:

  1. I have been delaying applying for any jobs until I have the CoPR in hand and have completed soft landing. This allows me to say in my resume that I am a Canadian permanent resident. I was assuming that without being able to write that in my resume, my application may be put on back burner/ignored at many places and then when I apply again after getting PR, there might be communication issues to revive my application. Perhaps I am overthinking this. Thoughts on this? I suppose you are saying that applying before getting PR has no negative impact on my chances of getting interviews after I get PR (assuming we are talking about companies that only want to consider applicants with PR)?

  2. Just as an update, since my last message, I talked to my boss and he was totally OK about me working from Canada and asked me to contact the operations department to see what are the logistics involved (which I am not going to do until I get PR). Given that there is a reasonably good chance of being able to move with my current job to Canada (but as an independent contractor instead of employee), I am wondering what are the benefits of spending the time to look for other jobs in Canada. Do you think the main benefit is that having an offer from Canadian company can be used for baseline salary negotiation?

Finally, regarding location of move, I want to pick people’s brain on that. Since I am going to be a single earner, I am seriously considering living in Kitchner-Waterloo, due to lower cost of living and potentially better quality of life than Toronto (we are not incredibly outgoing people). Also, we are not considering West Coast as we like having an actual Winter with snow. Also, since it is only 1.5 hours away from Toronto, my wife can still hunt for jobs in Toronto and interview on-site easily (after pandemic). If she gets a job in Toronto, we plan to move to Toronto. Any thoughts?

  1. You may mention “PR application in process” or something like that and then change it. At least you will know who is responding and who is not. During initial conversations with hiring managers you can always discuss details.

  2. Looking at job opportunities is completely optional and upto you, depending how strong your current remote-employment option is. It serves as a backup plan in case there are issues regarding logistics of working remotely, any problems after landing and going back to US due to the pandemic etc; you will at least have the process started to look for a job here.

  3. You will initially be renting anyway I presume, so it doesn’t matter that much where you live, as long as you have all the necessities nearby. Rent is not hugely different for K-W vs say Mississauga/Milton etc, you can find cheaper places to live in both areas. If you are talking about buying a house, considering prices and mortgage requirements, having double earners is better than single earners, therefore, at the moment it doesn’t matter where you live. Rather than Kitchener, I would recommend Mississauga/Oakville areas for renting for accessibility, but finally it’s up to you.

Thanks avj. Makes sense.

Yes, I was talking about renting. Buying a house is too far off my radar. Interesting point about Mississauga versus K-W. I was under the impression that rents will be much lower in K-W. 2-bedroom prices are around 1600 CAN to 1800 CAN range in K-W as per my research. The other reason I preferred K-W was that I was expecting K-W to feel like a small self-contained city with good amount of activity (lakes, parks, nightlife), relative to Mississauga and other GTA areas which I was expecting will feel like quite Toronto suburbs with large houses, no central downtown, not much interesting things to do and you have to go to downtown Toronto for such activities.

Anyways, I should do more research on Mississauga/Oakville rents. Also, probably I am completely off on the comparison between GTA suburbs like Mississauga versus K-W in terms of activities.

If you like the winters, then also check out Calgary. It’s a pretty decent city and much more affordable than either Toronto or Vancouver. Alberta also has lower taxes by Canadian standards on the provincial level.

Though the job market there is somewhat oil centric, currently the overall economy isn’t doing amazing there. Depending on how you look at it, your dollars can get you a much better value for money and quality of life than most other places.

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Kitchener-Waterloo rents are shooting up; there’s a lot of development going on here. But COL is more affordable than GTA. Purchasing a property isn’t impossible and traffic isn’t insane. You definitely get to do a lot of activities round the year, and in warmer weather you have plenty of opportunities to drive around and make day trips to outdoor spots even outside KW.

Mind you salaries are still catching up. However definitely look into remote jobs. KW is very livable and you might be able to find a remote job that pays more than the local average.

And… as a temporary measure you can look into part time or contract work. There are few restrictions for a permanent resident, unlike an F1 or H1B visa. :wink:

However - if you have any plans of working in Toronto (where you might need to travel to an office once the pandemic subsides), living in KW will be insanity. You will waste a lot of time and energy in commuting. Look at places closer to the city, like Milton or Etobicoke for instance.

See this post for more of my thoughts on living in KW:

Feel free to reach out if you have more questions about KW.

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Thanks ak45! Will definitely reach out about questions on KW once I get my PR. If I am able to move to Canada while working for my current US employer remotely, KW is currently my first choice.

Hi…was just curious if u were finallt able to move to kitchener/waterloo? I am planning to move to the kw area next month and had few questions in mind regarding the location and accommodation options.