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What can go wrong for a Canadian PR working in the US on F-1 OPT?

dry.00

Hero Member
Oct 4, 2018
213
59
Hi everyone.

I'm a new Canadian PR holder and I just graduated from a university in the US.
I'm not a US citizen, and I hold an F-1 visa, and my OPT application has just been approved.
I've been looking for a job in Canada for the past year, but I have yet to get a reply back, and with the COVID-19 crisis, I don't think this will change anytime soon.
I do have a job offer close to the US-Canadian border, so I can technically commute 40 miles each day.
I'm planning on living in Canada and commuting to the US for at least 3 years.

I've read some threads and it appears quite a few Canadian PRs commute across the border to work in the US on an H-1b visa.
I also saw some threads that warned that the CBSA will not take kindly to this loophole, which can lead to accusation of misrepresentation.
Ex 1: https://www.canadavisa.com/canada-immigration-discussion-board/threads/citizenship-eligibility-issue-while-working-full-time-in-us-weekend-commutes.588687/post-7292308
Ex 2: https://www.canadavisa.com/canada-immigration-discussion-board/threads/daily-commute-us-citizen-not-h1b-to-canada-pr.584406/post-7242935


My question comes in two fold:
  1. Feasibility. Will either the US CBP or the Canadian Border Patrol raise issues if I commute across the border for an extended period of time? I've read about H-1b holders doing it, but I don't know about F-1 OPT. I also don't know if the Canadian officers will question establishing my ties to Canada and take away my PR status.
  2. Has there been cases of border commuters being denied of Canadian naturalization? It sounds like from the example links above that there have been people who didn't make it to naturalization, and I was wondering if it's common. What can I do to prepare myself against this?
 

dpenabill

VIP Member
Apr 2, 2010
4,392
1,520
I'm planning on living in Canada and commuting to the US for at least 3 years.

My question comes in two fold:
  1. Feasibility. Will either the US CBP or the Canadian Border Patrol raise issues if I commute across the border for an extended period of time? I've read about H-1b holders doing it, but I don't know about F-1 OPT. I also don't know if the Canadian officers will question establishing my ties to Canada and take away my PR status.
Overall, days in Canada count as days in Canada. Both for the purpose of meeting the Canadian PR Residency Obligation and for purposes of qualifying for a grant of Canadian citizenship. Nothing said in the referenced and linked discussions is contrary to that.

While other factors can influence how things go, generally those frequently crossing the U.S./Canadian border tend to be less scrutinized by Canadian border officials, especially Canadians crossing the border. So as a Canadian now, having become a Canadian PR, unless there is something else about you triggering concern, things should go about as smoothly entering Canada as they could generally go.

As for how it is likely to go with U.S. border officials, others here may have some insight to offer.

Beyond that there are practical considerations in how things might tend to go for a cross-border commuter.

That said, for the PR who is settled and living IN Canada, and commuting to employment in the U.S., as long as the pattern of actual time spent in Canada meets Canadian requirements, there should be minimal risks of a problem.

Rather different scenario if the PR is actually living in the U.S. and is attempting to meet Canadian requirements by spending the minimum number of days coming into Canada.

Leading to . . .


I also saw some threads that warned that the CBSA will not take kindly to this loophole, which can lead to accusation of misrepresentation.

My question comes in two fold:

  1. Has there been cases of border commuters being denied of Canadian naturalization? It sounds like from the example links above that there have been people who didn't make it to naturalization, and I was wondering if it's common. What can I do to prepare myself against this?
Note that the discussions you reference and link do not exactly *warn* "that the CBSA will not take kindly to this loophole, which can lead to accusation of misrepresentation. " The import of that side of that discussion, from 2018, was about some of the *risks* and some particular aspects of the cross-border commuter situation. And in that regard, more about IRCC rather than CBSA.

Which warrants emphasizing that the context there was largely focused on qualifying for a grant of citizenship based on presence in Canada while a cross-border commuter. BIG difference between how closely and skeptically a PR's reported travel history might be scrutinized relative to showing compliance with the PR Residency Obligation versus qualifying for a grant of Canadian citizenship.

For example, a PR living in Canada and commuting to a job in the U.S. should have relatively low risk, or a very low risk, of running into a Residency Obligation problem. The PR RO is so generous that it is very easily met by a cross-border commuter even if the commuter often stays in the U.S. overnight between shifts, given that any day the border is crossed counts as a day in Canada.

At the least, the frequency of cross-border travel should effectively eliminate any risk that CBSA might apprehend a PR RO issue. So CBSA is not at all likely to have concerns let alone "not take kindly" to a PR commuting to employment in the U.S.

Which highlights another distinction: Much of the discussion you reference and link, in contrast, is NOT about someone living in Canada and commuting to a job in the U.S., but going the other direction, living in the U.S. and commuting to a job in Canada. What difference does this make? Not much at all in terms of counting the days. As already noted, days in Canada count as days in Canada, and that includes a day in which the border was crossed, going either direction.

But it can and most likely will make some significant differences PRACTICALLY. And it is on the in-practice side of things where the risks and potential pit-falls tend to lurk. What one plans to do, on paper so to say, often tends to vary rather considerably from how things go in actual life. Especially when you throw a rather variable factor into the equation, like border-crossings.

In any event, however, if in fact the PR is frequently crossing the border that in itself tends to create a strong record-trail of days IN Canada, and in itself will tend to indicate compliance with the PR RO . . . recognizing, after all, the number of days IN Canada it takes to stay in compliance with the RO is well less than HALF (forty percent to be precise, and again this counts all border-crossing days as days IN Canada).


QUALIFYING FOR A GRANT OF CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP:

In terms of counting days actually physically present in Canada, here too, days in Canada count as days in Canada, and this includes all border-crossing days counting as a day in Canada.

There are practical differences however. A big one is the number of days. The number of days a PR can be totally outside Canada and still meet the RO is 150% the number of days a PR can be outside Canada and still qualify for citizenship. Thus, depending on the particular circumstances, it tends to be significantly easier for a cross-border commuter (regardless which direction) to meet the PR RO than meet the higher standard to qualify for citizenship.

And it is in meeting the higher standard for citizenship is where the difference between living in Canada and commuting to employment in the U.S., versus going the other direction (which again is what that other discussion was focused on), can make a big difference. Both in terms of the practical day count, but also in terms of whether or not, or to what extent, IRCC might apprehend gaming-the-system and the potential for inflating claims about days in Canada.

In short, if the commuting PR is living on the Canadian side of the border, the PR is more likely to be spending enough time in Canada to meet the physical presence requirement without manipulating things, as a simple practical matter. And it is not as if this scenario tends to indicate trying to spend just barely enough time in Canada to exploit Canada's path-to-citizenship for immigrants.

Overall, in particular, if a PR is well-settled in Canada, and all appearances suggest the PR is settled in Canada, the fact the PR has taken employment across the border in the U.S. and is a commuter to a job there, should not hurt the PR's case for a grant of citizenship, not by much anyway.

The history of commuter cases, however, is rife with examples in which that is not what was happening, and so yes, historically some of these cases ran into problems. Emphasis on "some." Not all. Those "some" tending to be cases in which the individual had more ties to the U.S. (or elsewhere) and was more or less obviously trying to meet the bare minimum requirements to qualify for Canadian citizenship. Of course any such applicants are far more likely to encounter elevated scrutiny if not skepticism, and have a more difficult time proving they met all the requirements.