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US H-1B vs. Canadian Express Entry: Which Is Better?


Author: Josh Schachnow, CEO, Visto

Introduced in 2015, the Canadian Express Entry program has been met with enthusiasm by migrant workers and Canadian companies alike. Express Entry is a points-based system that takes into account many factors, such as age, education and work experience. Those whose Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score meets the threshold receive an invitation to apply for their permanent residency. 

While Express Entry and the American H-1B both reward highly skilled workers, there are some major differences between the two systems — differences that could tip the scale one way or the other for prospective migrant workers. With that in mind, let’s look at how Express Entry stands up against the H-1B system.

Flexibility: Perhaps the biggest difference between the H-1B system and Canadian Express Entry is that H-1B visas require sponsorship by an American company. In order to keep their H-1B status, the holder of the visa must continue to be employed by the company that sponsored their visa unless they are able to find another employer that can sponsor them. The grace period for this is just 60 days from the end of employment.

Express Entry, on the other hand, allows individuals to obtain permanent residency without having a job already lined up. If you’re a tech worker looking to work in North America and are struggling to land a job from your home country, Express Entry may be your best shot. Additionally, Express Entry allows you to work for any company in Canada, so there’s no worry of being tied to just one.

Number of visas granted: H-1B visas have a well-earned reputation among American companies for being notoriously difficult to get ahold of. That’s because the number of allotted H-1B visas is limited by law to 65,000 bachelor degree-level holders each year, plus 20,000 more for those who hold a master’s degree or higher. 

Canada, by comparison, applies no such cap to their Express Entry system. Despite being one-tenth the size of the U.S. by population, over 92,000 applicants were approved through Express Entry in 2018 — and the government hopes to admit over 1 million more permanent residents over the next three years. If you’re certain you have the skills that North American tech companies need but don’t want to roll the dice in the highly-competitive American H-1B lottery system, consider opting for Express Entry. 

Duration of stay: Approved Express Entry applicants are granted permanent residency in Canada for five years, which can then be renewed for another five years. Express Entry is also the beginning of a path to citizenship: Having resided in Canada for at least three of the last five years is one of the conditions of applying for citizenship. 

Compare that to nonpermanent resident H-1B visas, which last just three years, initially — though they can be extended for another three. Worse, after those six years are up, workers must either: (1) leave the country or apply and (be approved) for a new immigration status, such as student or “extraordinary ability worker,” (2) apply for a green card, or (3) apply for a special extension. Of course, the success of these applications are by no means assured. By comparison, Express Entry’s self-reliant and more relaxed approach often provides a better path to long-term residency and, ultimately, citizenship.

Express Entry: Canada’s competitive advantage: The United States and Canada have a lot in common. They share a border, a language, and even professional sports leagues. Their populations are multicultural and their economies dependent on migrant labor. One thing they don’t share, however, is a straightforward immigration system for skilled foreign workers. Simply put, there is no current U.S. equivalent to Canada’s Express Entry system. 

If you’re looking for permanent residency in North America to work in tech or other high-skilled industries, make sure you look at alternatives such as Express Entry before committing to the H-1B path. To see whether you’d have a good chance at Express Entry, head over to our free calculator here.

Josh Schachnow, CEO of Visto
Josh Schachnow is a Toronto-based immigration lawyer who has helped over 100 skilled workers move to Canada. He is also CEO of Visto (www.visto.ai), which builds free tools to help skilled Indian technology professionals immigrate to Canada.

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