Attention readers from the U.S. (and other internationals considering buying property in Canada) PART 2
To continue the series on how non-Canadians (particularly Americans) can purchase real estate in Canada, an Immigration Lawyer associate of mine has been kind enough to share his insights on the matter from the perspective of immigration. Joshua Sohn is a Partner at the Embarkation Law Group in Vancouver and is someone whose services I can recommend with confidence.
Immigration Issues for Foreign Buyers in Canada
It has been relatively easy for Americans to travel as visitors to Canada. We’re geographically close, have common language and cultural traits, and for the most part share a fairly open border.
Americans do not require a visa to travel to Canada, and often simply pass through a port of entry without delay or trouble. There are also no restrictions on Americans purchasing property in Canada, and many Americans own vacation property or a second home in Canada. However, in certain scenarios, owning property in Canada can trigger questions or concerns for Americans and other foreign nationals crossing into Canada.
In this article, I will review some of the trigger-issues and concerns that Americans sometimes face when entering Canada as a visitor or temporary worker. I will also address some of the common misconceptions and myths about foreign nationals.
The first thing to clarify is the distinction between different types of status in Canada – Temporary Residents, Permanent Residents, and Canadian citizens.
Temporary Residents include visitors, work permit holders and study permit holders. Temporary residents have no absolute right to enter Canada – whether or not they have property here. Every time a temporary resident enters Canada, they are subject to an immigration officer’s assessment of whether they meet the requirements of a temporary resident and are not inadmissible due to criminality, medical or security concerns. Officers consider the purpose of your trip to Canada, the intended length of your stay, and what ongoing connections you have to your home country. For Americans who own or rent a home in the USA and employed in the USA, issues would rarely come up. However, if you are retired and no longer have a permanent residence in the USA, a border official may have different concerns.
Permanent Residents and Canadian citizens have a right to enter and remain in Canada indefinitely; they can also work or study in Canada without restriction and without requiring a permit. Permanent Residents will continue to have a Residency Obligation until they become a Canadian citizen.
One problem I commonly see is with Americans who have owned a vacation property in Canada for years, and frequently came up for visits without incident. Then they retire and sometimes sell their principal residence in the USA. Suddenly, they are faced with new questions at the border. They no longer have demonstrable “connections” in their home country and a border official may be concerned they are intending to be de facto or long-term residents in Canada.
An immigration officer can determine the length of time a Temporary Resident is allowed to stay in Canada. This will be based on why they are visiting Canada and how much money they have to support themselves in Canada. If an immigration officer does not specify a specific time, then the Immigration Regulations provide a Temporary Resident can stay in Canada up to 6 months at a time. This time can be extended through a formal application process, or by leaving Canada and re-entering after the original period expires.
A Temporary Resident may also be denied entry to Canada based on inadmissibility for criminal, medical or security concerns. Criminality is the most common basis of inadmissibility, and a growing concern for Americans as Canadian border officials have access to some US criminal databases. Even a misdemeanor conviction in the US, such as Reckless Driving or DUI can make a foreign national inadmissible to Canada. You can also become inadmissible for Misrepresentation if you fail to disclose a conviction. There are ways to overcome criminal inadmissibility both in the short term and on a permanent basis. Ideally, you should consult with a Canadian immigration lawyer about any potential inadmissibility before coming to Canada.
Canada no longer has a Retiree class. People who are retired may still qualify to become Permanent Residents in Canada under one of the economic or family classes, but they cannot apply as a “retiree” per se. If you are intending to reside in Canada long term, you should consider applying for Permanent Resident status. Depending on your circumstances, you may still qualify to become a Permanent Resident even after you have retired, but your options become less and the longer you wait after retirement, the more difficult it may become. Ideally, applying for Permanent Resident status in Canada should be done in advance as part of your retirement planning.
There is no immigration category for Seasonal Residents. A Seasonal Resident refers to a Customs category that permits temporary residents a one-time exemption to import some personal goods to furnish a vacation property without paying duty. There are some restrictions, and you should check with a lawyer before importing items. Being a Seasonal Resident for Custom purposes, does not give you any special immigration status. It does not extend the time you are permitted to remain in Canada as a visitor.
Joshua B. Sohn
Embarkation Law Group
600 – 609 West Hastings Street
Box 26, Princess Building
Vancouver, BC Canada V6B 4W4
1.888.662.7404 (toll free USA/Canada)