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As the Canadian immigration system is rapidly modifying its core structures to better fit the immigration needs of today, its merit-based setup seems to find many admirers around the world. On February 6, President Donald Trump complimented it via a tweet, stating that American immigration should strive to adopt a merit-based immigration system. The flaws in the American immigration system are not unknown. But what are the main differences between the way Canadian immigration is implemented and the American system?

First, the Canadian system differs from the American one as it allows the creation of different programs according to the needs of each province. Provinces have the liberty of creating their own immigration streams to cater to their specific economic and social needs. For example, different provinces have different lists of in-demand professions. When applying for immigration status, applicants can choose their desired province of residence through a provincial nominee program. Foreign nationals who are then invited to are initially only eligible to live in the province of their choice. This allows for a more specific pool of applicants throughout the country. In comparison, the United States only has a federal immigration system, which centralizes the entire immigration pool.

Second, the Canadian immigration system differs widely in terms of its selection criteria: Canada focuses on high-skilled workers and in-demand professions, from many professional areas, ranging from financial technology to agriculture and nursing. In contrast, the United States tends to focus on attracting more foreign nationals with limited and prestigious careers, such as foreign celebrities and Olympians, thus restricting their applicant pool.

Third, in terms of usability and efficiency of the two programs, the American immigration system still relies mostly on paper-form applications, whereas the Canadian system recently embraced the use of an online portal. Moreover, the parts of the American system that are online lack user-friendly abilities: For example, the applications are divided according to form numbers, instead of their names. This may be confusing to prospective applicants who must research the relevant form numbers for their application.

Therefore, if the United States wishes to move forward with a more efficient and user-friendly immigration system, many of the core pillars of the program must change to fit the country’s immigration needs.

For more information, contact Véronique Malka, Chair of the Canadian Law Group at CKR Law LLP, at

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