Canadian vs U.S. Immigration Policies

Flags of USA and Canada

Canada and the United States have very different immigration policies. One of the biggest difference between the migration systems of both countries is that Canadian immigration is based on employment and qualification while the U.S immigration is based primarily on family ties.

Canadian migration policy is an example of an employment-based system with a lot of programs enabling the economically-depressed regions to attract more skilled workers from abroad.

Approximately 2/3 of all immigrants relocating to Canada are coming via different employment-based programs, while in the USA only 15% of all permanents residents are admitted on the basis of employment. 2/3 of all immigrants in the United States are accepted because they have a close relation to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Provincial Nominee Program In Canada

The Provincial Nominee Program in Canada contributes to increasing the share of new permanent residents in less populated provinces. Generally, the PNP immigrants do well in the labour market. In comparison to that, there are no similar state programs in the United States.

The U.S. immigration policy remains entirely in the hands of the federal government, compared to the de-centralized migration programs in Canada.

Some of the most recent changes in the Canada immigration policy:

  • Change in the point system used for a skilled visa. The focus on age, English or French language skills and having a job offer was increased while the emphasis on formal education was decreased.
  • A separate program was created for skilled trade workers – Federal Skilled Trades Program.
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC) – allowing temporary workers and international student switch easily to permanent residence.
  • Start of the Express Entry system in January 2015 to accept economic immigrants.

While the US government has made almost no changes to their immigration policy since the 1990s. The only major change has concerned the unauthorised immigrants.

U.S. Green Card Lottery vs Canadian Express Entry

There is no such program like the U.S. Diversity Lottery program in Canada. However, selected applicants in the Green card lottery are allocated on a random basis.

Canada has another sort of pool called Expressed Entry introduced in January 2015 whereby applicants who have expressed their interest in immigration to Canada are ranked based on different criteria compiled in the Comprehensive Ranking System.

Not everyone is eligible for the Green Card lottery and the same applies to the Express Entry pool. The difference is that an applicant who is not eligible for the Express Entry pool now may change this through making efforts to improve their language skills, work experience or education and thus be invited for Canadian skilled migrant visa.

With the U.S. Green Card Lottery particular countries are simply exempt and you can’t do anything about this, not to mention the random choice of draw.

Visa First is a leading international immigration consulting company. For additional information about Canadian and U.S. visas, you can e-mail us at

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