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I'm a software engineer. How do I bring my gf to Silicon Valley?

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  • Nov 13th, 2017 12:23 pm
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Member
Dec 2, 2009
235 posts
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Toronto

I'm a software engineer. How do I bring my gf to Silicon Valley?

I want to move to California for work. I'm a software engineer. My gf is not an engineer. She does not have any high level degree. How can I bring her to work legally in the USA?
18 replies
Deal Addict
Jul 4, 2004
3679 posts
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Ottawa
Unless she can get a work permit on her own, your GF cannot work in the US. Furthermore, since you are not married (the US does not recognize common-law), she cannot come in as your dependent so she needs to qualify for a entry on her own (most likely as a tourist for up to 6 months). There is a lot of discretion between the POE agents so you can't know for sure what will happen but if she goes to the border with you and you have a work permit, it's fairly likely that she will be refused entry in the US and could possibly be banned from the US.

This happened to my "used-to-be common-law" / "now wife". She was going to accompany me to the US because I was going to work. We called ahead and they said it *should* be okay but when we got to the border, she was refused entry even though she was only asking to enter for about 1 month (it was mid-November and we told the agent we were planning on returning for XMas). We still had ties in Canada (house, vehicle, bank account, etc). The agent basically said that since my work-permit was for 1 year, he did not believe she would return to Canada if I stayed longer than 1 month. She was banned from entering the US unless we were married. We had already discussed that possibility so returned to Canada, got married a few days later and then returned to the US the next week now that she could qualify as my dependent (we confirmed with another agent when we re-entered that she had been "red flagged" in their system and if she had to tried to enter, she could have been detained and had her belongings (e.g. car if we were driving) seized) - I'm not sure what would have happened if we had broken up ... Customs computers had instructions not to let her in unless she showed a marriage certificate to me (we were told very clearly that she needed to bring the wedding certificate).

Back to your original question, the only work VISA that would allow her to work would be an "L-visa" (intercompany transfer). This would require that you work for at least 1 year for a given company outside the US and then be transferred to the US office. You would also need to be married.
Jr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
124 posts
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michelb wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 11:21 am
Unless she can get a work permit on her own, your GF cannot work in the US. Furthermore, since you are not married (the US does not recognize common-law), she cannot come in as your dependent so she needs to qualify for a entry on her own (most likely as a tourist for up to 6 months). There is a lot of discretion between the POE agents so you can't know for sure what will happen but if she goes to the border with you and you have a work permit, it's fairly likely that she will be refused entry in the US and could possibly be banned from the US.

This happened to my "used-to-be common-law" / "now wife". She was going to accompany me to the US because I was going to work. We called ahead and they said it *should* be okay but when we got to the border, she was refused entry even though she was only asking to enter for about 1 month (it was mid-November and we told the agent we were planning on returning for XMas). We still had ties in Canada (house, vehicle, bank account, etc). The agent basically said that since my work-permit was for 1 year, he did not believe she would return to Canada if I stayed longer than 1 month. She was banned from entering the US unless we were married. We had already discussed that possibility so returned to Canada, got married a few days later and then returned to the US the next week now that she could qualify as my dependent (we confirmed with another agent when we re-entered that she had been "red flagged" in their system and if she had to tried to enter, she could have been detained and had her belongings (e.g. car if we were driving) seized) - I'm not sure what would have happened if we had broken up ... Customs computers had instructions not to let her in unless she showed a marriage certificate to me (we were told very clearly that she needed to bring the wedding certificate).

Back to your original question, the only work VISA that would allow her to work would be an "L-visa" (intercompany transfer). This would require that you work for at least 1 year for a given company outside the US and then be transferred to the US office. You would also need to be married.
I would say "fairly likely" is an exaggeration. My gf and I cross the border together all the time. She's a Canadian citizen and I'm a Canadian citizen with a work visa.
Was your gf a non-Canadian citizen, a new citizen, or someone who hadn't really ventured into the US much before? It's actually very unlikely they would refuse without a valid reason, because you can stay up to 6 months even without a visa on a Canadian passport so where's the risk? Maybe you just said the wrong thing and sounded sketchy or she wasn't working at the time.

That being said, I do agree that the CBP agents (there's no such thing as a point of entry agent) have a lot of discretion as to how to treat individual cases. The Blaine CBP agents are particularly terrible.
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2004
25421 posts
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East Gwillimbury
Walch1102 wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 3:02 pm
you can stay up to 6 months even without a visa on a Canadian passport so where's the risk?
The risk is that she will take a job away from an American.
Jr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
124 posts
63 upvotes
Gee wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 3:38 pm
The risk is that she will take a job away from an American.
Yes, because it's really likely a Canadian who would make more off welfare in Canada would go to the US to work for less than minimum wage (the only type of job that will hire him/her without checking for valid citizenship or work visa). lol
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2004
25421 posts
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East Gwillimbury
Walch1102 wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 7:16 pm
Yes, because it's really likely a Canadian who would make more off welfare in Canada would go to the US to work for less than minimum wage (the only type of job that will hire him/her without checking for valid citizenship or work visa). lol
While this is true, the majority of Americans are uneducated and rely on these minimum wage jobs.
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Sep 23, 2009
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Gee wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 8:11 pm
While this is true, the majority of Americans are uneducated and rely on these minimum wage jobs.
Quick, spot the job killer who doesn't realize their job will be eviscerated in the end and thinks they are better than others.
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2004
25421 posts
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East Gwillimbury
renoldman wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 8:50 pm
Quick, spot the job killer who doesn't realize their job will be eviscerated in the end and thinks they are better than others.
Trump?
Jr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
124 posts
63 upvotes
Gee wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 8:11 pm
While this is true, the majority of Americans are uneducated and rely on these minimum wage jobs.
I was being sarcastic. There is no incentive for a Canadian making more or equivalent in a welfare state with public healthcare to go to the US to work a minimum wage job and the costly obamacare. Again, no risk. There is a reason that the US allows Canadians to pretty much freely travel across the border. Very very low risk of Canadians becoming illegal aliens in the US.
Deal Expert
Aug 2, 2004
25421 posts
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East Gwillimbury
Walch1102 wrote:
Nov 9th, 2017 11:47 am
I was being sarcastic. There is no incentive for a Canadian making more or equivalent in a welfare state with public healthcare to go to the US to work a minimum wage job and the costly obamacare. Again, no risk. There is a reason that the US allows Canadians to pretty much freely travel across the border. Very very low risk of Canadians becoming illegal aliens in the US.
Totally agree, but in this situation, it is a spouse accompanying an individual with a lucrative job offer.

What people fail to realise is that the lure to earn US dollars sounds good, but you also have to spend US dollars while in the US. A dollar is just a dollar, not $1.30
Jr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
124 posts
63 upvotes
Gee wrote:
Nov 9th, 2017 12:34 pm
Totally agree, but in this situation, it is a spouse accompanying an individual with a lucrative job offer.

What people fail to realise is that the lure to earn US dollars sounds good, but you also have to spend US dollars while in the US. A dollar is just a dollar, not $1.30
I've heard that before. In fact, you're both wrong.

In the perfect world, all consumable & discretionary products would be globally priced and would reflect the difference in the value of currencies. We know it's not perfect, but goods in Canada will be priced at a premium in general because the currency value is worth less. Some guy from China shipping goods to Canada is not going to be okay with just taking $1 CAD when he could just as easily ship to the US and make $1 USD.

Realistically, it's 10-15%.

I won't go into things like cost of living because you are paying more in general to live in a more desirable location. If you choose to buy property, yes it'll cost more, but there's nothing stopping you from cashing out in the future and travelling globally or relocating back to Canada.

Most people don't realize the benefit of the US dollar salaries because they are financially irresponsible. i.e. if they used to budget spending 500 CAD/week in Canada. they would also spend 500 USD/week in US and consume more without even thinking about it.
Deal Addict
Jul 4, 2004
3679 posts
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Ottawa
Walch1102 wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 3:02 pm
I would say "fairly likely" is an exaggeration. My gf and I cross the border together all the time. She's a Canadian citizen and I'm a Canadian citizen with a work visa.
Was your gf a non-Canadian citizen, a new citizen, or someone who hadn't really ventured into the US much before? It's actually very unlikely they would refuse without a valid reason, because you can stay up to 6 months even without a visa on a Canadian passport so where's the risk? Maybe you just said the wrong thing and sounded sketchy or she wasn't working at the time.

That being said, I do agree that the CBP agents (there's no such thing as a point of entry agent) have a lot of discretion as to how to treat individual cases. The Blaine CBP agents are particularly terrible.
I think it's hard to put an actual number on the likelyhood as we both agree that the CBP agents (thanks for the correction) have a lot of discretion (and there's pretty much nothing you can do about it) and as you said, different circumstances will affect their decision. To me, "fairly" means it's not very likely but it's not unreasonable that it could happen.

In our case, we had called ahead and were told it *shouldn't* be a problem but it was at the discretion of the agent. I think my common-law wife might have just been a fairly recent university graduate working retail at the time so there wasn't a career / job requirement that would bring her back to Canada. She's born in Canada but does have dual-citizenship Canada / UK and I think she only had a valid UK passport and an expired Canadian one which she carried as ID (at the time (20 years ago), you didn't need a passport to enter the US by car (that started about 10-12 years ago)). She had asked for 1 month entry as a visitor as we were planning on returning for XMas (but we did not have return tickets yet) and my contract was for 6 months so she would have been okay as a visitor for the length of time but my TN work permit was valid for 1 year and the agent didn't feel that there was any reason that she would return to Canada if my work permit was extended beyond the initial 6 months so denied her entry. I think if we had purchased tickets to return to Canada at XMas, we likely would have been okay. Or she could have traveled separately and told them she was going for a month. But in our situation, the CBP agent made the decision that she was simply going to follow whatever I was doing and as far as he was concerned, I had a one-year work permit and I was coming for 1 year (the fact that my contract was only for 6 months was of no importance) and that's where the discretion comes in - another might have made a different decision but that's a moot point. We inquired a bit with the US Embassy and with Customs and there's pretty much nothing you can do in a case like ours - the agent has the discretion to make these decisions.
Walch1102 wrote:
Nov 9th, 2017 11:47 am
... There is a reason that the US allows Canadians to pretty much freely travel across the border. Very very low risk of Canadians becoming illegal aliens in the US.
This hasn't been our experience. I agree that Canadians are very open enter to the US as tourists but if the agent has any reason to think you'll overstay, they will clamp down on it. They do feel that everyone is trying to get into the US and stay (personally, while I enjoy visiting the US (pretty much just to get away from Canadian winters), I have no desire to live in the US).

We own a motor home and travel to the US every winter, usually multiple times, and have been questioned on multiple occasions (and were once detained for about 2 hours because they didn't believe we were just going on a trip (which we were) and thought we were trying to enter the US to stay there). IMO, the fact that I had a US work permit for about 5 years would be evidence that I don't need to enter illegally and if I wanted to, should be able to get a work permit again and enter legally but they didn't see it that way and that was another red flag.
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Dec 2, 2010
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Prairies
Walch1102 wrote:
Nov 8th, 2017 3:02 pm
I would say "fairly likely" is an exaggeration. My gf and I cross the border together all the time. She's a Canadian citizen and I'm a Canadian citizen with a work visa.
It's actually very unlikely they would refuse without a valid reason, because you can stay up to 6 months even without a visa on a Canadian passport so where's the risk? Maybe you just said the wrong thing and sounded sketchy or she wasn't working at the time.
It's fortunate that you've never had a problem crossing the border, but immigration laws and common sense don't always go hand in hand. Canadians can normally pass into the US (as a tourist) with just their passport, but don't assume that's automatic. If the CBP agent doesn't believe you meet the legal definition of a tourist (which I think you can see why a GF accompanying a person who will live and work in the US for a year might not meet that legal definition), they can refuse you for that reason. Agents will often overlook this though, especially if you've got solid ties back to Canada making it less likely you'd overstay the six months, but they don't have to.

The problem that Michaelb described above is actually fairly common and the same thing can happen to Americans who are crossing into Canada.
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Aug 22, 2011
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What ethnicity is she?
She can work at a restuarant specializing in cooking traditional (insert ethnicity here) food.
Jr. Member
Feb 19, 2017
124 posts
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imingwan wrote:
Nov 10th, 2017 11:21 am
It's fortunate that you've never had a problem crossing the border, but immigration laws and common sense don't always go hand in hand. Canadians can normally pass into the US (as a tourist) with just their passport, but don't assume that's automatic. If the CBP agent doesn't believe you meet the legal definition of a tourist (which I think you can see why a GF accompanying a person who will live and work in the US for a year might not meet that legal definition), they can refuse you for that reason. Agents will often overlook this though, especially if you've got solid ties back to Canada making it less likely you'd overstay the six months, but they don't have to.

The problem that Michaelb described above is actually fairly common and the same thing can happen to Americans who are crossing into Canada.
This is from experience? I live close to the border, cross probably 20 times a year and have many many friends who go every single week.
They've never had issues with crossing the border with girlfriends, friends, etc. One easy way is for her to drive herself, or book a plane / bus ticket back in advance. It's not that complicated, provide proof that they intend to return before their 6 months is up.

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