When I left full-time to become an consultant, I got federally incorporated for tax purposes. It is a requirement by most companies including the federal government.
Sometime later, I landed a contract through a friend with a US company working remotely from my house in Ottawa. Tax-wise, it was not too complicated. Since the company only did business in the US, I did not need to collect HST. I was paid through my corporation.
A few times a year I would travel to the US for meetings. The border crossing was always a bit stressful. Depending on who you talk to, you do or you do NOT need a TN if you’re coming across the border to attend a meeting. 90% of the time I had no issues. I would say I was attending a series of meetings. I would say I worked for X company ( which happened to be in the US) . Sometimes I would even say: “Do I need a visa?” . I would rationalize it down to I worked for my own company and my own company was paid by the US company.
However, every once in a while a customs officer would start asking questions.
- Who do you work for?
- Where are they based?
- How do they pay you? How much?
- How long?
Most of the time I would get in fine. But there were still threats that I should really get a TN in order to avoid further questioning. Technically, I was there for work – so I was getting paid to be there and therefore I was coming in Illegally to do work for a US company without a visa. It would be different if my corporation had 3 or 4 employees
After some threats from a Toronto customs officer I began the process if getting a VISA.
There are basically two ways for a Canadian to get a TN. Apply in person at border on the day you are travelling. Or, have the company petition on your behalf via a I-129.
The first approach we took was for the US company to petition for me to get an I-129. It took about 6 months to get the paper-work straight and the whole thing was only valid for 12 months. It also cost around $325 bucks USD.
The second approach is to apply at the border with documentation in hand. I ended up doing this method because it was cheaper and I could get a 3 year term.
Here’s what I needed:
- an offer from my company with a start and end date no longer than 3 years in the future
- my diploma
- I brought a transcript but they didn’t seem to care about it
- a ‘support’ letter from company which is basically a profession recommendation as to why the company feels they need to bring in a foreigner to fulfill a particular position
- 50 bucks USD – Credit Card only
My offer letter had to specify which position I was applying for under NAFTA. The support letter elaborates on this with specifics.
They mainly wanted to know why I was applying myself rather than having the company do it. I was honest and said that the process for the I-129 was very long and only lasted a year.
Let me know in the comments if you’d like to see samples of my documentation.