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prefuse73

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Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« on: August 24, 2004, 08:20:16 AM »
Hey guys

I was wondering if it's possible for a Canadian citizen(or a non-US citizen to be more general) to practice law in the US. I know a lot of people from Canada go to American law schools but do most of them come back to Canada to look for a job or do they stay and practice in the US? I'm curious because I'm interested in IP Law and I heard someone saying that you need a US Citizenship to take the Patent Bar exam.

I'm currently doing my undergraduate study in the US and will be applying to law schools next year. I'd like to apply to American law schools and practice in the US too. Oh, and if I actually decide to come back to Canada sometime in the future, how easy/difficult is it to get a job in Canada with a law degree from a respectable American law school(say schools like Columbia, NYU, Penn, Cornell, etc)


Thanks

Cheeks

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #1 on: August 24, 2004, 12:02:35 PM »
practicing in the states after graduating from a US school wouldn't be too difficult.  You would just need a work permit.  As for the Bar exam, I don't think citizenship is required but you may want to ask someone who would know exactly.

As per returning to Canada, its for sure a possibility.  The only thing you would want to consider is that Canadian unversities will place better in Canada then US schools.  For example, Harvard would have a higher rep. in Canada then say u of t but take a school like Penn.  It would be easier to find a job at a Canadian law firm with a degree from UofT then it would be with a degree from UPenn; even though penn is a better school.

londongirl

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #2 on: August 24, 2004, 12:13:44 PM »
Hey Cheeks, do you know how one would go about getting a work permit as a non-citizen? Would the firm apply for one for you? How does it work?

Cheeks

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #3 on: August 24, 2004, 12:19:10 PM »
the firm you work for would fill out the application.  From my understanding, extremely short-term work permits really are difficult to get at all.  But getting something that's permanent is a bit more difficult. 

But the other thing is ... you're working as a lawyer, not low-income labour, so getting a working visa is easier.  Plus you never know, you're there for a little while ... so you may marry into citizenship.  A lot of things can happen.

londongirl

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2004, 12:22:42 PM »
Thank you! I'm relieved to hear it's not mission impossible. I don't want citizenship, just a work permit. I'm going to ask a ton of questions when I visit Boalt in September about this, how previous students have done it and all that. I'll report back.
Thanks for the help!

Cheeks

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2004, 01:08:19 PM »
Thank you! I'm relieved to hear it's not mission impossible. I don't want citizenship, just a work permit. I'm going to ask a ton of questions when I visit Boalt in September about this, how previous students have done it and all that. I'll report back.
Thanks for the help!

that would be great.  thanks.

ocap8

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2004, 11:57:53 PM »
Here's what little information I know:

BAR EXAMINATION:

There shouldn't be any citizenship requirements (some European sued some time ago because you had to be a citizen to practise law in the US, he claimed it was unconstitutional, and either the US Supreme Court or a district court agreed with him). The main requirement is that you show proof of eligibility to be in the state where you want to take the bar (i.e. be a citizen, PR, or have lawful non-immigrant status). I'll agree, the process can get a bit confusing: I need to have a work permit to join the bar, I need a job to bother to apply for a work permit, I need the bar exam to get a job, so It's kinda cyclical but it's probably something that kinda all happens at once.

A long time ago when I was quite dumb in these matters, I read a post about non-citizens being able to write the bar in only a handful of states (NY, MA, CA to name a few). Ya, I freaked out and was like "dammit, I'm screwed." But after a little research, the post should have made better reference to non-citizens WHO WENT TO NON-ABA LAW SCHOOLS (actually, foreign law schools). That's the key; go to an ABA law school, do well enough that a firm sees fit to hire you, and you can write the bar... The next problem is...


WORK PERMITS:

This is the kick in the balls, really, for us Canucks. US immigration is really kind of demented, as I'm sure you know by now, and thus high-skilled professionals with post-undergrad degrees who speak English are not exactly let into the US with open arms (like they are in Canada or any other Western nation). That said, barring any family ties (i.e. a brother, child, or, if you're under 21 and unmarried, a parent who is/are a citizen), the only way you can get work authroisation in the US is through your employer.

Employer-based work permits:

There are 2 general ways that employers get skilled workers in the US (not counting intra-company executives and transferees, like if I was the CEO of Ford Canada and I went to work in the US, those are different visas):

1. Direct-to-Greencard.
This is not exactly a popular route. You need to be a person of exceptional skill (i.e. a nobel laureate) in the sciences, arts or entertainment to get a first-perference greencard application approved. Second on the pecking order are highly-trained executives and managers who either a) get a national interest waiver from the DOL (Dept. of Labor). or b) go through labour certification. Since law firms aren't exactly high-power multinationals, let's forget option a. Option b: labour certification is basically your company saying "there is no one in the US that can do this person's job, therefore we need to bring someone from abroad." Lets just say that, as a new grad from law school, labour certification won't be easily gotten. Ok, so immediate greencards are out, for now...

2. Non-immigrant work visas.
Ok, here's really the most common way. For highly-skilled workers, there is a wonderful visa called the H1-B visa, which is a 3-5 year work permit for highly-skilled occupations. A lawyer would probably fall under this category, so you'd think, ok thats hunky-dory. But, alas, there is a cap to the number of H1-B visas allowed to be issued every year, so, in all probability, by the time you graduate LS in April/May and get your stuff squared away for your job, the H1-B limit will be met.

Ok, so I'm screwed now, right?

Nope! Here is really the meat-and-potatoes of a Canadian immigrating into the US: the TN visa. Created because of NAFTA, these are instant, at-the-border work permits. You just show up at the airport or land crossing with a letter from your employer stating your job title, salary, give em some money and applications, prove that you are qualified (i.e. bring your diploma) and, presto, in 5 minutes you get work authorization. So why isn't there a mass exodus of canadians south of the border in search of warmer weather and better work opportunities? TN visas are only given to certain categories of professionals. Simple "ad agency rep", "director of marketing" types wont get in. Luckily, lawyers are in the class of TN visas. And, the best part is, the requirement is a law degree OR bar membership. Note the OR, there... you just have to have a JD to be eligible for the TN.

So, that's really the rundown of the work-permit options.

After you've been in the states for a while, your employer begins the process of applying for a greencard for you. Or, as has been pointed out, marriage into one is a distinct possibility since you will be living amongst bachelorettes and you're in your marriage-prime years. Honestly, I don't know much about long-term job prospects and work authorisation...

And, lastly, the F1 visa, which you enter the US on to study at law school, gives you 12 months of something called OPT, optional practical training. This is basically a degree/program of study-specific work authorisation for 12 months during your educational program (think summer associate) or after you have completed study. The total is 12 months, so 2 summers cuts into that 12-month period, but there's also another option called CPT (curricular practical training) which may be used as well -- your school's international centre (not LS, the main university) has tons of information on this stuff.

and, for good measure:

GOING BACK TO ICE-LAND:

Assuming you want to go back to Canada to put your law degree to work as a lawyer, you'll need to join a provincial law society. Ok, this isn't exactly as easy as "I'm canadian, here is my US law school degree, now let me practise." In Canada there is a bit more elitism/protection of the law profession, and it basically means that:

a) you might have to go back to a canadian law school for 1-3 years to pick up some courses pertaining to Canadian-flavour common law (just like, at the beginning with those 4 states: other state bars require a LLM as a supplimentary degree for foreign-degreed lawyers)

b) they will find a way to extract their one year of slavery (sorry, i meant to say articling period) from you. Unless you've been a practising attorney for many years, if you're fresh out of law school, they're going to hit you up for a year of indentured servitude.


so, my suggestion about this: if you're reasonably sure about wanting to return to canada, or even if you're 50/50, pick up as many generic law courses as you can (property instead of american constitutional law) and maybe some comparative/international stuff if ur LS has it. Also, check out http://www.flsc.ca/en/foreignLawyers/guidelines.asp which has the info pertaining to US law degrees. A caveat though: foreign lawyer accreditation is probably very political/idiosyncratic, hence the information on that link is somewhat vague.


Anyhoo, sorry for the unsolicited, verbose and VERY lengthy post. I hope it helps some. A final note, don't quote me on any of this or assume that I'm a trained professional in any of these matters, this is just the result of looking around for this kind of information. 

Cheeks

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #7 on: August 27, 2004, 10:54:35 AM »
ocap,

Thank you very much for this information.  It was all extremely helpful.

Just a few questions that maybe you can answer for me:

Does the TN visa have a time limit?  or is it open-ended?  Also, how difficult is it to obtain a student visa?  When you apply to US schools, they ask you for your visa status.  If I could, I would go and get a student visa right now so that I could include it on my apps.  Unfortunately, they won't let you apply for the Student visa until ~3 months before you plan to attend class in the states.  Do you think that not having visa status when I apply will hurt me? or is a student visa easy to obtain and not a concern for law school?

Also, assume I've practiced in the states for ~5 years.  Do you think in returning to Canada I would still have to article for a year? 

I know you're just answering from personal knowledge and aren't trained or anything to answer this stuff but any help is much appreciated. 

Thanks again!

ocap8

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #8 on: August 27, 2004, 01:30:53 PM »
Ok, I'll try to keep this one as short as possible:

1. The TN visa expires after a year, but, for now, can be renewed in perpetuity. It's not supposed to be used as a dual-intent visa, that is, you're not expected to use it to work and apply for green card -- its strictly more of a "i'm a professional from canada, and in the spirit of free trade, i'm rendering services for a short time in the US" visa.

2. Student visas: On applications, put "none" because you dont have one. The schools, after you've been admitted, and you furnish them with a photocopy of a bank statement that shows you have an entire year's worth of funding for LS, issues you an I-20 form. Normally, if you were anyone but Canadian, you would take that I-20 to the local embassy/consulate and apply for a passport-page-sized visa from the US - this probably takes forever because you go through more applications, more $$, FBI background checks, and a ton of other stuff. Luckily, though, Canadians are visa-exempt in the US and a white I-94 form doubles as your "visa". You take the I-20, walk up to the airport or land border, give them the I-20, another copy of your proof of finances, and a completed I-94 form (its a small card that asks for yuor name, citizenship, passport number, etc. that they have en masse at airports), and presto, you're admitted. Oh, just a dumb piece of trivia: If you go through an airport to get admitted to the US, your I-94 fees are paid for in your airline ticket, if you go through the land border, be sure to have somewhere along the lines of 10-20 us dollars ready for them to pay this fee that was otherwise covered in your airline ticket. It might be as low as 6 bucks, tho, i can't remember.

3. I have no idea about the articling. I dont think they could justify slaving you for a year after 5 years of work, and if big law firms in Toronto or Vancouver have anything to say about hiring you and greasing you through the law societies, i'd think that it wouldn't be a problem. Like i said, it's probably very political and highly individualised at that point, who the lawyer is, who he will work for in canada, who he knows in canada, who the law firm's partners know, etc. However, I have heard no personal experiences from anyone that has done this, so I really can't say.

Jeit

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Re: Canadian citizens practicing in the US
« Reply #9 on: August 27, 2004, 04:52:04 PM »
My sister married an American and lives in L.A.. Would this mean anything if I wanted to move and work there?