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Can Dreamers (DACA) Apply for a Canadian Visa?

Published on: May 11th, 2023

Canada and America share many things in common. Our economies are closely linked, our system of government is relatively similar and our way of life is comparable. One issue we do not share with America is the disproportionate number of undocumented immigrants residing in our respective countries.

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Often, whether you perceive undocumented immigrants as positive or negative is a matter of politics. But one thing that should cross all political divides is the fate of the hundreds of thousands of children who were brought to the United States by their parents, who were themselves undocumented workers.

They had no choice but to follow their parents. When you are a minor child, your life is not your own. You must depend on your parents or guardian to be responsible to make choices on your behalf that profoundly affect the world you live in. Many of these children do not even know they are undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s licence.

President Obama, like many Americans, felt that these children were blameless. He saw Congress’s lack of interest in pushing through any meaningful legislation to address the issue of ‘what to do with the children of undocumented workers’ and hence he made the bold decision to enact the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012.

DACA was heavily criticized by President Trump during his campaign and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the program is being repealed on September 5th, 2017. Congress had months to implement changes which left many scrambling to find a solution for the close to 800,000 Dreamers that were in the US at that time. 

On October 31, 2022, the DACA Rule rescinded and replaced the 2012 DACA memo. This means that all current grants of DACA and advance parole issued under the 2012 DACA memo remain valid. Applications to renew DACA are now governed by the DACA Rule. This means that for those who currently have DACA or had it within the last year, can file for renewals for their DACA and work permits. However the US federal government is accepting but not processing first time applications or applications that expired over a year ago.

The uncertain status of DACA over the years, and its continued contentious state have left many DACA recipients considering their options elsewhere. For many their first choice is Canada. However many are left wondering if it is possible for DACA holders to successfully immigrate to Canada. Most applicants will be relieved to know that they typically make excellent immigration candidates given their experience in the US, education and English language abilities.

Quick Facts about DACA

  1. DACA was created as an executive order by President Obama in 2012 after the failure of the DREAM Act Bill to pass through Congress
  2. There is no dedicated immigration program in the USA that provides a path to permanent residence (green card) for Dreamers
  3. Dreamers need to renew their status every 2 years
  4. 580,000 are currently protected under DACA

Can Dreamers Apply for a Canadian Visa?

If you are a Dreamer and you want to apply for permanent residence in Canada, that should not be a problem. With high English language proficiency and a completed university degree and a few years of work experience, qualifying under Express Entry could be possible.

Obtaining permanent residence in Canada can have a number of benefits for Dreamers. For example, most Canadian PR cards are issued for 5 years, giving Dreamers a longer period in between renewals than currently they face in the US. This would give them more stability and eventually allow them to apply for Canadian citizenship should they want.

If you want to apply for temporary residence in Canada, for example a work or student visa, this might be more difficult for two reasons:

  1. There are no more approvals for travel eligibility (advance parole) so if you get accepted for a temporary visa to Canada, and you do not have advanced parole, you are forfeiting your DACA status in the USA.
  2. When applying for a temporary visa to Canada, you must satisfy that you will leave Canada at the end of your stay. If your Dreamer status is cancelled, the visa officer might suspect that your intention to return to your country of citizenship would be low, since you have not resided there for many years, and therefore refuse admission to you.

Many Dreamers are Mexican nationals and hence could benefit under the trilateral North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). NAFTA work permits allow simplified entry to either Canada, Mexico or the United States, provided you have a job offer in one of approximately 60 eligible occupations. Once you are working in Canada, there are many avenues to apply to stay here permanently.


Are you a DACA recipient in the US and are considering immigrating to Canada? Canadim can help! Get started by completing a free assessment today.

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