tl;dr Pay the services of a Professional Employer Organization that will employ me: on paper I work for them in Canada, in reality I work for you. Not complicated and obviously legal.
For the last 10 years, I’ve worked as a Developer Advocate for US-based companies. There are two reasons for that:
- This role is way more popular in American companies than in Canada. Most roles I’ve seen in Canada are in fact, for a company with root in the States;
- We really don’t pay well our tech people here. Say what you want about cost of living or anything else, it’s true.
With that said, quite often they can’t hire me unless I move to their country. The problem is that I’m open to relocating, but not in the US or elsewhere in Canada. If I go to the troubles of starting a new life elsewhere, better be in EMEA, APAC or LATAM. To fix that, remote companies usually hire people as full-time contractors. They are treated as any other employees internally, but on paper, they are contractors. It’s one legal way to pay employees in countries where you don’t have a legal entity. The problem is that I live in Québec, where our government likes to make things complicated.
In that case, the reality is that you are an employee. You have a manager, you have the company laptop and you aren’t deciding when and how to do the work. This is how the government, if they investigate, is deciding that it’s fraud. You are a contractor on paper which is an employee in disguise. For them, it means that the company isn’t paying the taxes they should pay when they hire someone locally. Of course, they don’t verify the situation of all contractors, but having one customer only for a year or two is a red flag. There is no written rules, but to fly under the radar, you need at least three customers. Beside the fact that I don’t want to get contracts on the side, it is the law and I’m not a law breaker.
This situation leaves us with two options:
- You create a legal entity in Canada: it doesn’t matter which provinces you do it, at that point you can hire me;
- You use a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). They will be the middleman between your company and myself. On paper, I will work for them. You will pay them as a service provider including my compensation and a fee for their service.
The first option is more beneficial if you plan to expand in any capacity in Canada. In the long run, you could save money. The latter is the perfect choice in most cases. Easy to set up and cost effective if you don’t plan to expand that much in winterland. There are many companies out there doing that: I’ve heard about Velocity Global and Shield GEO. It’s more common than you think: when I was at Mozilla, they were using a PEO name TriNet to hire me and my fellow Canadians.
In the end, “I cannot hire you because you aren’t based in the US” (or any other country for that matter) isn’t a good reason. If I am a good fit, it’s really easy for you to hire me legally. Think about it!