I am a Canadian on a J-1 visa for residency in the US. After I graduate, would I need a visa to: 1) live in Canada near the border, but work full time in the US? 2) live in Canada, but work as a locum in the US?
Canadians, like any other intending immigrants, need a valid status in order to be in the U.S., so the short answer is yes. A physician performing full time clinical work in the U.S. may choose H-1B or O-1 status for example. Locums work also necessitates a status, such as H-1B, O-1, H-2B, etc.
Perhaps your main question is whether you will need a J-1 waiver. I get this question frequently from Canadian physicians. The interesting twist is that Canadian physicians may receive H-1B status without a J-1 waiver and may satisfy the two-year home residence requirement by living in Canada for two years even while they work in the U.S. As you may imagine, this approach has limited application, because the physician would have to work close to the U.S./Canada border in order to bear the commute.
For more information, please see the article I wrote on this subject. I have included the link below.
So essentially a Canadian MUST have their employer file for a visa status change from J1 to H1B? I too am looking to do the 'live in Canada/work in US', but I wasn't sure whether I'm supposed to actually keep my J1 through my 2 years return requirement, or immediately change to H1B.
Also, during those 2 years, I can petition, but not apply for a greencard?
It depends upon what you are planning to do, James. If you are planning to commute and work in the U.S. while satisfying the home residence requirement, you will need a status that will allow you to do this, such as an H-1B.
Regarding the green card process, you are correct that you could begin it with a labor certification or a petition, but you cannot file the I-485 adjustment application without waiving or satisfying the home residence requirement.