10 Realistic Tips to Americans Interested in Moving to Canada

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

Champlain border crossing between Canada and the US, June 2012

Since Trump was elected leader of the free world—gosh, just typing this was heartbreaking…—Canada became a place of interest to Americans who want out. We share a border and a language, we have a funky leader, a “socialist” healthcare system, lower tuition fees and we like to think we are progressive and open-minded.

Indeed, Canada is probably the easiest immigration option for American, since the European Union typically doesn’t actively recruit immigrant workers (unemployment rate is already very high) and other parts of the world may present a bigger practical and cultural challenge.

And this is how the website of Citizenship and Immigration Canada crashed as the outcome of the election emerged that night.

Even at my level, I’m swamped. This week saw a huge spike in traffic on the blog and I received 18 emails to date from Americans asking for immigration advice.

If I had an ounce of business sense, I could have sold one of my two citizenships and charge for immigration advice.

But of course, I’m communist and I don’t know how to profit. So here are my free tips to Americans considering crossing the northern border for good, from a former immigrant to wannabe migrants.

You can’t just cross the border and move to Canada. Although you are welcome to visit and you don’t need a visa for that, you can’t work, open a bank account, be covered by the healthcare system, etc. on a visitor status.

You can’t “apply for Canadian citizenship” directly unless you were already a permanent resident in Canada. You need to apply first for permanent resident status (more or less like a Green Card) to be allowed to live, work and study in Canada for as long as you want.

The immigration process is fairly straightforward as long as you qualify in one of the immigration categories. The most common ones are the skilled worker category (where people with the right combination of skill and experience are selected to fill a gap in the labour market), through the Express entry pool, the Provincial Nominees Program or the Quebec-selected skilled worker program. There is also the family sponsorship category if you are in a committed, long-term relationship with a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Start by checking your eligibility online—it’s free.

If you have a criminal record, including a DUI, you may be ineligible. In fact, just crossing the border with a DUI is a major issue. Serious health issues can also be a problem for your application. Find out if you could be inadmissible here.

The permanent residence application process takes time. At the very least, about a year, often much longer. Processing times depends on how busy the visa office is and on your application. For instance, if you lived in another country or were in the military, the background check can take longer. You can check the average application processing times to get a general idea of the length of the process based on your immigration category and your visa office.

You don’t get to jump the queue because you’re American. Sure, we are neighbours, but visa agreements are largely reciprocal and the USA isn’t part of many visa exchange programs. For instance, the US aren’t on the list of the many countries (including Australia, Canada, many Western European nations, Japan, etc.) that participate in the Working Holiday Visa Program, which is a great way for young people to work and live abroad and can be a stepping stone to permanent residence. Sorry.

Don’t waste time looking for a shortcut. There isn’t any. Getting sponsored by a Canadian company is rare because it involves a lot of red tape for the employer. Typically, you need a unique background to be sponsored and you work visa will be tied to your job so it’s not an ideal solution anyway (if you lose your job, you’re out). No, you can’t claim you are in a long-term relationship with that Canadian woman you met on Tinder this week—and marrying a Canadian citizen doesn’t automatically grants you Canadian citizenship. Don’t fall for scams that promise you a fast-tracked application. Instead, take the time to review your options, fill out the paperwork and go the regular way. It pays off.

You don’t need to hire an immigration lawyer unless your case is very complicated. Immigrants lawyers won’t speed up the process but they will cost you money. Which brings us to the next point…

The immigration process has a cost. There are the paperwork-related fees plus additional expenses (passports, mailing, pictures, etc.), moving expenses and you also have to prove you have enough funds to settle in Canada. You can see the complete fee list here to figure out your budget.

You will need time to adjust to Canadian culture. Even if we are neighbours and share a language, some customs and traditions, major media, etc. Canada is still very different from the US. You’re not moving to another American state and you can expect to experience a culture shock in some aspects of life.

Guys, we are in this together. American politics impact us as well and I’ll be the first in line to show up with an offensive sign if Trump visits Ottawa.

Good luck!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Do Americans not need a visa to visit Canada then? I only ask because I know you now need one if you are visiting from England. What about from France? I don’t blame a lot of people who want to move here – you have to wonder whether some of them would be able to claim asylum!

    • As far as I know, Americans don’t need a visa to visit Canada. Canadians don’t need a visa for the US either, I cross easily with my Canadian passport.

      Back when I had a French passport, EU was part of the visa waiver program, so we just had to fill in a form upon entering the US. Then we had to be fingerprinted around 2005-2006, I think. Now I’m not sure, as I use my Canadian passport.

  2. Being in the field, I can propose that : there is a shortage of truck drivers in Canada, it is probably doable to submit for a work permit in a Canadian trucking company, with naturally the caveats you mention, and as long as one have the driving experience. I suggest particularly flatbed and livestock hauling companies if one is willing to do the job.

  3. I always laugh everytime there is an election in the States (this time even more so) and we hear this non-sense.
    The truth is that this is just whining from most of the democrats who believed the H hype so much that they couldnt really wake up when the sh** hit the fan.
    As a Canadian I keep telling them that chances of them immigrating to canada are pretty slim. As you mentioned it isnt a walk in the park, and THE WEATHER …. oh MY… it is winter and definitely not the best time of the year to start a life in Canada.

    In addition it is true, Americans dont need a visa (i.e. eTA, like most of EU need now) but then again the immigration rules apply fully as americans are foreigners like the rest of the world immigrating to canada, so they can be denied entry to canada right on spot (and there can be so many reasons for that). As the immigration laws are getting even tougher on the canadian side, Americans like the rest of the worlds will find it even more difficult to legally reside in Canada.
    Whoever think that all they need to do is pack and leave the States, chances are that they will be in Canada for a few minutes and then take the shortest route back to the States which is guided by the canadian immigration straight in between border crossings. In addition get barred for a good period of time for expressing immigration interest while asking for permission on a tourist trip.

    As a dual citizen I have no intention to move back to canada, although it is easy for me ( I have to take care of some technicalities though). higher taxes in canada, hard to find jobs with salaries north of 100K, pretty weak loonies versus the US$, very few opportunities, canucks asking for weird things like canadian experience eh?! …. you name it … and the winter oh MY, the winter ….
    So let me introduce the facts : trump is the president, canada is and will continue to be north and joked about from most of the americans, and yes the grass is still greener on this side 🙂 … no one is leaving NYC.

    As for the crossing in-between this vast space (USA and Canada) still the best bet is a dual citizen. No one can say to you NO on either side (whatsoever the situation). Although canada and usa enjoy a very good relations, always can be the case for the canadians citizens to be denied entry in the states, for whatever reason. this will be in the discretion of the redneck that will be in that moment in the booth.

    While I still dont need a visa to fly to canada from anywhere in the world even as an american as I dont need any type of visa (yes eTA is a cheap 7$ visa for all EU members and dont make the mistake Juliette to show up at the airport if you are trying to enter canada by air with your french passport, you cant even apply anymore for eTA as a french citizen since you are dual now. They will not let you board a plane unless you have a valid canadian passport.even if t will true that your son flushed it down the toilet.).
    Canadian dual citizens with the exception of the US-Can case, cannot travel anymore visa free from this beginning Nov, under their other citizenship passport (talking about EU members roughly).
    So Canada just applied the eTA for EU same as USA (read the news MARTIN as there is no such thing as a visa waiver any more). Immigration is getting even more complicated 🙂
    EU tried to apply the reciprocity but failed as a lot of USA and canadians visit and spend like crazy in europe. While there is no hope for reciprocity for EU members like Bulgaria, Romania, Czech etc which have been discriminated even more and still need visas (embassy issued) to travel to canada.

    • Realistically, I doubt many Americans will cross the border just because of the outcome of the election. Immigrating takes time and effort, it’s not a quick fix. That said, I know quite a few American families who settled in Canada because it was the best place for them. You seem to be happy in the US… good for you! There is a right place to live for all of us, depending on what we are looking for 🙂

      I usually travel with my Canadian passport but good point, I have to remember the latest regulations!

Leave A Reply