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10 Realistic Tips to Americans Interested in Moving to Canada

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!

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