Americans moving to Canada in record numbers: report

In what seems to be a reversal of fortunes from the 1990s, more and more Americans are looking to Canada as the 'land of opportunity.'

According to a new report by CTV News, economic woes in the U.S. are driving a record number of Americans across the northern border as they seek better job opportunities and cheaper education in Canada.

In 2011, Ottawa approved 34,185 visas for U.S. residents — a figure that falls just short of the all-time record of 35,060 approved visas in 2010. By comparison, fewer than 20,000 Canadians moved to the U.S. over the past two years — the lowest number in nearly a decade.

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It wasn't always this way.

When I was in university — back in the late 1990s — my economics professor asked how many of us intended to move to the United States. Almost all of us, fourth-year macroeconomics students, raised our hands.

It was the 'brain-drain' era: the American economy was strong and many of Canada's best and brightest were heading south to find work. Both the media and and politicians dubbed the exodus a crisis; studies were commissioned and papers were written.

But what a difference a decade makes.

"Since the 2008 economic crises, we have witnessed a steady stream of Americans applying for Canadian work visas," Canadian immigration attorney Michael Niren told Yahoo! Canada News in an email exchange on Thursday.

"The main reason for this is lack of employment in the U.S. and our strong Canadian dollar."

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Niren says most Americans who come to Canada do so through the expedited "NAFTA visa" process which requires applicants to have a Canadian job offer in one of 63 recognized occupations. The U.S. has a similar temporary visa — the TN visa — for Canadians who want to work there.

For the time being, however, it appears Canada's brain drain has been plugged.