U.S. expat reflects on decision to move to Canada

Andrew Stivelman moved to Canada after George W. Bush was elected president. Supplied.

Andrew Stivelman didn’t like the direction his country was heading in and jumped at the chance to leave the United States in the summer of 2003 when his Boston employer opened an office in Toronto.

Stivelman didn’t consider George W. Bush his president after Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to his Republican rival back in 2000. He also felt America was becoming a war-loving nation with the invasion of Iraq later in 2003.

“So I made the switch and never looked back,” Stivelman told Yahoo Canada News.

Immigration lawyers in Canada said they advised several American citizens like Stivelman who were upset about Bush and wanted to leave after the U.S. president won a second term in 2004. However, it’s worse this time with the election of Donald Trump.

Immigration lawyer Blair Hodgman — who became a Canadian citizen herself the day the U.S. launched the war in Iraq on March 19, 2003 — said she also helped same-sex couples who didn’t like the way their relationships were treated in the U.S.

“I remember these two women and they were living in the United States but they couldn’t really live there and then they cried when they were able to live in Canada together,” Hodgman recalled.

Immigration lawyer Heather Segal of Toronto remembers advising one or two clients who wanted to immigrate to Canada because of Bush. But she and other lawyers say it’s different this time with Trump.

“There’s without a doubt a palpable Trump effect on the immigration system,” immigration lawyer Richard Kurland told Yahoo Canada News.

It’s hard to quantify the effect Bush or Trump has on the number of Americans moving north since Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) couldn’t immediately provide data about the number of applications for permanent residence received from the U.S.

(UPDATE Jan. 25: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada said there were 8,579 permanent applications received from U.S. nationals in 2005, up 14 per cent from 7,542 in 2004 when Bush was re-elected for a second term. Those submitted applications peaked at 9,399 in 2008, the year Barack Obama was elected president and they tapered to 6,885 in 2015. Figures for 2016 aren’t yet available, but for the first 10 months of last year it was 6,113.)

Anecdotally, traffic searches for “move to Canada” spiked and the IRCC’s website crashed on election night in November. And the Canadian Bar Association’s internal listserv for immigration lawyers reported more consultations with people in the U.S. seeking permanent residence information, Kurland said.

Specifically, they and their U.S. counterparts took calls from foreign workers whose work permits are about to end, as well as from students and dual citizens seeking permanent residence for their family members.

“What this means is that Canada is now fertile immigration recruitment ground,” Kurland said.

Hodgman has seen an uptick in calls to her firm’s offices in Chester, N.S., and Cleveland from dual citizens who want to renounce their U.S. citizenship because of Trump.

Before Trump won, Segal got one or two calls a week. But since then she’s been on the phone on a daily basis with Americans interested in setting up consultation appointments to learn about their options.

She is currently advising a couple who adopted a child from Central America and don’t want to raise their son in the U.S.

“People are very concerned and afraid because of their lack of confidence in what is to come,” she said. “So they’re evaluating whether or not it’s doable.”

Whether people act on the information will depend on what happens post-inauguration, Segal said. But she expects she’ll be very busy.

As for Stivelman, he’s very happy with his decision and has no thoughts of moving back.

On a visit to the U.S. last weekend, he said his 87-year-old father is jealous that he lives in Canada.

“Every single time I speak to him, he tells me how lucky I am to live here,” Stivelman said. “I agree with him.”