How to move to Canada from the U.S. and everything to know about becoming a citizen

Americans are once again trying to expand their options by learning how to move to Canada, just in case they're not in favour of who wins the 2020 U.S. presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (Credit: Getty Images)
Americans are once again trying to expand their options by learning how to move to Canada, just in case they're not in favour of who wins the 2020 U.S. presidential election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. (Credit: Getty Images)

Thinking again of moving to your friendly neighbour up North? You’re not the only one.

In 2016, Canada’s immigration site crashed as Donald Trump made his way to victory in the U.S. presidential election.

Similar trends have started to appear amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 U.S. election. By 10 p.m. EST on Nov. 3, searches from American users for “how to move to Canada” have gone up by at least 700 per cent compared to the same time of day on Nov. 2, according to Google Trends.

With more and more Americans feeling anxious, stressed, and fearful of the socioeconomic and political situation, here’s what you should know if you’re looking for how to move to Canada.

How hard is it to move to Canada?

Warren Creates, an immigration lawyer at Perley-Roberston, Hill & McDougall law firm, says that “Canada does not give any preferential treatment to Americans. ... Having said that, Americans tend to qualify better than the nationals of many other countries on certain of the key criteria.”

The Ottawa-based lawyer says some of the criteria includes language ability, age, visa-exemption, relatives in Canada, work experience, and resourcefulness.

“Not by intent but by program design, there is a preference [for Americans],” added Creates.

ALSO SEE: A U.S. election for Canada: Trump victory has experts 'fearing the worst', Biden more 'in line' with Canadian values

Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, Americans may still be able to make the cross-border move even during the pandemic. Foreign nationals can travel to Canada if they are eligible based on the restrictions.

When you arrive in Canada by land, sea, or air, you must present a 14-day quarantine plan. But as a foreign national, if you exhibit COVID-19 symptoms you will not be allowed to enter Canada.

The 3 ways to immigrate to Canada:

  1. Permanent residency:

  • Family sponsorship: If you have a relative in Canada who is at least 18 years old, and is a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or registered under the Canadian Indian Act, they can sponsor you.

  • Express entry: If you are a skilled worker, and want to contribute to the economy, there are different programs you can apply to in order to be eligible for permanent residency.

  • Start-up visa: If you want to start a business in Canada and will create jobs, you can apply as an entrepreneur.

  • Caregivers: Immigrate to Canada by providing care for children, elderly, or those with medical needs.

  • Self-employed: If you have relevant experience in cultural or athletic activities, you can immigrate as a self-employed person who can contribute to Canada’s culture and athletic scene.

  • Provincial nominees: If you have skills, experience, and education that can contribute to a specific province or territory, you may apply to be nominated by that province or territory.

  • Atlantic immigration pilot: International students who want to stay or skilled workers wanting to move to New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland and Labrador can immigrate through this pilot program.

  • Agri-food pilot: If you work in specific agri-food industries and occupations, you can contribute to Canada’s agri-food needs by immigrating through this pilot program.

  • Rural and northern immigration pilot: Currently there are 11 communities participating in the pilot program. If you want to work and live in any one of the 11 communities, you can apply through this program.

  • Quebec immigration: The province of Quebec has its own rules on selecting applicants who will adapt well to living in the province.

  • Refugees: If you are forced to flee your country and need protection, you can apply to Canada’s refugee system.

  1. Work permit: Apply to work permanently, temporarily, or as a student.

    • Anyone can apply before they enter Canada and there are two types of work permits. “Employer-specific” allows you to only work for a certain employer with conditions. While “open work lets you work for any employer, with a few exceptions.

  2. Study permit: Apply to study in Canada as a foreign national at a designated learning institution.

How to become a Canadian citizen:

  • Be a permanent resident

  • Have lived in Canada for three out of five years

  • Filed taxes

  • Passed the citizenship test

  • Proved language skills

  • Application fee: adults $630, kids $100

  • Due to COVID-19, the processing time is 12 months. For more information, please visit the Government of Canada website.

Pitfalls of immigrating to Canada

Contemplating such a move is a major decision. Aside from receiving free healthcare, there are many hardships immigrants face. Economic hardship is at the top of that list. The best way to be in a position of strength is to arrive in a country with a job lined up to be able to support yourself and/or your family. Having a job offer also speeds up the immigration process to Canada.

Creates says everyday he is amazed by how many people make the decision to migrate. When the 2016 U.S. election happened, Creates represented more than 20 clients on immigrating to Canada. Now, especially after how the U.S. has handled COVID-19, more and more people are turning to Canada to start a new chapter.

“Every conversation [in the U.S.] is dominated by a discussion about the government, either opposition or support,” says Creates. “Here in Canada, you don’t hear people talking about our government endlessly.

“What I’m hearing with clients is that they are tired,” added Creates. “They are tired of the racialization, the ideological gap, the mismanagement of so many key elements on immigration, on COVID, healthcare...”

The basics you should know about Canada:

  • The Canadian dollar is lower than the U.S dollar. One USD is 0.76 CAD as of Nov. 3

  • Canada is the second largest country in the world, divided into provinces and territories (that’s right, no states)

  • The two official languages are English and French

  • Does Canada have a president? We do not have a president, rather a prime minister. Currently the prime minister is Justin Trudeau, who is the leader of the Liberal Party

  • Canada is a parliamentary democracy, so citizens don’t vote directly for the prime minister rather they vote for candidates in their ridings (a.k.a. electoral districts) then the majority will determine the outcome

  • Is weed legal in Canada? The federal government made recreational cannabis use legal in 2018, becoming the second country in the world to do so

  • Canada is known around the world for its free healthcare funded by tax dollars

    “It goes without saying that Canada remains a safe haven and a welcoming place where people can ride out the pandemic, and other socio-political storms—with hope,” says Creates. The question is, do you feel hopeful?”