When I was living abroad, some of the fellow global vagrants I met were Canadians. One sure way to get on the wrong side was to ask which part of the States they were from … which could easily happen if they hadn’t said “about” yet.
It wasn’t that they didn’t like America, although there was some of that, especially between 2003 and 2004, they were just frustrated that if it speaks like us, it must be American by default. In other words, they did not like to be seen as appendages of the powerful republic to the south.
Canada has always attracted some Americans. Thousands of us served in their military from 1939 to 1942. During the Vietnam War, flight to Canada was quite popular, as I recall. But overall, among Americans, Canada is more popular as a target for silly and inaccurate jokes and stereotypes than a place to live.
However, recently, internet searches for “moving to Canada” have suddenly exploded to all-time highs in the US (and UK). I’m sure you can guess the push factors.
The question is: Can Americans really get in? I set out to answer that question, and what I found was not encouraging …
Oh Canada. Ice hockey land, geese, “uh,” plaid shirts, and Bob and Doug McKenzie. What is it that I don’t like, right?
There are many Americans who spend a lot of time in Canada. US citizens can stay in the country for less than six months within a one-year period without a visa or other special paperwork. Many Americans spend their summer there and winter in the US But six months out of the year is the maximum.
Some Americans can even temporarily work in Canada without a visa. For example, I have a friend who is a hunting guide who often goes hunting geese in Manitoba during the American summer.
When it comes to permanent residency and citizenship, however, Canada is not so welcoming. Like Australia and New Zealand, it sets a very high bar for foreigners who want to live there permanently.
Canada does not have a formal retirement visa program. Your only option is to apply for an investment visa as a retired person. In this sense, the Canadian government considers your ability to work and support yourself, like any other immigrant. If you are well educated and speak English fluently (even better French), you are more likely to qualify. Similarly, even if you are retired, it helps if you can show that you have financial resources to take care of yourself and your family. If you have funds to invest in Canada, that is another advantage.
However, if you have a child or grandchild who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible for the parent / grandparent super visa, which allows you to stay in Canada for up to two years.
Countries like Panama or Costa Rica have visa programs that allow you to live there with the product of the work you do abroad, such as an Internet-based consultancy, since it does not imply competing with locals for work. Canada has nothing like this. The only way to obtain residency as a self-employed person is by being a “cultural worker” (for example, an artist) or a farmer.
Canadian employment permit applications are handled through the Express Entry Immigration Program (EEIP). It is a points-based system that is based on age, marital status, adaptability, language proficiency, education, and work experience. There are 1200 possible points, and you need a score of approximately 500 points to qualify. Going this route requires a confirmed job offer from a Canadian employer in a job category that has been identified as subject to skills shortages.
At the moment, some of the key categories for immigration under the EEIP are not accepting new applications.
For new investors, there is the Start-up Visa. Requires written investment support for a qualifying company from a government approved angel investor group, venture capital fund, or business incubator. It also requires passing the Canadian Language Benchmarks test for English or French, and an adequate amount of money to settle and pay for your expenses before your business begins to generate income.
For Americans with an existing business looking to invest in Canada, or for skilled workers, most provinces have their own Provincial Nominee Program with different criteria. Most are looking for investors or low-skilled workers in those parts of the country. French-speaking Quebec is a bit different: its Immigrant Investor Program requires a minimum net worth of CA $ 1.6 million and an investment of CA $ 800,000.
Once you are a permanent resident, if you have physically lived in Canada for four of the six years (183 days out of each of those four years), you can apply for citizenship.
I have bad news for those fearful folks who think they will just pack the minivan and kids and cross the border if the November election results don’t go well for them. It will not happen. Canada, in fact, is more restrictive than the United States when it comes to immigration.
In part, that’s because the country is much less populated and has a much smaller pool of immigrants to begin with. That means there are fewer potential immigrants trying to get in on the basis of family relationships with someone already there.
Of course, Canada has a strong history of welcoming refugees from situations of war, oppression, and civil strife. Who knows? Perhaps Americans will qualify soon enough.
Now i wouldn’t that be ironic …