|Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Blair Gable/Reuters|
After all, it’s a land where healthcare is universal, people are friendly, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains quantum computing just for laughs.
But actually becoming a citizen is tough: You need to live in Canada for at least six years, stay on your best behavior, and know a thing or two about the country you’ll soon call home.
For those who actually want to head up north, here’s how you move to Canada.
Preface: Make sure you’re not already a Canadian citizen.
Before you go through the hassle of applying for citizenship, take a short quiz to see if you may already be Canadian.
The government outlines several caveats for being a citizen even if you weren’t born there, many of which depend on your parents’ citizenship. Maybe you secretly inherited their status at some point along the way.
Be at least 18 years old.
Minors need their parent or legal guardian to fill out the application for them; they need to be permanent residents in Canada (more on that later); and the parent must either be a citizen or applying to become one at the same time.
Or enter the pool for skilled immigrants.
Canada has a fast-track system for immigration called Express Entry. It’s how skilled workers transition into a role in the country.
All applicants into Express Entry are given specific scores based on their specific talents and job prospects and then ranked with other applicants. Those at the top of the rankings are invited to become permanent residents.
Have a permanent residence in Canada.
To become a permanent resident, people can choose between several avenues. They can apply through the province of their choice, go down a special entrepreneur route, get help from a family member or spouse who lives in Canada, or go through Quebec, which has special immigration requirements.
Permanent residents are entitled to healthcare coverage and can work, study, and travel anywhere in Canada. You just can’t vote, run for office, or hold some jobs with high security clearance.
Declare your intent to reside.
|Justin Sullivan / Getty Images|
If you’re invited to become a permanent resident, you must confirm your plans to stay Canadian. The government defines permanent residence as living in Canada for at least two years in a five-year period. If you don’t spend that much time within the borders, you could lose your permanent residence status.
If you don’t live in Canada, you must work outside Canada as a public official known as a Crown Servant or live abroad with certain family members who are Crown Servants.
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Spend six years at that residence.
Permanent residents don’t always become citizens. The bar for citizenship is higher.
If you’re living in Canada, you must have been a permanent resident and physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days (four 365-day periods) in the six years immediately before the date of your application.
You must also be present for 183 days (half a year) during each of the four calendar years that are fully or partially within the six years before the application date.
In other words, your time in Canada needs to stay relatively consistent.
Provide your income tax filing.
|Canadian Finance Blog|
Like the residence requirement, you must be able to provide four years’ worth of tax returns in the six-year period leading up to the date of your application.
Basically, they want to see if your job is legit.
Speak English or French.
Along with dozens of other countries, Canada has two official languages: English and French.
To become a citizen, you need to know just one. You don’t need to be fluent, just conversational enough to make small talk, give directions, use basic grammar, and know your vocab well enough to describe yourself.
You’ll send along written documents with your application, but a citizenship officer will make the final call whether your English or French is up to snuff.
Know a thing or two about Canada.
You should probably brush up on your Canadian history anyway, but the government also issues a formal quiz to applicants on the history, values, institutions, and symbols of Canada.
You take the test if you’re between 16 and 64 years old. Typically, it’s a written test, but the citizenship officer may also ask questions orally.
There are no real surprises. Everything you’d need to know can be found here: Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.
Know why your application might get denied.
There are a number of reasons your past may prohibit you from becoming a Canadian citizen.
For instance, the government looks down upon granting citizenship to people who have committed a crime within four years of submitting their application or are on trial for a crime.
It also specifies that people in prison can’t use their sentence toward becoming a permanent residence. (That doesn’t quite fit with the “intent to reside.”)
Invest in durable clothes for your local climate.
Canada is the second-largest country on earth, behind Russia. As such, there is no singular “Canadian climate,” even if people may think it’s just cold most of the time.
Depending on how close you live to the British Columbian coast, for example, spring can begin as early as February and summer temperatures can rise into the 90s.
So if you’re looking for places to take up permanent residence, research what the weather’s like. You won’t waste money or space buying unnecessary items.
Take advantage of the customs of your new life.
|Bruce Bennett/Getty Images|
Now that you’ve left your home country behind, embrace what makes Canada unique.
Many Canadians express deep fondness for Tim Hortons, quirky slang, celebrity ambassadors, and hockey.
No one will expect you to dive headfirst into this new world, but if you want to become a genuine citizen, formal requirements are only the start.
6 reasons to think twice before moving to Canada
For those craving an escape from election craziness this year, emigration to Canada may be on a lot of minds. Now that the U.S. election is decided, we’ll see if any of those who threatened to move away, depending on election results, will make good on their promises.
After Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton each won seven state primaries on Super Tuesday, Google GOOG, +0.38% GOOGL, +0.32% searches for “Move to Canada” spiked to their highest level ever.
Since then, those searches haven’t been quite as high. Of course, the social-media outcry over the Republican front-runner or former Secretary of State’s chances of winning the White House was probably more an act of catharsis than an actual plan to emigrate.
There are lots of reasons to move to Canada, particularly for liberals, from fewer firearm-related homicides to a socially progressive government to universal health care.
But those who are really ready to start afresh, learn to love hockey and build a life in Justin Bieber’s homeland have more things to consider. Here are six:
1. Immigration could be difficult — and expensive
The process isn’t cheap: For example, an adult applying to remain in Canada as a permanent resident will have to pay $550 to apply for that status. And for those who planned to do some strategic Tinder-ing, some bad news: You won’t automatically become a Canadian citizen if you marry someone who is.
For skilled workers, there is an “Express Entry” program that may make the immigration process faster.
“Everything was difficult about the immigration process,” said Shelli Nishino-Fayle, who grew up in Los Angeles but moved to Vancouver in 2012 when she married her husband, a Canadian citizen.
“There is so much immigration fraud in terms of false marriages in Canada that our marriage was put under the magnifying glass.” The entire process took about two years, she said.
Nishino-Fayle keeps a blog about her life in Canada and also recommends websites RoadtoCanada.com and CanadaVisa.com for anyone thinking about moving there. To find out if you’re eligible to work or live permanently in Canada, complete the Canadian government’s online questionnaire here.
2. You may still have to pay U.S. taxes
Depending on their citizenship status, Americans who move to Canada may still be subject to paying American taxes.
U.S. citizens who live in Canada as Canadian permanent residents are still required to file annual U.S. income tax returns and also contact the Canadian government to see if they should file Canadian tax returns and pay Canadian taxes as well, according to the IRS. However, it may be possible to exclude some or all foreign income on U.S. tax returns, if you meet the IRS’s requirements.
And, if you want to hold onto your American citizenship, that goes for many countries where taxes are far lower than in the U.S., too.
3. You’ll probably say goodbye to some of your favorite chains
Love Trader Joe’s? How about Target TGT, +2.20% ? You won’t be able to patronize them on Canadian soil. Of course, there will be new stores to fall in love with, but some of the most popular U.S. chains aren’t in Canada.
Target shut down its 133 stores in Canada in 2015, after being open there for just two years.
“This difficult decision in Canada allows us to focus all of our energy on strengthening and executing our plans in the U.S.,” the company’s Chief Executive, Brian Cornell, said at the time.
Analysts described various problems the chain had in Canada, from overestimating how much Canadians would value coupons to higher prices than some competitors in Canada.
4. Housing costs are high
Many cities in the U.S. are notorious for their high costs of living, but many Canadians feel the same way about their cities. Nearly half of people living in urban areas say the cost of buying a home in their neighborhood is either “high” or “unreasonably high,” according to a February 2016 survey of Canadian adults by the Angus Reid Institute, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that commissions research and opinion polls.
And Canada ranks fairly high compared with other countries on its cost of living, according to Deutsche Bank’s annual survey of global prices (though by many measures, it’s not as expensive as the U.S.).
For example, according to the “Big Mac Index,” in which the prices of Big Macs are compared in different countries as a measure of the cost of living, Canada’s prices were 97% of those in the U.S.
A two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola bought in Toronto is about 83% the price of the same bottle in New York, and public transportation in Toronto is about 86% of New York’s prices.
And some items are actually more expensive in Canada than in the U.S.; in 2015, one liter of gasoline in Toronto cost 129% what it did in New York.
5. Make sure you have a job lined up
The unemployment rate in Canada is 7%, according to government statistics. In the U.S., unemployment dropped below 5% in January for the first time since early in the 2007 to 2009 recession and remains below 5%.
The low prices of commodities have hurt jobs in Canada, where many areas are reliant on natural resources.
Lower oil prices have also lowered the Canadian dollar.
Still, in August, Canada added 26,200 jobs.
6. You might need to learn some new words
For all those trips to Tim Horton’s, the country’s popular coffee-and-donut chain, here’s a tip: A “double double” is a coffee with two creams and two sugars. There’s more Canadian slang where that came from, like “toque” (a knit cap) and “mickey” (a flask). And it wouldn’t hurt to learn French: About 30% of Canadians can speak it.
Nishino-Fayle says although there are plenty of pros about living in Canada — like its natural beauty — giving up life in the U.S. has its drawbacks. “I miss snarkiness. I miss the desert landscape. I miss the Pacific Coast Highway. Most of all I miss my family and friends. I miss Target,” she said. “It’s funny that you asked me this question because just last night I texted my husband and said, ‘The only things I like about Canada are you, health care and oka cheese.”
How to Move from the U.S. to Canada
Canada, America's neighbor to the north, is the world's second-largest country by area and home to more than 34 million residents in 2011, according to the CIA World Factbook. Moving from the United States to Canada is more involved than just packing up your belongings and finding a new domicile. Before you can move to Canada, you must apply for permanent Canadian residency with the office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
ITEMS YOU WILL NEED
- U.S. passport, passport card or NEXUS card
- Residency application
- Blue or black ballpoint pen
- Photocopy of the personal information pages of your valid U.S. passport
- Proof of English (and sometimes French) language proficiency
- Birth certificate
- Financial information
- Personal items inventory
Visit Canada to determine where you would like to live and the logistics of moving your belongings there, should your application for permanent residency be accepted. Americans with a valid U.S. passport, passport card or NEXUS card can stay in Canada for up to 180 days without having to apply for a Canadian visa.
Determine which type of permanent Canadian residency best suits your qualifications. Choose from the Skilled Workers and Professionals, Quebec-Selected Skilled Workers, Canadian Experience, Investors and Entrepreneurs, Provincial Nominees and Family-Sponsored categories. Visit the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website (cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/index.asp) to review the requirements for each category.
Print the application form for the appropriate permanent residency category from the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website. Complete the application form with a blue or black ballpoint pen; write legibly to avoid unnecessary processing delays.
Submit the completed application along with the applicable processing fee and requested supporting documents to the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office listed on your residency application. The supporting documents vary by residency category and include a photocopy of the personal information pages of your valid U.S. passport, proof of English (and sometimes French) language proficiency, birth certificate and financial information.
Wait for the Citizenship and Immigration Canada office to process your application for permanent residency. If your application is approved, you will receive an official Canadian Permanent Resident card.
Rent a self-driven moving truck or hire a moving company that offers international moving services, such as Mayflower. Make a list of all the items that you're bringing into Canada and their value. Make a second list of any items that will be shipped from the U.S. to Canada at a later date, if applicable. Provide two copies of each list to the customs officials when you enter the country. Give the copies to the driver of the moving truck if you hired an international moving service.
How To Move To Canada As A Skilled Worker
Moving to another country permanently is usually a difficult decision to make. It seems simple, but the moment you start looking at your options, it tends to become very complicated. In the past year or so moving to Canada has become a more popular topic than ever before. So for those people who may be interested, I would like to explain one program under which people can move to Canada - the Federal Skilled Worker Express Entry program.
What the Federal Skilled Worker Express Entry program does is allow people that are considered sufficiently skilled and experienced in certain occupations to come and settle in Canada. It relies primarily on a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) developed by Immigration and Citizenship Canada.
The CRS is a point system that gives immigration candidates a certain amount of points for their age, education, language ability and work experience. The scale ranges from 0-1200 points, but in reality most people that apply are somewhere between 300 and 450.
Every application to the Express Entry system gets put into a pool. In 2016, 33,782 people from that pool were invited to immigrate to Canada. The way they were chosen is by being ranked against one another. The candidates with the most points were given an invitation.
In the most recent draw by Immigration and Citizenship Canada, the cut-off point above which people got an invitation was 413 points (If you are curious what this means in actual criteria, there is a handy tool here to let you plug in information and come up with a number). Most people in the pool did not meet this number.
So, how does one improve their score and qualify to come to Canada?
One way is improving in one of the official languages (English and French). Better test scores on language tests like IELTS (International English Language Testing System) lead directly to a higher score. But the gains you can make in just your language score usually do not put people over the top.
Another is to have a good job offer in Canada. This gives you an extra 50 points (and in some cases, if it’s an extremely good job, 200 points). But if you’re qualifying for that good of a job already, you probably don’t need help getting over the 413 point hump anyways.