USA-Canada Immigration – Moving to Canada From the USA

USA-Canada Immigration – Moving to Canada From the USA

Every year, thousands of American citizens make the decision to move to Canada. Some are attracted by economic opportunity, others are sponsored by a spouse or partner, while many other Americans come to work or study in Canada on a temporary basis. Indeed, some are enticed by more than one of these factors, or other considerations.

If you are looking to immigrate to Canada from the USA, the first step is to assess which programs give you the best chance of success. There are many ways to immigrate to Canada from the United States or to reside in Canada temporarily, but each pathway requires a plan.

The United States and Canada were, by and large, settled and governed by immigrant communities — and both continue to receive hundreds of thousands of newcomers from around the world on an annual basis.

What Are the Options for Immigrating to Canada from the USA?

Work in Canada

Obtaining a Canadian work visa (referred to as a work permit in Canada) is usually an important step towards working legally in Canada. You can use any online or offline job search agencies to look for a job or simply try our Job Search Tool. If you do already have a job offer from a Canadian employer, you and your prospective employer may have to obtain a document called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before you begin working in Canada. This document serves as proof that your employment in Canada will likely have a neutral or positive effect on the local labour market.

Intra-Company Transfer

The Intra-Company Transfer Program allows international businesses to bring key employees to Canada without the requirement to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Employees who work in executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge roles may be eligible to come to Canada with their family and work as an intra-company transferee.

USA Students in Canada

International students in Canada can work while studying in Canada, allowing them to supplement their income and gain vital work experience. Furthermore, Canada immigration policy has established for international students a pathway towards developing a professional career and becoming permanent residents. See International Students.

SWAP Working Holidays

SWAP Working Holidays (formerly Student Work Abroad Programs) facilitate international exchanges between young people from different nations. U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 to 30, inclusive, may obtain an open work permit for 12 months under this program, provided that they have been enrolled in full-time post-secondary study at some point in the past twelve months. Final year students not returning to studies are also eligible. After working in Canada for up to a year, U.S. students are permitted to repeat SWAP in Canada once they have completed another academic term in the U.S.

Express Entry

Express Entry is an electronic system that the Canadian Government established for purposes of expediting the selection and application process for various Economic Immigration Programs. It requires online submissions of applications and documentations to ensure quicker processing times, which currently average 6 months.​

Through Express Entry, American citizens can go from merely thinking about moving to Canada to living and working here as permanent residents in well under a year. Moreover, American citizens typically have a strong chance of being invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence through Express Entry, due to strong language skills, the probability of having obtained skilled work experience, and the higher education that they may have completed earlier in life.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Each one of Canada’s provinces runs their own immigration programs, targeting the specific demands of local labour markets. Americans who have specific skills may find a faster path to permanent residency via a provincial program. For more information and the various programs visit Provincial Nominee Programs.

Spousal/Common-Law Sponsorship

Americans whose family members are already Canadian permanent residents or citizens can apply through Family Class Sponsorship immigration. Furthermore, Canada recognizes same-sex marriage. Same-sex partners may be eligible to apply to reunite in Canada, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.

The following family members can be sponsored for Canada Immigration from the USA: Spouse; Common Law partner; Conjugal partner; Dependent children; Parents; Grandparents; Brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, granddaughters or grandsons who are orphaned, under 18 years of age and not married or in a common-law relationship; Another relative of any age or relationship but only under specific conditions; Accompanying relatives of the above (for example, spouse, partner and dependent children).

Economic Class Immigration

Canada accepts the largest number of immigrants under the economic class. This includes federal and provincial economic immigration programs covering a vast range of skills and target occupations. Through these programs, Canada aims to attract individuals that have a significant ability to contribute to the Canadian economy.

Because Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner and vice versa, and because of the similarity in economic skills acquisition and requirements, Americans will naturally find the economic immigration programs conducive to their Canada immigration goals.

Canada’s Federal Economic Class Programs are:
Federal Skilled Worker
Federal Skilled Trades
Canada Experience Class

Top 10 Questions on moving to Canada from USA

This section is courtesy of

Can I drive in Canada with a license issued by a US state?

Provided you can show sufficient driving experience, it should be straightforward to exchange your state-issued driving licence for a license issued by the Canadian province you are moving to. The exact requirements differ between the provinces. Click on the relevant link below for details:

Alberta | British Columbia | Manitoba | New Brunswick | Newfoundland | Nova Scotia | Ontario | Prince Edward Island | Quebec | Saskatchewan

Before exchanging your license, you will be able to drive in Canada on your US license for a certain period. Again, this is determined by the provinces, which typically allow you to drive for 90 to 180 days on your US license.

Will I be covered by the public healthcare system in Canada?

Healthcare in Canada is delivered through a publicly-funded system, administered by the provinces. With public health insurance, you don’t have to pay for most healthcare services. Whether or not you are covered by the healthcare system in Canada depends on two factors: your status in Canada, and your destination province.

If you are a visitor to Canada, you will not be covered.

If you are an international student on a study permit, you may be covered by the provincial plan, though most provinces require international students to take out private insurance. In many cases, health insurance is provided through the institution (college or university) you are attending, which may have a relationship with a specific provider.

If you are moving to Canada from the USA on a work permit, whether or not you may be covered by the provincial plan depends on the type of work permit. Click on the relevant link below for details:

Alberta | British Columbia | Manitoba | New Brunswick | Newfoundland | Nova Scotia | Ontario | Prince Edward Island | Quebec | Saskatchewan

When you arrive in Canada as a foreign worker, you may have to wait up to three months to be approved for public healthcare after applying. Therefore, it is advised that you apply as early as possible and take out a private insurance policy to cover the waiting period.

Canadian permanent residents, like Canadian citizens,  are covered by the public health insurance in their province of residence. New permanent residents are advised to have private medical insurance to cover the waiting period (typically three months, though this may differ by province) before being approved for public health insurance.

Will I have to pay income taxes in Canada, the United States, or both after moving to Canada from the USA?

The short answer is both if you are considered ordinary resident in Canada, and just the United States if you are not.

In brief, you’ll be considered an ordinary resident in Canada for tax purposes if Canada is the place where you in the settled routine of your life, regularly live. So, if you work in Canada, own or rent property there and have dependents or a spouse or common-law partner, then you will be deemed as an ordinary resident of Canada.

By contrast, you will be considered a non-resident in Canada for tax purposes if:

  • you normally, customarily, or routinely live in another country and are not considered a resident of Canada; or
  • you do not have significant residential ties in Canada; and
  • you lived outside Canada throughout the tax year; or
  • you stayed in Canada for less than 183 days in the tax year.

If you are an American citizen considered to be ordinary resident in Canada, you are obliged to pay Canadian taxes, as well as filing taxes in the United States. In fact, if you earn an annual income in excess of $10,000 USD, you will need to file a 1040 Form with the United States’ Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

However, the good news is that in reality very few Americans living and working in Canada end up paying tax in both countries. This is because of the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE). The FEIE allows you to exclude the first $104,000 USD earned from US income tax by demonstrating that you reside in Canada at least 330 days a year. This means that provided you earn less than $104,000 USD per year, you won’t have to pay taxes in the United States.

However, if you do earn more than $104,000 USD per year available under FEIE exemption, or you have earned ‘non-wage’ income, the Foreign Tax Credit can ensure that your income does not get taxed twice.

To learn more about paying tax as a US citizen working in Canada, see this guide.

Can I bring my family to Canada?

US citizens can enjoy visa-free entry to Canada as visitors, allowing you and your family the opportunity to remain in Canada, typically for up to six months. However, if you plan on moving to Canada from the USA as a permanent residentforeign worker or international student, (see our discussion of all three options earlier above) it is important to know which family members, if any, may accompany you.

For the purposes of immigration, Canada considers accompanying family members to include a spouse or common-law partner, as well as children under the age of 22. Older children may not be included on an application to come to Canada, unless a mental or physical condition allows for an exemption. Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and other relatives are not eligible to be included on the application.

Accompanying family members may be included on an application for permanent residence or for a study permit, as well as some type of work permit. It you are unsure about your or your family’s eligibility to come to Canada, is recommended that you speak to a regulated immigration representative for information and advice on your specific situation.

Can I bring my pet(s) to Canada?

The short answer is yes, but you will have to prepare properly to make sure that your furry or feline friend can cross the border to Canada with you stress-free. Generally, almost all pet entry to Canada is overseen by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), so make sure to read the CFIA guidelines carefully. As a rule, you may need one or more of the following when bringing a pet to Canada: an import permit, a health certificate and a visual inspection.

Simple tips like contacting your airline, if you intend to fly, to get an idea on its particular pet policies is a good start, while making sure that you have all relevant documents is also going to save you time and stress. One additional point to keep in mind is that Canada does not consider the pets coming from the United States as being rabies-free, so make sure that you have documents to prove this when crossing the border.

As you can imagine it will typically be more straightforward to bring a dog or cat with you as opposed to an iguana or even a rabbit. However, by making sure that your pet is vaccinated and rabies-tested less than a year before arriving in Canada, and sourcing all qualifying paperwork in advance of departure, should result in an easier life.

Where should I move to in Canada?

Canada’s 37 million inhabitants reside mostly live in cities and towns close to the US border, with around three-in-four living within 100 miles (160 kilometres) of the border. Canadian cities are diverse and offer a range of benefits for recently arrived Americans.

If you are looking for a fast-paced ‘big’ city, then Toronto is probably your best bet. Toronto recently overtook Chicago in population size, making it the fourth-largest city in North America. Toronto has something for everyone. If you want to merge a big city feel with some incredible scenery on your doorstep, then maybe a move to Vancouvercould be perfect for you. However, if  you want a city that allows you to learn a new language and live and work in a genuine multicultural melting-pot filled with festivals and culture, then Montreal sounds like where you should aim for.

In addition to the “big three”, there are a range of smaller but nonetheless impressive Canadian cities. For instance, if you would like a coastal city with a slower pace of living and milder winters, then Halifax, Nova Scotia or Victoria, British Columbia could fit the bill. Alternatively, if you want to embrace the excitement of the fastest growing city in Canada while also taking advantage of the incredible Rocky Mountains and lower taxes, then Calgary could be just right. Whatever city you decide on, moving to Canada from the USA will provide you with lots of options.

How can I get a job in Canada?

The job hunting process after moving to Canada from the USA is similar to the process at home in the United States, with both countries having growing market economies.

Please see Find Canadian Jobs for Immigrants.

Will I be able to move to Canada from the USA if I have a criminal offence or conviction on my record?

Individuals hoping to move to Canada from the USA but who have an offence on their record could be inadmissible to Canada and require special permission to enter. Even a DUI conviction could lead to inadmissibility to Canada.

Depending on the crime, how long ago it took place and how you have behaved since, you may still be able to move to Canada from the USA if you:

Will my child born in Canada be a US citizen, a Canadian citizen, or hold dual citizenship?

This is a regular concern among Americans moving to Canada from the USA.

Children born in Canada are Canadian citizens from birth, regardless of the nationality and immigration status of the parents. Children born outside the US and its outlying possessions may by US citizens, depending on the parents’ citizenship and previous residency in the US, as well as the status of the relationship.

Parents are married
Both parents are US citizensChild is a US citizen
1 parent is a US citizen & 1 parent is a US nationalChild is a US citizen if the US citizen parent has lived in the US for a continuous period of at least one year prior to the birth.
1 parent is a US citizen & 1 parent is neither a US citizen nor US nationalChild is a US citizen if the US citizen parent has lived in the US for at least five years prior to the birth, at least two years of which must have been after the 14th birthday OR a US citizen grandparent has lived in the US for at least five years.
Parents are not married
Both parents are US citizensChild is a US citizen
Father is a US citizen, mother is notChild is a US citizen if:
– A blood relationship between the child and the father is established by clear and convincing evidence;
– The father (unless deceased) has agreed in writing to provide financial support for the child until the child reaches 18 years of age; and
– One of the following criteria is met before the child reaches 18 years of age: The child is legitimated under the law of his or her residence or domicile; OR the father acknowledges in writing and under oath the paternity of the child; OR the paternity of the child is established by adjudication of a competent court.
Mother is a US citizen, father is notChild born before June 12, 2017: Child is a US citizen if the mother has lived in the US for a continuous period of at least one year prior to the birth.
Child born on or after June 12, 2017: C hild is a US citizen if the mother has lived in the US for at least five years prior to the birth, at least two years of which must have been after the 14th birthday.

Both Canada and the US recognize dual citizenship, and so your child may be a citizen of both countries from birth.

See Canadian citizenship requirements.

How cold is it in Canada, really?

As you may have heard, most of Canada experiences cooler weather than most of the United States. However, Canada is not the land of igloos and perma-winter that is sometimes presented to the world, and most Canadian cities have climate comparable to some US cities, with four distinct seasons. Indeed, summer in some popular destination cities can be roasting, with humidity and high temperatures into the 90s Fahrenheit.

The climate of Toronto is similar to that experienced in cities in upstate New York such as Buffalo and Rochester, and is not too different to Chicago. Montreal experiences a similar climate to Minneapolis, and though it is a few hours’ drive away and slightly warmer, Vancouver and Seattle share damp winters and sunny summers.