Every year, thousands of American citizens and residents make the decision of moving to Canada from USA. Some come for economic opportunity, others are to join a spouse or partner. Many others come to work or study in Canada on a temporary basis. Indeed, many are enticed by more than one of these factors, or other considerations.
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.
If you are considering moving to Canada from USA, the first step is to assess your reasons and which programs give you the best chance of success. There are many ways to immigrate to Canada from the USA or to reside in Canada temporarily, but each pathway requires a plan. See Pathways to immigrate to Canada from the USA.
Reasons for moving to Canada from USA
We are not going to discuss the politics of USA immigration policy changes and the uncertainty facing migrants over there. However, it is a fact that certain developments recently caused many USA citizens, residents, and immigrants to look to Canada as an alternative.
Immigration is a matter of personal life choice and preferences that could depend significantly on variables such as age, marital status, family size, work skills and more. It is also true that what attract some people to move from USA to Canada may very well not be important to others.
But let us focus on the concrete benefits of immigrating from the USA to Canada.
High quality of life in Canada
High quality of life is probably the biggest attraction to Canada and should be a prime consideration for moving to Canada from USA. Canada provides a high quality of life for the vast majority of residents and has the second highest standard of living of all the G20 nations.
Some of the key attributes of this quality of life are:
Education: Children below 18 years of age are provided free education by the Canadian government. All young citizens and PRs have access to the best schooling available no matter what their background. The government spends more per capita on education than other country in the world.
Universal healthcare: Canada’s healthcare system is the envy of the USA and provided a prototype for some of the proposed American models leading up to Obamacare. Canada’s healthcare system is one of the fairest and most accessible in the world. Medical treatment is mostly free at the point of use and funded by government taxes. Each province is given a health budget to administer locally and issue health cards to all eligible residents allowing them to access healthcare.
Multiculturalism and ethnic diversity: Canada has long realized the benefits skilled immigrants can bring to the country and, in particular, the economy. Multiculturalism became official Canadian policy under the government of the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau (the father of the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau) in 1971. In doing so, Canada was the first country in the world to adopt multiculturalism as official policy. This has reinforced Canada as a tolerant and broad-minded society and highly attractive to immigrants from all over the world.
Low crime rate: Canada’s low crime rate is envied around the world. Violent crime is extremely rare and gun ownership is almost four times lower than the US. In 2014, the OECD Better Life Index awarded Canada an impressive 9.7 out of 10 for safety and security. Many Americans point to lower crime rate as a factor in considering moving to Canada from USA.
Economic strength and stability: Canada has one of the strongest economies in the world and has a huge variety of career options for foreign skills. Canada’s banking system has been voted the most stable in the world for seven consecutive years by the World Economic Forum.
There are other benefits to consider when pondering moving to Canada from USA. For examples:
- Canada immigration policy encourages family integration during or after migration with programs such as Family Class Sponsorship and Parents/Grandparents Sponsorship programs.
- You may apply for Canadian citizenship after residing for 3 years in Canada as a permanent resident
- You can keep your American citizenship and still become Canadian citizen as dual citizenship is allowed in Canada
- If you migrate to Canada under an business or investor immigration program you can take comfort in the fact that access to US and Mexico markets remains under NAFTA (now USCMA)
- Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, and Canada Pension Plan programs are designed to provide financial support to workers after their retirement
- Canada has one of the most generous welfare systems in the world to assist families during financial crisis or employment downturn.
Choosing a Canada immigration program
There are over 100 Canada immigration programs that candidates from USA may qualify for. So where and how does one start when planning moving to Canada from USA?
The answer is really quite simple. First choose the Canadian province or territory that you think best meets your needs (you can always move to another once you are settled). Canada has 13 provinces and territories each with vast differences in cultures, job industries and even climates.
Some Canadian provinces and territories have unique immigration requirements and programs that may not exist in other provinces and territories. For example, the Quebec Skilled Worker program is an exclusively Quebec based program where all applicants are expected to have a high level of French fluency and a specific set of job skills.
Other provinces like Prince Edward Island have a booming construction industry, due to its increasingly high population growth over the past five years. Alberta is the oil and gas king of Canada.
Other people choose to immigrate to cities like Toronto (Ontario) or Vancouver (British Columbia) because of the high ethnic/cultural diversity, urban cosmopolitan nature, and their abundance and variety of job opportunities.
What are the options for moving to Canada from the USA
USA citizens and residents have over 100 pathways to immigrate to Canada. As neighbours with similarities in history, economy and general democracy, the USA is one of the top source countries of Canada immigration.
For example, you may immigrate to Canada as
- a foreign skilled worker
- an international student
- a skilled professional or
- be sponsored by a family member who is a Canadian permanent resident or citizen
USA citizens and residents want to immigrate to Canada for a variety of reasons. These include
- furthering their studies
- pursuing their specialized skilled trades
- looking for a better future for the families, and likewise,
- searching for career opportunities in the North American market.
Perfect time to immigrate to Canada from the USA
Canada needs immigrants in order to recover from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Consequently, Canada is looking for skilled workers and international students to help the recovery effort.
For instance, see Canada announced dramatic increases to Canada’s immigration levels for 2021 to 2023.
Below are the more popular ways if you are considering moving to Canada from USA.
1. Work in Canada
Securing a job in Canada is a popular pathway for moving to Canada from USA. 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 the Canadian government’s Job Search Tool.
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.
2. 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). American employees who work in executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge roles may be eligible for moving to Canada from USA with their family and work as an intra-company transferee.
3. USA Students in Canada
There are thousands of Americans in Canadian universities and colleges. Canada’s immigration policy has established a pathway for people on student visa to work and become permanent residents after graduation via the Canadian Experience Class and Quebec Experience Class programs.
American students in Canada can work while studying in Canada, allowing them to supplement their income and gain vital work experience. Thereafter American students desirous of moving to Canada from USA on a permanent residency basis can do so via the appropriate programs. See International Students.
4. 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 may obtain an open work permit for 12 months under this program. They must be 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 after they completed another academic term in the U.S.
5. Express Entry – Economic Immigration Programs
In general, Canada uses the Express Entry system to manage applications for three Canadian immigration programs. These are: the Federal Skilled Worker Class; the Federal Skilled Trades Class; and the Canadian Experience Class.
Express Entry is also the fastest and most popular pathway for newcomers seeking a new life in Canada.
Express Entry awards candidates eligibility points using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).
Through Express Entry, American citizens can live and work in Canada and become permanent residents within 6 months. American citizens and residents are among top successful Express Entry candidates. This is because of strong language skills, skilled work experience, and typically higher education.
Americans find Express Entry economic programs attractive because Canada and USA are largest trading partners. And because of the similarity in economic skills acquisition and requirements.
A job offer is not required to enter or be selected from the Express Entry pool. However, additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score points are awarded to those who already have a job.
6. Provincial Nominee Programs
If not eligible for Express Entry you may also be able to immigrate to Canada through one of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP).
Canadian provinces do not have the ability to give out permanent residency status. However, they can boost your application by nominating you for PR in the federal government’s Express Entry system.
Candidates who receive a nomination get an additional 600 points toward their federal Express Entry CRS score.
The additional 600 points virtually guarantee that you will receive an invitation to apply for Canadian PR.
The minimum score for an Express Entry PNP draw is typically in the mid 700s and up. In contrast, other Express Entry programs require scores in the 400s.
Consequently, candidates with provincial nomination need only score in the 100s for core human capital in order to be invited.
7. 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 and Grandparents
- Brothers or sisters, nephews or nieces, granddaughters or grandsons who are orphaned. Must be 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, and also
- Accompanying relatives of the above (for example, spouse, partner and dependent children).
Top 10 Questions on moving to Canada from USA
This section is courtesy of moving2canada.com
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:
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:
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 resident, foreign 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 Foreigners.
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:
- convince an immigration officer that you meet the legal terms to be deemed rehabilitated, or
- applied for rehabilitation and were approved, or
- were granted a record suspension, or
- have a temporary resident permit.
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 citizens||Child is a US citizen|
|1 parent is a US citizen & 1 parent is a US national||Child 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 national||Child 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 citizens||Child is a US citizen|
|Father is a US citizen, mother is not||Child 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 not||Child 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.
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.
Other Considerations when Moving to Canada from USA
Canada and the U.S. have a Tax Treaty that ensures moving to Canada from USA is as smooth a process as possible. The Tax Treaty has several mechanisms known as foreign tax credits that ensure Americans in Canada do not have to pay duplicate taxes to both countries while also preventing tax evasion. To learn more about the tax consequences of moving to Canada from USA, click here.
Employment in Canada
Getting a head start on how employment in Canada functions is key to a successful transition. Fortunately, there are tools and resources to help you:
Job Bank has long been a valuable and resourceful platform that Canadians find jobs online. Job Bank is free for both employers and candidates to use. It is probably as close to an authoritative list of available jobs in Canada as you will be able to find online. It is worth trying.
Manpower Group is a trusted job consultant firm helping immigrants find the best Canadian jobs. Manpower Group is associated with 20+ Industries in Canada offering various jobs to immigrants from Production to Logistics to Industrial jobs.
Other Canada Job Search Tools
- Colleges and Institutions Jobs
- Government Jobs
- Application to work in Canada — work permits including open work permits
- Application for work permit inside Canada – extend, change conditions or initial work permit – includes open work permits
- Apply for a work permit — Temporary workers
- Extend Your Work Permit
Many people thinking of moving to Canada from USA may not be aware that a prior offence, even one as seemingly minor as a driving violation, may render a person inadmissible to Canada. If you are in any doubt, you will need to know what steps to take before and during your Canadian immigration application process in order to be permitted to enter Canada.
Examples of convictions that could make you inadmissible to Canada include: DUI, DWAI, theft, petty theft/larceny, assault, drunk & disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, and possession of marijuana, cocaine or other controlled substances/drugs.
See generally Canada Immigration – Criminal Inadmissibility.
An applicant may be refused entry to Canada on health grounds if their condition is likely to be a danger to public health or safety or might cause excessive demand on Canada health or social services.
See generally Canada Immigration – Medical inadmissibility.