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 share a long and storied history. Both of these vast, ambitious nations were, by and large, settled and governed by immigrant communities — and both the U.S. and Canada continue to receive hundreds of thousands of newcomers from around the world on an annual basis.
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.
As long as there has been America, there have been Americans moving to Canada. The ill-tempered nature of the 2016 Presidential Election cycle in the U.S. has led to increased interest from Americans who wish to live in a forward-looking, progressive and safe place where they and their families can benefit from a large swathe of opportunities — and all without straying too far from their friends and families back home.
Citizens of the United States, let’s begin your clear path to Canada.
This comprehensive page covers the full range of immigration and temporary residence options that are open to U.S. citizens wishing to move to Canada. Click on any item in the menus below to go directly to the section that is most relevant to your particular needs. If you have a specific inquiry about moving to Canada from the U.S., please contact us today by completing the form at the end of this page. We will be happy to assist you in your Canadian immigration goals.
Reside in Canada Temporarily
Work in Canada
Much like in the U.S., Canadians enjoy a free market economy, where individuals and enterprises are rewarded for their creativity, innovation and hard work. In addition, Canadian governments, both federal and provincial, are more inclined to intervene in the economy when it is pragmatic to do so. Canada is generally not governed from an ideological standpoint; this allows individuals can reach their potential, while also ensuring that ‘boom and bust’ cycles are not the norm.
Obtaining a Canadian work visa (referred to as a work permit in Canada) is usually an important step towards working legally in Canada. If you do not have a job offer, our Job Search Tool is key to finding work in your field in any location across Canada. If you do have a job offer from a Canadian employer, congratulations! 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.
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.
Under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. citizens may be eligible for facilitated processing when applying for a temporary Work Permit in Canada. Work Permits under the provisions of NAFTA do not usually require a LMIA.
U.S. citizens may work in Canada under NAFTA through one of the following categories:
A NAFTA Professional must be qualified to work in one of approximately 60 targeted professions, including professions in teaching, science, medicine, finance, law, and many more.
NAFTA Intra-Company transferees from the U.S. may be transferred to Canada on a temporary basis in order to work for a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate of their employer. These individuals must have worked continuously for their U.S. employer for at least one of the last three years and be employed by the company at the time of application in a position that is considered managerial, executive, or involving specialized knowledge.
A NAFTA Trader from the U.S. must demonstrate an intention to carry out substantial trade of goods or services between Canada and the U.S.. A NAFTA Investor must demonstrate that he or she has made a substantial investment in a new or existing Canadian business and that he or she is seeking entry to Canada to develop and direct the Canadian business. Work permits in the NAFTA Investor category may also be granted to employees of the primary Investor who can be considered essential staff.
Because Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and vice versa, a large number of American businesses have affiliate offices, branches, or subsidiaries in Canada. 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.
Work Without a Work Permit
A number of situations may occur when a U.S. citizens can perform work in Canada without needing to secure a Temporary Work Permit. This includes individuals who engage in business or trade activities in Canada but will not enter the Canadian labour (labor) market, known collectively as Business Visitors.
Other positions covered by this provision include after sales service workers, athletes, performing artists, media, and military personnel.
Study in Canada
At a time when young Americans are faced with escalating tuition costs, mounting student debt, and higher barriers to entry than before, many of them are noticing that a world-class higher education is available on the same continent, and often for a fraction of the cost. With an exchange rate that benefits U.S. citizens looking to study in Canada, there has never been a better time to consider Canadian universities and colleges for further education. International students in Canada can also work while studying, allowing them to supplement their income and gain vital work experience.
Furthermore, studying in Canada doesn’t just make sense from an educational and economic point of view — it is also a pathway towards developing a professional career and immigrating to Canada permanently.
Permanent Immigration to Canada
A major advantage with the Express Entry immigration selection system is that applications are processed within six 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 permanent residence through Express Entry, thanks 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
Much like the United States, Canada is sub-divided into different jurisdictions, known as provinces. These provinces are, in some ways, similar to the various states that make up the United States. Unlike states in the U.S., however, Canadian provinces have a significant say in which new immigrants come and settle in the particular provinces. Indeed, over recent years many American legislators and commentators have asked publicly why the U.S. can’t emulate the success that Canada has had in decentralizing its economic immigration system. The Provincial Nominee Programs may be a useful starting point for Americans who know which province they wish to move to, as well as others who have specific skill sets and work experience that certain provinces are looking for.
Immigration to Quebec
Quebec is a distinct case within the Canadian landscape. As Canada’s only majority French-speaking province, many U.S. citizens may not initially jump at the opportunity to relocate to Quebec, but here are just a few reasons why the province deserves at least a second look:
- Quebec is home to the metropolis of Montreal, known for its laid-back European-style joie de vivre. Montreal has a large English-speaking population, a relatively low cost of living, and the second-highest per capita student population of any city in North America. The U.S.–Canada border is also just a 45-minute drive from downtown Montreal.
- For decades, Quebec has more closely modeled itself on the mixed economies and strong welfare states of Northern Europe. Quebec is the land of heavily subsidized day care for children and huge public investment in education, jobs training, and retirement costs, while also retaining a business-friendly environment.
- The major towns and cities of Quebec are just a few hours’ drive from Boston and New York City. The New England region and upstate New York are even closer, and further afield, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Buffalo are all within a day’s drive.
A large percentage of American immigrants to Canada arrive after being sponsored by a Canadian spouse or common-law partner. Canada and the U.S., after all, are the best of neighbours (neighbors), and many Americans and Canadians become the best of friends. The current Liberal government of Canada places particular emphasis on what is commonly known as family reunification or family sponsorship, and the spousal/common-law route is one pathway to Canadian immigration under this category. The government is also working on reducing processing times under this immigration category.
Furthermore, Canada recognizes same-sex marriage. Same-sex partners may be eligible to apply to reunite in Canada, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.
Business Immigration to Canada
Through the Business Class immigration programs, Canada aims to attract individuals that have a significant ability to contribute to the Canadian economy. With a diverse market-based economy and workplace values that American business people would recognize, Canada presents an abundance of opportunity for investment and entrepreneurship.
Canadian provinces have a significant say in which economic migrants settle in their jurisdictions, and many of them are looking for energetic and innovative entrepreneurs to help grown their economies. British Columbia, for example has a new entrepreneur immigration program for individuals with a minimum net worth of CAD$600,000 (around USD$450,000, as of March, 2016); this program presents unique business opportunities in one of Canada’s most beautiful and mild provinces, which also happens to be the province with the highest projected jobs growth over the coming years. The province of Ontario — home to Canada’s largest city, Toronto, and capital city, Ottawa — also has a new Entrepreneur Stream for individuals with a minimum net worth of CAD$800,000 to $1,500,000 (around USD$600,000 to $1.14m), as well as a Corporate Stream for established international corporations looking to expand into Ontario or buy an existing business. Manitoba’s Business Investor immigration stream requires a net worth of only CAD$350,000 (USD$265,000), while in Nova Scotia, a new Entrepreneur Stream is attracting attention from Americans who wish to grow their portfolios in this stunning East Coast province.
The goal of Canada’s federal business immigration programs is to attract investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals from outside Canada with venture capital, business acumen and entrepreneurial skills — attributes that American citizens have in abundance.
Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program: The IIVC accepts applications from high net worth international investors who possess the necessary skills and abilities to contribute to the Canadian economy and to become well integrated into Canadian society.
Entrepreneur Start-up Visa Program: This program encourages entrepreneurs to grow their companies in Canada. Successful applicants link with private sector organizations in Canada, where they can receive funding, guidance and expertise in opening and operating their enterprise in Canada.
Self-Employed Persons Program: This program seeks to bring people who will become self-employed in Canada. Applicants must have either relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics, or experience in farm management.
The province of Quebec presents some interesting business immigration options for American citizens.
Quebec Investor Program: This program allows individuals with a net worth of at least CAD $2 million and managerial experience to make a government-secured investment of CAD $1.2 million for a period of five years.
Quebec Entrepreneur Program: To qualify as an entrepreneur, an individual must have a net worth of at least CAD$300,000, have managerial experience in a business that they either owned or controlled, and be willing and able to establish or acquire a business in Quebec which will create at least one incremental job in Quebec.
Quebec Self-Employed Person Program: Under this program, self-employed persons must have a net worth of at least CAD$100,000 and must have work experience in the profession or trade that they intend to practice in Quebec.
Other Considerations when Moving to Canada
Canada and the U.S. have a well-documented Tax Treaty that, for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and on capital, should make relocating to Canada as smooth a process as possible. While one of the primary differences between the two countries is that Canadian income tax laws are based on residency (while U.S. tax laws are based on citizenship), the Tax Treaty between Canada and U.S.A. has several mechanisms available known as foreign tax credits, to make sure the person does not have to pay duplicate taxes to both countries.
To learn more about the tax consequences of moving to Canada from the U.S., click here.
U.S. citizens who immigrate to Canada and spend a few years residing in Canada may eventually choose to become citizens of their adopted homeland. This is a process known as naturalization, and Canada has one of the most liberal and welcoming naturalization processes in the world. According to both U.S. law, individuals can be a citizen of the U.S. and of another country. The same provision exists for Canadians who acquire a second citizenship.
As most American citizens are aware (and envious of), Canada has a public health care system that makes critical care accessible to all Canadian citizens and permanent residents alike, as well as certain temporary residents. No more anxiety about mounting personal medical costs, no more stress about being covered. When it comes to the administration of health care, the U.S. and Canada are quite different. Though the health care system in Canada is actually a number of sub-systems run by the provincial ministries of health, the federal government sets the standards for health care across the country.
Bringing a Family
Like the U.S., Canada is a nation that places a heavy emphasis on family values. The government of Canada believes that people are happier, and the economy performs better, when they have their loved ones around them. Consequently, when you decide to immigrate to Canada, you are able to bring your spouse or common-law partner and/or dependent children, if applicable, with you. If you are in a same-sex relationship, don’t worry — for a long time Canada has been a leader in recognizing the inherent rights that same-sex couples have before the law, and this extends to immigration.
If you plan on residing in Canada temporarily on a work or study permit, your spouse or common-law partner, as well as dependent children, if applicable, are in a position to join you in Canada. Moreover, children born in Canada to U.S. citizens enjoy the benefit of having natural-born citizenship of both countries. Who knows, maybe your child will be the next Ted Cruz!
While Canada and the U.S. share many workplace practices, the process of searching for work, applying for jobs, and interacting with coworkers may be slightly unfamiliar for Americans looking to move to Canada. Getting a head start on how employment in Canada functions is key to a successful transition. Fortunately, CanadaVisa.com has all the tools and resources you need.
- Canada Job Search Tool: Start your job search now.
- Work in Canada FAQ: Frequently asked questions about working and finding a job in Canada.
- Canada Resume Builder: Build your Canadian resume (sometimes known as a CV in Canada) and store it in the CanadaVisa Resume Bank.
- How to Write a Resume: If you prefer to make your own Canadian-style resume/CV from scratch, here you will find some tips about how to tailor your resume/CV for the Canadian job market.
- Canada Salary Calculator: Obtain a salary report for different positions and areas of Canada.
- Canadian Labour Standards: Learn about the minimum standards for wages and conditions of employment in each region of Canada. Rules on such issues as hours of work and overtime pay, vacations and pregnancy leave are all set out in this feature.
- Job Interviews: A summary of what may and may not be asked by Canadian employers as part of the employee selection process, and general information on how to ask questions in a non-discriminatory fashion.
- Canadian Salary Survey: Find out what your education and experience are worth in Canada.
Once you have made contact with Canadian employers and received a job offer, contact us. Depending on whether your objective is to reside in Canada temporarily or permanently, we will show you the next steps.
Many U.S. citizens 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 or temporary resident visa application process in order to be permitted to enter Canada. Some 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. This list is by no means exhaustive.
If you have been found to be criminally inadmissible to Canada, or think you may be inadmissible, it is important to know that you still have options.
Settlement in Canada
Once you have prepared the proper immigration forms and are prepared to move to Canada, what will you face when you arrive? How and where will you settle in Canada? Which factors should be taken into account? Are you arriving with a partner and/or young children? Will you enter the property market? If so, how can you go about doing so? All these questions, and more, are dealt with in CanadaVisa.com’s Settle section.