It happens every election year in the US: celebrities and regular folk both threaten to move to Canada if the candidate they don't like gets into office. But how easy is moving to Canada? What does it take to kiss American politics goodbye and become a Canadian citizen?
Before you can become a citizen, you have to earn the Canadian equivalent of a green card, called a permanent resident card. After that, you have to live in Canada for at least 1,460 days during the six years before you apply. But when most people make this threat, they're talking about becoming permanent residents, whether they know it or not. What does that give you?
Being a permanent resident grants you access to free Canadian health care and allows you to work in Canada without a NAFTA work permit. You also, of course, get to live there and apply for citizenship. But getting that coveted permanent resident status isn't easy, and Canada might not be for you after all. If you're still convinced it's an option, here are some things to keep in mind.
Decide What You're Even Doing with Your Life
So you’ve made up your mind: you’re moving to Canada, the land of poutine, arguably better Netflix, both of the Property Brothers, socialized medicine, and Win Butler’s hair. But most importantly, it isn’t the land of Candidate X, whose potential election every four years will surely sound the death knell of the American project. Congratulations!
So, what’s the plan? You can’t just pack up the car and cross the border. You’ve got a few options here:
- temporary status, meaning you might be able to ride things out until Candidate X rides out of DC on a rail; or
- permanent residence, which would allow you access to that sweet socialized medicine and could someday lead to citizenship, meaning you have one more thing in common with Justin Beiber. Let's explore the permanent option.
Make Sure You're Eligible
Hold your Mountie-bestridden horses: are you even eligible to move to Canada? There are a number of reasons they may not let you in, including your criminal record, ties to organized crime, serious health problems, serious financial problems, or if you are considered a security risk. Your shady family may be a hindrance, too: chances are, if they can’t get into Canada for one of the above reasons, neither can you.
Canada doesn’t play: if you’ve ever done jail time for a DUI, for example, the best case scenario is a $200 CAD processing fee just to visit the country. The worst case? You “will probably be found criminally inadmissible to Canada.”
See If You Have Any Canadian Family Members
Before we go any further, are you sure you don’t have any Canadian family members you don’t know about? Because that would make things so much easier for you. After you track them down, all you have to do is convince them to sponsor your visa, which would then enable you to live, work, eat, and play in the Great White North. This would put you on the easiest path to becoming a permanent resident and future citizen available, short of bursting fully-formed, Athena-style, from Justin Trudeau’s expertly coiffed skull.
Get Ready to Wade Through Some Alphabet Soup
If you have to do things the hard way, here are a few options, via attorney Henry Chang, writing for The Huffington Post: you can apply to become a permanent resident in the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSW), the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), or the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC) categories. The CEC and FSTC categories require that you have previous Canadian work experience as a visitor and a Canadian-issued certificate of qualification in a skilled trade, respectively, so these aren't for everybody. The FSW is slightly more forgiving.
Applying for any of these statuses doesn't require you to have a Canadian family member or an employer sponsor you, so these are great options for disgruntled loner-exiles, as long as they meet the requirements, which include proving your work history, language skills, and that you have adequate funds to support yourself, among other factors. Easy-peasy, right? There’s just one catch…