How to Move to Canada

how to move to canada
Screenshot from Rebel Media YouTube channel.

It’s 2016, which means it’s an election year in the United States. Democrat or Republican, no matter who looks like they’re going to win the election, there is one question everyone seems to ask each time:

How can I immigrate to Canada?

Canada: the Ideal Version of the United States?

Even before Canada rushed to accept 25,000 Syrian refugees at the end of 2015, many American have long considered Canada to be a friendlier, more polite version of the United States to the north.

There’s free healthcare.

People say “sorry” a lot.

There’s clean air, lakes to fish in, plenty of skiing.

There’s even beaches!

PEI Beach
A beach in Turks and Caicos? No —this is a beach in Canada. Photo by Flickr user Andrea Schaffer. License: CC BY 2.0.

Above all, Canada is considered to be a place where you can leave behind all of the mundane, day-to-day troubles of living in the United States, including dealing with elections.

And it’s not just Americans who dream of becoming part of Canada.

Turks and Caicos: Canada’s 11th Province?

As anyone who has visited our islands likely knows, there has long been discussion of Turks and Caicos becoming part of Canada. It’s a story that pops up at least once a year. Most recently one of Canada’s opposition parties debated the idea at their annual convention in April, 2016.

Canada’s federal government always shoots down the idea, but people still find the concept of Canada acquiring “its own Hawaii” fascinating.

For the Turks and Caicos joining Canada seems like a good idea. Citizens would have access to Canada’s large labor market, and would also benefit from increased funding for health, education and infrastructure. Ice hockey and skiing is just icing on the cake.

While there are many reasons for Turks and Caicos to not join Canada, the two nations share a common language (English), a common system of government, and are both members of the Commonwealth. Many Canadians travel to Turks and Caicos every year, and some have even made Turks and Caicos their home.

But, after years of trying, Canada and the Turks and Caicos remain two separate countries with little hope of forming any kind of union.

Why Immigrate to Canada?

Like the people of the Turks and Caicos, some Americans have never given up hope of emigrating to Canada. While Canada’s status a benevolent and non-threatening nation to the north may be a bit of a fantasy, Canada has provided a refuge for thousands of Americans during an earlier turbulent time.

Between 1965 and 1975 it’s estimated that 40,000 young American men “escaped to Canada” to avoid being drafted to fight in the Vietnam war.

While some remained in Canada for the rest of their lives, many draft resisters (or draft dodgers, depending on your point of view) returned to the United States following President Carter’s declaration of amnesty in 1977. Some of these returnees must have brought back warm memories of Canada with them.

What’s Canada Really Like?

april in canada
April in Canada. Image by Flickr user Sarah. License: CC BY 2.0.

Here are a few facts about Canada, America’s neighbor to the north:

  • Canada is the world’s second-largest country by area.
  • It’s home to more than 35 million people.
  • Most of these people live within 100 miles of the American border.

This last factoid means that, despite its large size, most Canadians are crammed into just a few cities, which makes buying a house expensive relative to income.

There is another important fact anyone considering moving to Canada should know:

  • Canadians enjoy US$30k of disposable income a year (source)
  • Americans enjoy US40k of disposable income a year (source)

To put it bluntly, Canadians don’t earn as much as Americans, and they’re taxed more. The “free healthcare” in Canada that Americans hear about actually costs a lot of money, and high taxes pay for it.

Why Moving to Canada May Not Be So Easy

While it’s fun to fantasize about picking up and quickly bugging out to America’s friendly but chilly doppelganger to the north, it’s time for a reality check:

Moving from the United States to Canada is more involved than just packing up your belongings and finding a new place to live.

Here are some basic pointers about moving to Canada:

  • Before anyone (and this includes Americans) can move to Canada, you must apply for permanent Canadian residency with the office of Citizenship and Immigration Canada.
  • For skilled workers, there is an “Express Entry” program that may make the immigration process faster. Everyone else has to fill out plenty of paperwork.
  • The process isn’t quick, easy or 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 if you think marrying a Canadian is the quick way to get in the back door, here’s some more bad news: You won’t automatically become a Canadian citizen if you marry someone who is.

To find out if you’re eligible to work or live permanently in Canada, complete the Canadian government’s online questionnaire here.

Other Reasons to Reconsider Moving to Canada

Besides the cold, there are some very important reasons to reconsider that plan to move to Canada after the election in November.

toronto in winter
Toronto in winter. By Flickr user aka Tman. License: CC BY 2.0.

1. Canada is Cold

As everyone knows, Canada is pretty cold. If you’re unfamiliar with how cold it is in Canada, just remember that it’s colder than the Polar Vortex that has plagued the United States for the past few years — with the “wind chill” it’s typically -40F in winter in Toronto… it’s one of the reasons so many people come here to the Turks and Caicos!

2. There’s No Hulu and Netflix is Terrible

At the moment Hulu is not offered in Canada. While there is Netflix,  streaming content is fairly limited in Canada, and Netflix is cracking down on VPN’s.

3. Your Favorite Stores Are Not in Canada

There’s no Trader Joe’s in Canada. Target pulled out of Canada last year.  There’s no White Castle, and there is definitely no In-N-Out Burger.

On the other hand, Canada is home to iconic brands such as Herschel, Viberg and lululemon, so it’s not a total shopping wasteland north of the border.

There’s Always Turks and Caicos

Whatever election night in November 2016 brings, even if you can’t move to Canada, it’s important to remember one things: there’s always Turks and Caicos.

Grace Bay Beach
By Flickr user Daniel Ross . (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Winter is sunny and warm, and Grace Bay Beach is waiting to take your troubles away. We’d love to see you.


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