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Looking To Relocate From The USA To Canada? Here’s How

The US and Canada are two of the largest and most developed nations in the world. They are friendly neighbors that share a large border. The Niagara Falls is on the border of both the nations. Living next to one of the greatest superpowers in world is bound to have its pros and cons, but every year, many people from the US move to its “northern suburb” for various reasons.Canada, the world’s second largest country in terms of area, neighbors the US to the north. This sovereign state spans 9,984,670 square kilometers and includes 6 different time zones. Its capital is Ottawa and other major cities include Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton.

Despite its size, Canada is home to less than 0.5% of the total world population; it is the 8th least densely populated nation across the globe. Based on the latest estimates by the United Nations, the country’s population is just 36,227,100 people. Because of its sparse population, there are ample opportunities for professionals as well as skilled laborers across all 10 provinces. It is much easier to get a job and the required paperwork for this country compared to some of the other developed Western nations.

Moreover, Canadians are known for being very polite, welcoming, tolerant and hospitable people. Other factors that make this country a great one to live in include its infrastructure, healthcare, education, safety and multiculturalism, to name a few.

Thousands of expats from all over the world move to this place for better career prospects and a higher standard of life. This country has also become a popular retirement destination for many senior Americans. According to most surveys, Canada is among the top destinations for expats who want an improved quality of life. This country has the highest immigration per capita rate compared to any other. Fortunately, it is much easier for people from the US to settle down in Canada. Americans citizens definitely have an advantage over the nationals of other countries who contemplate the move.

However, relocating to a new country involves a lot more than just packing up your belongings and contacting the movers, even if you are planning to move just next door. Certain laws need to be kept in mind and criteria have to be met before making the move. Read on for more information on how to relocate from the US to Canada.

Entry Permits and Visas

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The law demands that all visitors to Canada must have a valid identification and proof of nationality at the point of entry and at all times thereafter. It is no longer possible for US nationals to cross the border by air using their driver’s license or birth certificate. Americans are advised to carry their passports, passport cards or NEXUS cards with them. Those entering Canada by land or sea can use their Enhanced Driving License, which is only available in Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington. Lawful Permanent Residents of the US can also use their “Green Cards” instead of their passports to enter Canada by land, air or sea (regardless of their nationality).

If you have a US passport, you can enter Canada and stay on for up to 180 days without a Visa. It is also possible for you to get an extension for another 6 months as long as you apply for it at least 30 days before your stay limit expires. The good thing is that the application can be made online or in person and you don’t have to return to the US to initiate it.

For longer stays, there are several different categories under which you can apply for a visa, depending on your requirements. These include:

– Parent and Grandparent Super Visa: If your children or grandchildren are residents of Canada you can stay in the country for up to 2 years to visit them. Do bear in mind that this visa is more appropriate for elders and retirees who do not need to work or run a business while they are in the country.

– Student Visa: American citizens who are planning to study in Canada for a duration that exceeds six months must have a student visa. However, before making an application for this type of permit, it is essential to have secured a place in a Canadian school, college or university. You will also have to prove that you have the finances required to fund yourself throughout the course, including your stay. Since a student visa can take a couple of months to process it is best to apply in advance. If a medical exam is needed the wait could increase by an additional 3 months.

– Working Visa: Americans can stay in Canada for business purposes for up to 6 months without a work permit. However, it is imperative to have a Work Visa if you are planning to take up a job in Canada for a longer period of time. Obtaining this type of permit can be a complex procedure, depending upon your skills, qualifications and work experience. Certain jobs like religious ministry and news journalism don’t require you to have a work permit. Do bear in mind that your prospective employer will need to establish to the Labor Market Opinion that this job couldn’t be done by a Canadian.

Once you’ve decided to move to Canada for good, it is best to apply for a permanent residency under one of these categories (whichever is most apt):

– Skilled workers & professionals
– Investors
– Entrepreneurs & self-employed people
– Canadian experienced
– Provincial nominees
– Family sponsored
– Quebec-selected skilled workers

As a Permanent Resident of Canada you can choose to become a citizen of the country and get a Canadian Passport after a period of 3 years. This is a voluntary option and you won’t need to relinquish your US citizenship, as both the US and Canada permit dual citizenship. It may take up to 2 years for your application to be processed.

For more information on Canadian Visa requirements for American nationals and residents log on to the website of the Canadian Government.

Moving and Settling In

It is always advisable for an expat to visit the country in which they are planning to settle down for at least 2 to 3 months, to understand the lifestyle and how things work. You may also want to first visit Canada to determine where you will live and to work out the logistics of shipping your belongings there.

Depending on your preference, you could choose to rent a self-moving truck or hire a moving company offering international services. Prepare a detailed list of all the personal and household items you are planning to bring into the country along with their monetary value. If some of your belongings will be shipped later, a similar list will need to be prepared for those too. Make at least 3 to 4 copies of both the lists as you will need to submit them to the moving company as well as the Canadian custom officials upon entry. To avoid paying import duties, you’ll need to prove that you’ve owned and used your possessions before relocating.

Accommodation is usually one of the prime concerns when you relocate to any new place. Since it is possible for you to rent and purchase property, this is probably one of the first decisions you’ll need to make. The move may work to your advantage as real estate prices are said to be a bit lower in some areas of Canada compared to the US. However, accommodation costs in the bigger Canadian cities are usually higher than their American counterparts. Fortunately, the laws for property rental and purchase are similar in both the countries and you shouldn’t face too much difficulty. Most people who make the transition don’t even need to engage a lawyer.

Once you decide where you’d like to live, setting up utilities like electricity, gas, water and waste disposal should be your next priority. To get connected for gas and electricity you just have to get in touch with the customer service department of the company of your choice and submit the standard documents, such as ID and proof of address. Some companies ask expats for their visa papers and a deposit. Transferring an old account to your name is much faster than setting up a new connection. For water, your first port of call is the provincial government’s relevant department.

Living without the Internet, cable TV and a telephone line is practically unheard of in this day and age. Fortunately, there are several providers for each service to choose from in Canada. Most residents prefer a package deal for internet, cable TV and phone. Some of the most well-known companies offering a variety of services include Bell Canada, Rogers and Telus. You will also come across a large number of mobile phone operators if you are planning to use a local cell phone number. While coverage in the cities is on par with the US, people living in more remote areas may experience limited or patchy connections. Moreover, mobile phone rates in Canada are relatively high.

Jobs and Education

Moving to Canada without a job offer in hand is risky as it may take you months to find employment. The ease of getting a job in Canada may vary, depending on your skills, qualifications and experience. Since the literacy rates and level of education in this country are already very high it is quite easy for most companies to find the required talent locally. On the other hand, because of the sparse population, there is a constant need for experienced foreigners across the country.

The procedure for seeking a job in Canada is almost the same as it is in the US. The main difference is that you need to look for an employer that will hire you and will sponsor your work permit. While Americans are given preference over other nationalities your employer will have to prove that no Canadian is available to perform the job. Each year the immigration authorities publish an occupational list of professionals who are eligible to immigrate to Canada. It is advisable to get in touch with a placement consultant for constant updates on this list of occupations.

Education in Canada is among the best worldwide and qualifications obtained in this country are recognized globally. All the public and private schools have to be registered with the Ministry of Education; they also need to meet the standards and curriculum that have been decided by the authorities. To enroll with a school, college or university you need to have a study permit or a permanent residency. However, since many Canadian educational institutions are over-subscribed the waiting lists for admission are long. Many schools require students to pass an interview as well as an entrance exam before granting admission.


The standard of healthcare in Canada is very high and you will enjoy a wide range of facilities. You need a healthcare card (issued by the health department of your province) in order to access the free, government-operated Medicare system. However, do note that Medicare is not completely free and you will incur costs for certain medications as well as treatments.

As soon as you arrive into Canada and get your paperwork in place, you can apply for your healthcare card by submitting a form along with the required documents. Do note that a card issued in one province cannot be used in another; if you move to a different province, you’ll have to apply for a new card. Expats living in Canada without a permanent residence have to obtain private healthcare insurance.

Contrary to what outsiders believe, there are several glaring differences between the USA and Canada, the most important ones being visas (based on “points” in Canada), the legal system, politics, the people and the weather. It is therefore best for you to find out as much as you can about the differences between both the nations before deciding to make the move.

Sources: [1], [2]