Has the lure of Canada’s universal health care finally won you over? Or maybe you’re just a huge ice hockey fan. Either way, if you’re seriously considering a move to Canada, we’ll discuss the different ways you can apply for residency, break down the costs, recommend the best international movers, and share some things you’ll want to consider once you get there.
How to Move To Canada
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What are the ways to immigrate to Canada?
Formally moving to Canada from the United States (also known as immigrating) is no small feat, but you’ll be happy to know that Canada is actually one of the easiest countries in the world to relocate to! This is because there are multiple ways that you can file for a visa. In fact, there are eight different circumstances for which Canada will allow you to apply:
1. Express entry
You can apply for express entry as a skilled worker and receive a much faster immigration process. In most cases, you’ll need at least one full year of skilled work experience, but if you qualify, you’ll be eligible for immediate permanent residence.
2. Provincial nominee or immigration program candidate
Processes like the Provincial Nominee Program are also specifically for skilled workers and trades workers, and you’ll need to meet the minimum experience requirements, language requirements (English or French), and either pass skills testing or provide a Canadian certificate of qualification to show you can work in your chosen trade.
3. Startup visa
If you’re a small-business owner, you’re in luck! You can apply for a visa as a business owner because you’ll be providing jobs and—you guessed it—benefiting Canada’s economy.
4. Temporary-to-permanent visa
This type of visa application is really best for temporary residents (and their families) who already work in Canada and wish to make it their permanent home in the future.
5. Family sponsorship
Perhaps you have family members who already live in Canada. Or maybe you’re that family member, and you want to sponsor your family immigrating from the US. Either way, Canada allows entry to newcomers if they’ve got naturalized family members already living there.
6. Caregiver status
If you’re a US citizen and you’ve recently taken on the responsibility of an elderly family member or small children who are Canadian, you can apply for a residency visa. While perhaps not the happiest of reasons for relocating, Canada’s immigration policies won’t stand in your way.
7. Self-employment visa
Entrepreneurs, this one’s for you. Canada supports businesses, especially if they make cultural or athletic contributions. You can apply for residency this way if you (and your business) qualify.
8. Refugee protection
This type of application is for those who are afraid of being persecuted—meaning they feel endangered—and are unable to receive protection in their home country. If Canada recognizes you as a refugee, you can apply for permanent residency and eventually become a Canadian citizen.
The Canadian government considers a federal skilled worker as someone who meets the minimum requirements for skilled work experience, language proficiency (English or French), and level of education in a managerial, professional, technical, or skilled trade job. This is usually determined by a skills test that needs a passing score of 67 out of 100 points.
You can always visit the Canadian government website to find out more information about visa options.
What if I just want to work in Canada?
That’s OK! If you want to maintain your United States residency and simply work in Canada, you can apply for a couple work permits:
- NAFTA work permit: This permit allows temporary workers into Canadian, US, or Mexican territories. So if your American company has a Canadian branch, you can still work managerial or executive roles there.
- Employer-specific work permit: Your employer must submit this permit along with a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)—proving that they tried to find a Canadian citizen to fill the role before hiring a foreign national.
- Spousal open-work permit: It’s specifically for your spouse, who may be a temporary worker or international student.
Because 80% of the applications for permanent residency submitted through the express entry process are processed within six months, Canada is easily one of the easiest countries to immigrate to. This benefits Canada, too—because skilled workers are easy to process and can boost Canada’s already-thriving economy.
What if I just want to go to school in Canada?
That’s fine too! Canada makes it very easy to apply for temporary residency while you get that education. Using a study permit, United States citizens can still benefit from lower tuition rates, shorter visa processing times, and the ability to start working immediately. And if you’ve ever been a broke college student, you can imagine how helpful that is!
What would prevent me from moving to Canada?
Thankfully, there are only a couple of things that would make you ineligible for residency or citizenship in Canada:
- Medical conditions. If you have a medical condition that could expose the Canadian public to danger, or one that demands too much from public health and social services, the Canadian government may determine you’re ineligible for entry.
- Criminal history. Canada may not allow you to live there if you have a criminal record, even if it didn’t result in jail time.
What’s the difference between residency and citizenship?
You may have reached this point and wondered: after all this, I’m still not a citizen? Nope! Above, we listed the different ways to apply for residency. This basically just allows you to live in Canada temporarily (or even permanently) but does not afford you all the same rights as a Canadian citizen.
Think of it this way: people come to work in the United States all the time, but that doesn’t mean they are US citizens. They don’t get to vote, hold government jobs, or serve on juries. So if you’re a Canadian resident but not a citizen, you won’t get to participate in social policy—which could be a big issue if you care about the laws in the Canadian provinces you’re living in!
How to apply for Canadian citizenship
To apply for Canadian citizenship, you will have to be a permanent resident (and have been physically present) in Canada for at least 1,095 days—which is about three years.
Now, any time that you’ve spent in Canada as a visitor, student, or temporary worker (before becoming a full-time resident) can be considered up to 365 days of physical presence in Canada.
And as long as you maintain a three-year presence in Canada within five years from the date of your application, you’re good to go.
You will also need to provide at least three years of tax returns (within that five-year period), and you’ll need to pass a formal quiz on Canadian history, its values and institutions, and its formal symbols. (Don’t worry, the government’s got a study guide for you.)
How much does it cost to move to Canada?
Moving internationally is pretty much always going to be pricey, no matter which way you spin it. And even if you’re not hiring professional movers, you’re still going to have to factor in the costs of visas and immigration fees. Citizenship, too, will come with some extra bills you’ll need to budget for.
Visa and immigration fees
|Canadian work permit||$204 per person ($284 to restore one)|
|Canadian study permit||$120 per person ($280 to restore one)|
|Right of permanent residence fee||$400 per person|
|Investor, entrepreneur, or self-employment visa||$1,260 per principal applicant, $660 per spouse, and $180 per dependent|
|Economic immigration program visas||$1,060 per principal applicant, $1,060 per spouse, and $180 per dependent|
|Spousal, parent, or grandparent sponsorship visa||$840 per spouse, parent, or grandparent, and $120 per dependent|
|Super visa (multiple entries visa) or visitor visa||$80 per person ($160 to restore)|
|Visitor visa for families (5 or more)||$400|
|Fingerprints and photos (biometrics fees)||$68 per person, or $136 for families|
Data as of 3/30/22.
|Adult application fee||$504 per person ($424 to resume a previously started application)|
|Minors/Adopted minors application fee||$80 per person|
|Citizenship certificate||$60 per person|
|Right of citizenship fee||$80 per person|
Data as of 3/30/22.
It’s technically possible to become a citizen of another country without a lawyer’s help, but getting an expert on board is a great way to ensure you do everything right—despite the additional cost. And especially if you're immigrating with children or a spouse. You can usually locate the resources to find a reputable lawyer on your destination country's citizenship and immigration website. The United States has one for those immigrating to the US, for example.
You probably can’t move everything to Canada
If you’ve ever moved (or visited) another country, you know that there are some pretty strict rules and regulations regarding what can be brought in (or imported) from foreign countries. Canada is no different. In fact, it has regulations regarding specific foods, alcohol, nicotine products, plants, animals, cars, and various other household products that could limit what you’re able to bring with you when you move.
The official list will be determined by the province and city in Canada that you move to. You’ll want to confirm your cities’ regulations on the official Canadian government’s website:
Getting settled in Canada
Even though you may have completed the visa and immigration process, your journey is not quite over yet. It’s time to get settled in your new home! There are a few things you’ll need to take care of before you can get comfortable, including:
- Register for immigrant assistance services in your area to get help with finding a job, enrolling your kids in school, locating housing, or finding local community services.
- Open a local bank account.
- Pay taxes and submit returns annually.
- Get a new driver’s license.
- Confirm the requirements to maintain your residency status.
- Purchase new clothing for the colder climate.
- Learn the lingo (like “biffy” for toilet or “loonie” for a $1 coin).
You can find more resources on settling into life in Canada on the government of Canada’s official website.
A move to Canada is definitely an exciting opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture, see some of the worlds’ most incredible wildlife, and maybe even get some free health care. But it also comes with a few challenges, like applying for a temporary or permanent visa—and all the costs of moving to a new country.
If you plan ahead and stay organized though, we see no reason why you can’t make Canada your home whenever you’re ready . . . eh?
How much money do you need to immigrate to Canada?
You’ll probably need between $2,000𐤶–$5,000 to successfully immigrate to Canada. This number includes the fees for visa and immigration paperwork, moving costs, and all the expenses associated with moving to a new place—like finding a new home to live in or purchasing new clothes.
Can I live in Canada if I’m a US citizen?
Yes, you sure can. Canada allows temporary residents to apply for visas or work permits without having to revoke your US citizenship.
Can I move to Canada without a job?
You can move to Canada without a job, but the immigration process may take longer. Plus, it’s not cheap to move internationally, so you may struggle to get settled until you find employment. Don’t worry though, Canada’s immigration services can help you find a job if you need one.
Is moving to Canada easy?
It’s not easy to move to another country by any means, but there’s some good news: the Canadian immigration process is one of the fastest in the entire world. This is because of its Express Entry application, which allows skilled workers to be processed as permanent residents more quickly—in most cases around six months.
Is it expensive to move to Canada?
Yes—it can be. Even though Canada is one of the easiest countries to immigrate to in the world, it’s still pretty expensive to relocate from the US. You’ll probably want to save a couple thousand dollars to be safe.
How do I become a permanent resident in Canada?
You can apply for permanent residence in Canada several different ways, but the easiest way is by applying as a federal skilled worker. Whether you want to live in Nova Scotia or British Columbia, you’ll have to apply for a work permit or visa in order to legally live in Canada full-time.
People also asked . . .
- Government of Canada, “Immigration and Citizenship,” Published March 3, 2022. Accessed March 30, 2022.