Every election season, Americans threaten to move to Canada if their candidates lose. This year is no different — and it doesn’t matter which political party voters belong to.
When prompted with, “Moving to Canada if,” Google offers both “…Obama gets reelected” and “…Romney wins” as suggested endings. Both searches turn up millions of hits.
But setting up life in another country is more complicated than many people think, experts say. And although many Americans happily relocate — often for reasons unrelated to politics — their new reality is not necessarily as idyllic as some may hope. Canada, after all, has problems, too.
Ultimately, threats to move northward end up falling flat as Americans confront the hoops they need to jump through to get in, said David Cohen, senior partner at Campbell Cohen, a Canadian immigration law firm in Montreal. Statistically, numbers of immigrants don’t actually peak every four years.
“We’re a large-sized immigration law firm and we get calls with regularity, but certainly the intensity of the callers changes after the election and the volume of calls increase as well,” Cohen said. “In the final analysis, when push comes to shove, Americans are reluctant to give up what they have. I believe, from my experience, that Americans feel strongly at the end of the day that the United States is their country. The vast majority return to the homeland.”
With a valid passport, just about any American can visit Canada for up to six months. But showing up at the border with a U-Haul full of belongings is a sure way to get turned back at the border.
In order to move in, Americans need to start by working toward a permanent residency card, the equivalent of the American green card. There are more than 60 programs that allow people to qualify for permanent residency.
Most immigrants come because of a job offer or because they’re marrying a Canadian, Cohen said. Other routes to permanent residency include proving your economic worth to the country, investing a significant amount of money, starting a business, or completing a graduate degree at a Canadian university.
Newly granted permanent residents must spend two out of the next five years in Canada. After three years of residency, they can apply for citizenship, which requires taking a citizenship test and proving proficiency in English or French.
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