A look at the many ways U.S. citizens and residents can move north
Google data shows a spike in searches on “moving to Canada” within the U.S. during the first debate between President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Irrespective of this fact and the current political context in the United States, there is always interest among those in the U.S. to move to Canada due to the strong social and economic ties between the two nations.
As such, the U.S. is among the leading source countries of immigrants, workers, and students, not to mention visitors, who come to Canada each year.
Here are answers to common questions asked by those looking to move north.
How can I immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker?
Canada, like the United States, is a federal country.
Unlike the U.S., however, Canada’s sub-national governments share Constitutional authority with the federal government to select immigrants.
This results in Canada having over 100 different merit-based immigration pathways for skilled workers.
These pathways assess candidates based on their human capital such as their age, education, language skills, work experience, family ties in Canada, among other criteria. One popular criteria is whether the candidate has a job offer in Canada, however more often than not a candidate does not need a job offer to successfully obtain permanent residence as a skilled worker.
Express Entry is Canada’s flagship application management system for skilled workers. It is managed by the federal department called Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
Every two weeks, IRCC holds Express Entry draws inviting the highest scoring candidates to apply for permanent residence. Candidates then go ahead and submit their permanent residence application to IRCC, which IRCC aims to process in six months or less.
The next best way to obtain permanent residence as a skilled worker is the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). Nearly every province and territory operates the PNP in which they identify and nominate immigration candidates that best meet their local labour market needs. You can apply to a PNP directly to obtain a nomination certificate. With the nomination certificate, you can submit your permanent residence application to IRCC.
You can get the best of both worlds by submitting an Express Entry profile. While in the Express Entry pool, provinces and territories can review your profile and invite you to apply for their PNP. If you are one of these lucky individuals, you are essentially guaranteed to obtain permanent residence under Express Entry and you also get to benefit from the processing standard of six months or less.
Processing times are understandably delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic but Express Entry and PNP draws have continued throughout the pandemic and draw sizes have actually been increasing in some cases.
Aside from these two popular options, there are many other skilled worker pathways into Canada such as through the province of Quebec’s immigration system as well as other federal and provincial options for business immigrants such as self-employed persons.
How can I get a Canadian work permit?
There are also many options for U.S. residents and citizens who want to obtain work permits in Canada.
Work permits fall under two categories.
The first are work permits that require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The LMIA is used by the Canadian federal government to review how the hiring of a foreign national may affect Canadian workers. Employers who wish to hire a foreign worker under an LMIA-required work permit stream need to petition the federal government that the hire will not hurt the wages and employment outcomes of workers in Canada.
The second category does not require an LMIA. There are a broad range of work permit streams which exempt LMIAs due to Canada’s social and economic interests. For example, there are various work permit streams which U.S. citizens are eligible for due to Canada’s participation in the United States-Canada-Mexico-Agreement (USMCA). This agreement is known as “CUSMA” in Canada and is formerly known as “NAFTA.” The USMCA offers U.S. citizens with a more seamless way of working in Canada, so long as they have a job lined up either through their current employer or a new one, or they are looking to engage in substantial investments or trade in Canada.
One popular option for workers in the U.S. in recent years is Canada’s Global Talent Stream which offers priority work permit processing for tech talent.
How can I immigrate to Canada under family sponsorship?
Each year, over 25 per cent of all new permanent residents come to Canada through family sponsorship.
The most common group of Canada’s family class immigrants are spouses and partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Despite recent delays due to COVID-19, the Canadian government usually aims to fast-track such applications and process them within 12 months.
How can I become a Canadian citizen?
U.S.-born citizens and residents with a Canadian parent can automatically get citizenship.
Such individuals need to submit to IRCC a “Proof of Citizenship” application.
Permanent residents are eligible for citizenship after living in Canada for at least three years (1,095 days) in the last five years. Some 85 per cent of Canada’s permanent residents eventually become citizens of the country.