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Moving to Canada from the USA

Whether you are considering a move to Canada from the US for political, religious, educational, or work-related reasons there a several steps to consider before heading north. This article will provide an overview of your immigration options from the US to Canada.

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While the US and Canada share similar cultural aspects, such as language; a move from the US to Canada isn’t just pretending to enjoy hockey, saying sorry, and adding ‘eh’ to the end of your sentences. Moving to Canada can provide a wealth of opportunities for you and your family in regards to jobs, health, and education.

Before heading to the great white north to visit, study, or work you’ll need to know your options to enter and stay in Canada legally.

Immigrate to Canada

Unlike in the US, there is no lottery for Canadian immigration. Anyone applying for Canadian immigration must meet the eligibility requirements of at least one immigration program. Canada has strict non-discriminatory laws that allow people from all nationalities to be treated equally.

If you have spent substantial time in the US you may already have some skills needed for Canadian immigration such as advanced knowledge of English, but you will still need to qualify for Canadian immigration through one of the following streams:

Economic Immigration Programs

There are three federal economic immigration streams:

  1. Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW)
    If you have at least one year of skilled work experience, meet minimum language requirements in French or English, and score at least 67 out of 100 points on the FSW selection grid, you may be eligible to the Federal Skilled Worker Program.
  2. Federal Skilled Trades Program (FST)
    If you have two years of experience in a skilled trade, meet minimum language requirements in French or English, and have either a Canadian certificate of qualification to practice your trade in Canada or a job offer in your skilled trade in Canada, you may be eligible to the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
  3. Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
    If you meet minimum language requirements in French or English and have worked in a skilled position (NOC 0, A, or B) for at least one year in Canada on a valid work permit, you may be eligible to apply to the Canadian Experience Class.

These three program are competitive and score based. Keep in mind that meeting the criteria for any of these programs is not enough. Candidates are assigned a score and ranked against other candidates, and only the highest-ranking candidates will be able to apply to immigrate to Canada.

Additionally, each province operates its own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) which offer immigration programs for skilled workers.

Business Immigration Programs

If you are able to make a significant financial contribution to Canada, there could be a business immigration program for you. There are several business immigration options at both the federal and provincial levels. In Canada, there are business immigration options for investors, entrepreneurs, and self-employed workers.

Family Sponsorship Programs

If you have a spouse or a common-law or conjugal partner who is a permanent resident of Canada or a Canadian citizen, then you are eligible for spousal sponsorship. There are two options:

Canadian permanent residents and citizens can also sponsor their dependent children, or their parents or grandparents for Canadian permanent residence.

Work in Canada

If you are moving from the US to Canada to work, there are different types of work permits that may be available to you, depending on your circumstances:

  1. NAFTA Work Permits
    The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an economic agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico that facilitates trade between the three countries by, among other things, allowing selected categories of temporary workers into each other’s markets.NAFTA work permits can be issued through the International Mobility Program to American citizens with an eligible job offer from a Canadian employer to come and work in Canada temporarily without needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
    They also allow American companies with Canadian branches to transfer American employees in managerial or executive roles quickly and easily.
  2. Employer Specific Work Permit
    If you have a valid job offer from a specific employer, you may be eligible to enter Canada on an employer-specific work permit. An employer-specific work permit usually requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which is a document that proves the employer tried to find a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident to fill the role, before it was offered to a foreign national.
    Anyone wishing to switch jobs after entering Canada on an employer specific work permit will be required to apply for a new work permit.
  3. Spousal Open Work Permit
    If your spouse or common-law partner is a temporary foreign worker or international student in Canada, or if you are undergoing the inland sponsorship process you may be eligible for a spousal open work permit. This type of permit is not employer specific so if you change jobs you will not need to get a new work permit as long as your current permit is valid.

Study in Canada

There are several perks to studying in Canada compared to the US, including lower tuition rates, shorter visa processing times, and the ability to start work immediately. A Canadian study permit allows the student the ability to work 20 hours per week when school is in session and up to 40 hours per week during breaks and holidays.

In the US, international students with F-1 visas may not work off-campus during their first academic year, but may accept on-campus employment subject to certain conditions and restrictions. Even after their first year, international students in the US can be limited to the jobs they can hold making their stay more financially difficult.

While the ability to work is great, the ability to purchase more with fewer dollars is even better. Fortunately, accomodation and food for students are cheaper in Canada than the U.S. You also won’t have to spend as much time and money on your studies in Canada compared to the US.

Canadian Universities offer 2-year Associate degrees as well as 3 year Bachelor degrees. Moving to Canada from the US through a study program can also benefit your long-term immigration plans. In Canada, you can obtain a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) following most programs of study. Your PGWP can be valid for the same duration as your study permit, up to three years.

Canadian work experience, in addition to a degree from a Canadian institution, drastically increases your chances of successfully applying for Canadian permanent residence. In the US, however, you may need to find a sponsor company to continue your stay through work.

Canadim’s International Student Program

International Student Program is a special program created by Canadim to help international students not only study in Canada but also to help with immigrating to Canada after completing their studies. This program takes care of the entire application process, from applying to a school of your choice, to beginning your studies in Canada!

Visiting Canada

If you are coming to Canada with a valid US passport you do not need a Canadian visa or an electronic travel visa (eTA). You will need a visitor visa to enter Canada if you are not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or from a visa-exempt country, such as the US. If you are a US Green Card holder, you do not require a Canadian visa to enter Canada. However, if you’re flying to or transiting through a Canadian airport, you will need an eTA.

With a visitor visa, you can legally stay in Canada for up to 6 months to travel, search for work, and even participate in certain short-term study programs. You cannot, however, work or even apply for a work or study permit from within Canada.


In addition to meeting the requirements to move to Canada from the USA, you also need to be admissible to Canada. Inadmissibility refers to people who otherwise be eligible for immigration, but who are not admissible. There are two major categories of inadmissibility: medical inadmissibility and criminal inadmissibility.

If you have a medical condition that may expose Canadians to danger, or impose an excessive demand on Canada’s publicly funded health and social services, you may be medically inadmissible. If you have a criminal record, you may be criminally inadmissible to Canada. Even small crimes that don’t result in jail time can result in major problems when you try to move to, or even visit, Canada from the USA.

If you believe you may be inadmissible to Canada for medical or criminal reasons, there are steps to overcome inadmissibility. Contact us to discuss what your options are to come to Canada from the USA.

Settling in Canada

Once you know you’re coming to Canada from the US, you’ll need a plan to get settled in: find a place to live, find schools and/or work, and arrange your finances and healthcare. Luckily Canada has some of the best newcomer services in the world and free of charge!


One major difference in employment when making the move from the US to Canada is at-will employment. At-will means an employee can be terminated for any reason, at any time, without warning and is the common practice in the US. Once terminated, the employer is not obligated to provide severance to the employee. In Canada, however, employees must receive two weeks notice of their termination or two weeks regular salary or severance, contingent on the number of years worked.

Another major difference between the US and Canada are the rights of workers to take maternity or paternity leave.

The United States is the only high-income country, and one of only eight countries in the world, that does not mandate paid leave for mothers of newborns.

Although eligible American employees may be able to take up to 12 weeks maternity leave, this time off is unpaid. Across the border from the US in Canada, the laws are much different. Both parents can participate in taking a standard paid leave of 35 weeks or an extended leave of 61 weeks. During this leave, a portion of the employee’s salary is paid and their job is held for when they will return.


Immigrating to Canada from the US won’t permit you to stop filing or even paying US taxes. The US and Canada have treaties in place to prevent both fiscal evasion and double taxation. While filing taxes in both countries may seem similar – comparable tax structure and lots of paperwork – there are some key differences. The biggest difference: if you’re working in Canada, you’ll most likely pay more taxes. Though this may make the US look better on the surface, you need to keep in mind where these tax dollars are going. In Canada, those tax dollars go towards a number of social services including universal healthcare and education, whereas a relatively higher proportion of US tax revenue goes towards funding US defense programs.

If you are married or in a common-law partnership, you will also want to note that there are no joint tax returns. In Canada each individual must file his/her own tax return. This does not mean, however, that you cannot combine yours and your partner’s expenses, such as childcare and charitable donations.


Once you decide to move from the US to Canada, you’ll need to find a place to live. Looking for a property to rent or own is similar in both countries. You can search online, with an agent, or through newspaper ads, request a visit, and then view the property. Once you’ve found a place to live, you’ll need to sign a lease for the amount of time you intend to stay.

Keep in mind that in Canada, as in the US, each province or territory can have different laws when it comes to signing a lease.


One of the biggest differences between the US and Canada is healthcare. In Canada, all Canadian citizens and permanent residents have access to their home province’s health insurance program which covers necessary hospital and physician services. In the US, healthcare is normally provided by the company you work for. However, if your employer is not part of an insurance program, you find yourself without a job, or any number of other reasons you may find yourself unable to afford private insurance in the States.

In 2017 alone, about 11% of the US population was uninsured. Unfortunately, this high percentage isn’t because Americans aren’t sick; it’s because they can’t afford to get medical care.

Canadian Citizenship

To apply for Canadian citizenship you must have permanent resident (PR) status in Canada and have been physically present in Canada for at least 1095 days (approximately three years) during the five years before the date you sign your application. Any time in Canada as a student, visitor, or worker before becoming a permanent resident within the last five years will count as one half day, up to a maximum of 365 full days, towards your physical presence. So, the sooner you start your stay in Canada, the sooner you are on your path to citizenship!

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