So many people have declared that they’re going to move to Canada -- but most people have no idea what it takes to actually be able to immigrate. As one of the few American’s who has moved to Canada since they revamped their immigration programs in 2015, I’m here to debunk a few common misconceptions about what it takes.
You can’t just move north.
Canada doesn’t take kindly to American’s showing up at the border with a moving truck. As a sovereign nation, they set their own immigration policies and have strict requirements and have the right to turn anyone away. There’s no special policy for Americans, you have to go through the system like anyone else.
If you want to move to Canada, you’ll need to enter through the proper immigration channels.
You can’t retire to Canada.
Some countries will allow you to move there as a retiree, making you a legal resident without the right to work. Canada is not one of these countries. If you’re retired, you’ll need to either be sponsored by a family member or qualify as an immigrant investor. This is not a realistic option for most people.
Marriage is not enough.
Marriage can make you eligible for a pathway to citizenship, but it’s hardly the fast-track to a Canadian passport. Marriage does not give you the right to live and work in Canada. If you’re inadmissible because of a past criminal record, serious health issues, or any other reason, you can still be denied the right to live in Canada permanently regardless of who you’re married to.
If you’re married to a Canadian or have the documents to prove you’re living together and in a committed relationship, they can sponsor you to become a permanent resident. You will both have to meet a list of requirements and the process can take months or years.
You need a clean record.
If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you may be deemed criminally inadmissible to Canada. Convictions for theft, drug possession, drunk driving, and dangerous driving will get you turned away at the border. Lying about a conviction makes you doubly inadmissible and could lead to you being deported if you’re caught.
All hope is not lost. If you were convicted of a crime with a maximum sentence of less than 10 years in Canada, you can apply to prove that you’ve been rehabilitated and no longer pose a criminal risk.
Any conviction will make moving to Canada more difficult and will certainly slow down the immigration process.
There are many different programs that allow someone to legally live and work in Canada, each with its own requirements. There’s a quiz that can help you quickly narrow down your best immigration option.
Most people who can successfully immigrate to Canada will come through Express Entry, Canada’s skilled worker program. The goal of Express Entry is to bring young, educated, skilled workers into Canada. Your odds of qualifying for Express Entry are significantly lower if you’re over 35.
Express Entry uses a point system that awards points for your work history, education, language skills, age, and connections to Canada. The higher your score, the more likely it is that you’ll receive an invitation to apply for Express Entry and become a permanent resident.
If you don’t qualify for Express Entry, you can still apply to attend school in Canada or do a work exchange. This could enable you to qualify for Express Entry later.
Once you’re a permanent resident, you have the right to live and work in Canada and can eventually apply for Canadian citizenship.
You don’t need a job offer.
Canada’s thirst for skilled workers is so great they don’t require you to have a job offer to immigrate. What you do need is to demonstrate that you have the ability to find a job once you arrive in Canada. You need at least one year of full-time (or two years of part-time) experience in a professional occupation, management position, or skilled trade to qualify.
If you have a qualifying job offer, you’re awarded additional points and the requirement to prove you have savings to support yourself while you look for a job is waived. While a job offer helps, it’s certainly not required.
You don’t need unusual skills.
I knew people with in-demand skills had a lot of immigration options, but I assumed that only applied to doctors and rocket scientists. That’s not the case at all. Many of the people who qualify for immigration through their skills have jobs no one at a cocktail party is particularly excited about: middle managers, graphic designers, and accountants. Those are all respectable occupations, but not the kind of thing you’d imagine international doors would open for.
See if your career qualifies you for Express Entry. You might be pleasantly surprised.
You don’t need a lawyer.
Express Entry was designed so that regular people could apply and go through the process without needing the help of a lawyer or immigration consultant. Removing the expense of legal counsel reduces the cost of immigration significantly.
You may still want to work with an immigration consultant or a lawyer. If you shudder at the thought of doing your own taxes or aren’t sure where to start when it comes to tracking down paperwork and filling out forms, a professional can help you avoid making mistakes.
Once you know which immigration program you qualify for and have taken the first steps toward applying, you can focus on planning your move, finding a job, and getting settled in your new country.