How to Move to Canada from the USA

*Due to COVID-19 the Canadian border remains closed until at least September 21st, and steps to immigrate may take longer than usual. This resource is for future planning.

So you want to move to Canada from the US, eh? After the 2016 elections, this search term rose in popularity. Now in 2020, with the state of the Pandemic ridden America and another election creeping up on us, it’s another valid question for those looking to escape north.

Cameron and I decided to make Canada our home at the end of 2018 after we were growing tired from four years of non-stop travel. You can read all the reasons we moved to Canada here. In short, we chose Canada above anywhere else in the world because we love the snow and mountains, we wanted to still be close to friends and family in the states, and because we like North American culture. We landed in Calgary with two suitcases and started to build a life in the Canadian Rockies. I literally get asked every day how to make this dream become a reality for other Americans.

If you’re looking for an easy way to immigrate to Canada, move on, because there is nothing easy about immigrating anywhere. However, Canada does have an “easier” immigration process than many other countries as they try to build up their population and economy. For Americans especially, living a Canadian dream can be done. Let’s dig into how you can move to Canada from the USA.

Winter in Banff Best Time To Visit Banff

How to Move To Canada from the USA


Getting the Courage to Move Out of the USA


Being nomadic for four years prior, studying abroad in Australia, and going on a year-long post-college backpacking trip in Europe meant I wasn’t really nervous about leaving the US. I had already spent most of my twenties gallivanting around the world working on my travel blog.

However some might be nervous to leave the only place they know as a home – and that’s okay! Getting the courage to move to Canada from the US is easier than moving to another country. Canada is very similar to the US and you likely won’t have much of any culture shock. Almost everyone speaks English, and as long as you love the outdoors and enjoy things like snow, maple syrup, and hockey you should have no problem making friends.

The quality of life in Canada is comparable to that in the US. And if you ever get homesick you are only a few hours plane ride from America – you don’t even have to cross an ocean!


So How Can You Move to Canada from the USA?


How to Move to Canada from the USA

There are a few ways you can move to Canada from the USA. It’s best to do your research on the Canadian Government website to see in-depth information on what you can apply for. The first step is to become a Permanent Resident. You cannot become a citizen before you are a resident. However residents still have the same access to healthcare and other benefits that citizens do, but they must pay taxes to Canada. Note that becoming a permanent resident does not grant you a Canadian passport, just a PR card.


Move to Canada as a Visitor


This is perhaps the easiest option to “move” to Canada as an American citizen. Though it’s not a permanent move and you don’t get any real benefits with this option. You are still an American citizen, with a US passport, and still pay US taxes (something you’ll never escape unless you renounce your citizenship).

US citizens are granted a tourist visa up to 6 months upon entry into Canada. This can be extended for a fee as well. On a visitor visa, you can still buy a vacation property, rent an apartment, buy a car, and travel around freely in Canada. This is a great option for those looking for a second home in Canada that can visit regularly and travel back and forth between the border.


Move to Canada as a Skilled Worker


Express Entry is probably the quickest way to move to Canada. Express Entry can take as little as six months and is a process for skilled workers who want to settle in Canada permanently and take part in the Canadian economy. This is a great route to permanent residency and even citizenship down the road. A skilled worker would be someone who is a medical worker, lawyer, engineer, scientist, teacher, carpenter, welder, plumber, chefs, etc. At the end of the day, it is a skilled person who can better the Canadian economy with their work. If you work through the process online yourself this can cost anywhere between $1500-$2000. If you want to have a lawyer assist expect that cost to be doubled.

There are various programs for this type of move to Canada. All will require you to be proficient in either English or French.

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
  • Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)

More on the Provincial Nominees Program


If you can demonstrate that you have the proper skills you may be able to apply for a PNP. This is done province by province to find skilled workers to fill in where they need the help most. For instance, if you have experience mining or in the oil field, you may be needed in Alberta, where they are often looking for workers. You’ll have to check with the province you hope to move to on their eligibility requirements. After you apply it’s possible that you will receive an invite to immigrate to that province.


Move to Canada from the US as a Family Member of a Canadian


If you’re a Canadian citizen or PR of Canada you can sponsor family members to move to Canada. So if you have any close family members that fall into this category (think spouses, parents, grandparents, and siblings) you should explore your options on how to become a Canadian resident this way.


Move to Canada from the US as a self employed person


If you are self-employed person or digital nomad this will be the easiest option to move to Canada. To move to Canada as a self employed person you need to show you have two years of relevant experience in your field, and be able to prove that you can support yourself in Canada. To move to Canada via this option you need to be able to have experience in cultural activities or athletics through your work and contribute this lifestyle in Canada. This process can take up to two years and cost $2000+.


Go to College in Canada with a Study Permit


This is a fantastic option for new high school graduates who want to explore life outside of the United States. Canada has one of the best education systems in the world, and depending on where you go going to university in Canada can be cheaper than going to school in America! To apply for a study permit, you need an acceptance letter from a designated learning institution. These schools are set up to host international students (see list here).

After you graduate with your study permit you can apply for a work permit that will give you Canadian work experience. With that, you are on your way to getting permanent residency, and eventually citizenship in Canada. If you are a new grad looking at colleges, this may be the simplest option for immigrating to Canada.


 Immigration to Canada from the USA If You’re an Entrepreneur


This is likely the least enticing option for those wanting to move to Canada, but it is possible! If you have those entrepreneurship genes and want to start a new business in Canada you may want to look into a Start-Up Visa. Canada is a great country to start up a business and there are many business immigration opportunities.

For a Start-Up Visa you’ll need to secure at least a $200,000 investment from certain venture capitalist groups. Find out more about that here.


How to Become an Actual Canadian Citizen?

Well, it’s very tricky. To become a Canadian Citizen you must first be a Permanent Resident of Canada and have lived in Canada for 3 out of the last 5 years. You’ll also need to prove you filed your taxes in Canada. Those are the hard parts. The easier parts of this process are to pass a test on your rights and knowledge of Canada and prove you can speak fluent English or French. This process can take 12 months and cost over $600.


Is Moving to Canada Expensive?


Lake Moraine

Putting aside the immigration expenses I found moving to Canada no more expensive than moving between two different states in the US. The Canadian Dollar (CAD) is quite weak right now compared to the US Dollar too, so you’ll save on expenses from he currency conversion.


Is Living in Canada Expensive?


I find the cost of living in Canada almost identical to living in the United States. Rent, groceries, entertainment, restaurants, and my coffee are exactly the same if not cheaper because of a weak Canadian Dollar. Perhaps the only thing I find noticeably more expensive is the fuel prices. Where I live the cost of gas is $1.09 CAD per liter ($4.12 CAD per gallon).

Depending on where you live in Canada your GST may be higher or lower than in the US.

Of course, if you live in a big city like Vancouver, Toronto, or Calgary you can expect your expenses to be higher, just like they would be if you lived in New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago.


Where are the Best Places to Live in Canada?


That all depends on what you are looking for. Do you want to live in a city? Try looking at Toronto or Vancouver. Are you more into a remote way of living? The Yukon and Northwest Territories may be your jam. Want to live on the coast? Try the Maritimes or the BC coast? Do you like climbing mountains and skiing? The Canadian Rockies might be calling you.


What are the Benefits of Moving to Canada from the US?


Canadian healthcare is far from perfect, but it is leaps and bounds better than in the United States. If you immigrate to Canada one of the main benefits you’ll get is healthcare. I’m not going to say “free” because nothing is free. You pay Canadian taxes you get healthcare – simple as that. Unfortunately in the US as we all know this is not the case. You pay US taxes and you do not get healthcare. Under Canada’s medicare system you will be covered for basic healthcare.

Education is much more affordable than in the United States as well. And with over 56% of the population educated, Canada actually takes the cake in being the world’s most educated country.

Compared the United States, Canada is actually much more willing to accept immigrants and expand their population. According to the Canadian Government, Canada plans to accept at least one million immigrants in the next year.

One of the main benefits of moving to Canada from the US is that you may feel a lot safer. Canada is ranked as the sixth safest country in the world while the United States is ranked at 128 according to the Global Peace Index. Mass shootings are rare, and gun laws are much more strict.

Whether you are in need of medicinal marijuana or recreational, know that weed is legal throughout the entire country.


What are the Disadvantages of moving to Canada from the US?


backcountry horseback riding trip in Banff

One of the main disadvantages I hear about is the weather. “Aren’t you cold up there in Alberta?” is a common question I get. Well, yes, yes I am cold here in the Canadian Rockies. But that’s part of the reason we chose to move here. We wanted to be somewhere we could snowboard all winter and rely on a cold temperature to keep the snow in great condition.

Does the cold weather get old? Sure, it does. There are many days when I want to fly to the Bahamas or Greece, but then I get there and eventually I am sick of the hot weather. It’s all a balancing act. In general, Canada is much colder than the US, with fewer beach destinations to escape to. However, the summers are absolutely beautiful and comfortable.

The next disadvantage I hear about is the high cost of living, with Vancouver being ranked as one of the most expensive cities in North America. As mentioned before I find the cost of living to be comparable between the countries. As long as you are comparing fairly! It’s not fair to compare the cost of living in say Toronto, to a small town in Mississippi.

Taxes, on the other hand, are often said to be much higher in Canada. Like the US, your tax rate is dependent on your income levels. For figuring out your tax rate, it’s best to look here. While in general, taxes are slightly higher than in the United States, it’s important to remember your healthcare benefits that come with that in Canada.


Finding a Place to Live in Canada


You’ll likely want to actually be in Canada before deciding where you want your home to be. It’s best to rent or even Airbnb for a few months before making any final commitments into buying a home or apartment.


Figuring Out US and Canadian Taxes


Unfortunately as a US citizen, you’ll never escape US taxes unless your renounce your citizenship. The US and Eritrea are the only countries in the world that tax you based on citizenship and not residency. So depending on your income you could be subject to double taxation in both Canada and the US. It’s best to talk to a tax professional figure out how to minimize your tax burden.


Adjusting to Life in Canada


Fortunately, there are very few major differences when comparing life in the United States to life in Canada. This means there are very little cultural differences you have to adjust to as a newbie in a foreign country.

Besides the basic adjustments that come with any move (new house, new community, new friends) you don’t have to learn a new language or new culture in Canada. However, you should brush yourself up on the basics of hockey, invest in some good winter gear, and learn to love Tim Hortons.

So are you ready to move to Canada? The best place to start is the government website. You can find out if your eligible for immigration here!


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