Last Updated on August 26, 2016
Donald Trump was initially seen as an unlikely candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. But the joke appears to be on everyone who thought the reality TV celebrity stood zero chance of getting anywhere near the White House in the November 2016 US general election.
Now, with Trump the presumptive Republican nominee, all those Americans threatening to move to Canada should he become president, are a giant step closer to giving Canada a more serious look.
Colin Singer, Managing Partner of immigration.ca, was recently quoted in a CNN Money article about what it takes for an American to move to Canada. You can also watch him being interviewed on the subject here.
At immigration.ca, with more than 25 years in the industry, we know a thing or two about immigrating to Canada. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to put the wheels to Canada in motion.
Step 1: Visit Canada
This may sound quite obvious, but it really is important. For anyone who thinks Canada is simply a northern extension of the US, you may be surprised when you arrive. Each of the provinces has its own unique identity, not to mention different laws and cultural make-up. If it is Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario or Vancouver that piques your interest, then go and have a look before you consider making the move. To keep your options open, why not plan trips to two or three of the provinces so that you can get a feel for exactly how different they are. A very important consideration is the job market. Candidates who secure a hiring sponsor employer are practically assured of being approved for Canadian permanent residence (our version of a Green Card).
Step 2: Do your research
Once you have picked out one or two favoured destinations, you have to get down to the details to decide which one is for you. We have already mentioned that the Canadian provinces and territories are all very different, and that also goes for the industries that feed their economies. Trying to match your skills to a specific province’s requirements will make you all the more likely to get that all-important job (see Step 3). Some provinces have high demand occupation lists that could enable a positive outcome without a job. Meanwhile, you also need to consider what each province offers in terms of public services, and how they are applicable to you. Income tax varies, as does how the provincial governments choose to spend public money. For example, in Ontario full time daycare could cost anywhere around $1,800 a month, but in Quebec you might pay as little as $7 per day.
Step 3: Assess the tax implications
If you want to make the move, you should research how it will affect your tax situation.
With US citizens taxed based on both residency and citizenship, the US Internal Revenue Service will expect a tax return. The way out of this would be to renounce your citizenship, but this is a big and often final decision as you can rarely get it back.
Under the US-Canada Tax Treaty, you cannot be taxed twice on the same income. However, you need to read the fine print of savings and investment plans because the rules on tax will differ between the US and Canada.
On the plus side, the US 401k is fine to leave there and allow to grow tax-deferred in both countries. When you start withdrawing funds, however, it does become taxable in the US and Canada.
You can’t transfer the 401k to Canada, but you can transfer an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). If you do that before age 60, you may incur a 10 per cent penalty. You have the option of putting it in a Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) to avoid Canadian tax.
Once in Canada, you have access to the Canada Pension Plan (or the Quebec Pension Plan), and you may also be allowed to pay US Social Security for another five years should you choose. When you collect Social Security, you get credits for payments to CPP or QPP, of you may be able to collect from those too.
Other factors to consider include credit rating, as this does not transfer. You will need to build up a Canadian credit rating before getting a mortgage. You may even be rejected for a credit card.
You should also consider Canadian exit tax for if you decide to return.
Whatever your decision, it is crucial to do the research first.
Step 4: Get a job
A secured job offer is the gold standard for any potential immigrant to Canada. It will jump you towards the top of the Express Entry pool, making you increasingly likely to be one of the selected candidates. It is worth targeting a few employers when you are here visiting (see Step 1) and it is certainly worth trying to match your resume and skills to the province you plan to move to. A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a crucial component of any immigration application. It assesses whether a Canadian is available for the position you are applying for. A job offer is effectively confirmation of this. Residency can be awarded without the offer of a job, but you would need to be qualified in some of the Canadian industries that are looking for staff. Software engineers, walk this way!
Step 5: Get in the Express Entry Pool
Express Entry is an immigration system which selects skilled workers to come to Canada under both federal and provincial programs. Applicants submit an online profile to the Express Entry Pool. Canadian employers and provincial governments across Canada get access to the best candidates, who are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. Draws are made from the Express Entry Pool roughly every two weeks. If you are selected, you then need to apply through the stream you have been selected for. That could be the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class or one of the Provincial Nominees Program. You will be given 60-days to submit a fully documented application. There are no extensions of time so you need to get this right from the start.
The overall costs for a skilled immigration stream application will range between from USD $3,000-USD $4,000 for a family of three. This will cover the cost of mandatory language tests, education assessments, medical examinations and government fees. Add another USD $3,000 for an experienced lawyer who will provide you with both immigration and meaningful employment consulting services to increase your chances.
Step 6: Wait to be picked
Express Entry aims to allow qualified candidates to move to Canada inside six months, but if you are on the cusp of the number of points required, it could take longer. On a positive note, you can change you score while you are in the pool. The system is dynamic in this sense. So if you get a job offer, improve your language skills or enhance your education history you can update you profile and boost your score. The numbers of points needed to qualify is set by the government with each draw. A candidates’ chances will largely depend on the competition in the pool.
Step 7: Business stream options
If you are a high net worth individual, this could be the route for you. Canada has a number of options for investment immigration for those with $500,000 or more in personal assets. Quebec has the most popular provincial investment immigration programs. It is the only passive investment program. You can consider the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program (QIIP) or the Quebec Entrepreneur Program (QEP) if you want to invest your way in to Canada. Alternatively, each of the provinces has its own investment immigration options. Federally, the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program is still operating, but has been unpopular from its launch because of unrealistic requirements. The government is currently conducting a review of all of its immigration options, and immigration.ca has called for a revamped, more realistic federal program to attract ultra-high net worth individuals.
Step 8: One final option
Of course, you may not need to bother with any of the above if you are married or have a common-law relationship with a Canadian. You probably qualify for Family Class sponsorship, which would certainly boost your likelihood of success.
Hopefully by now you will know if you are serious about a move to Canada should President Trump become a reality.
If you are serious, it is important to get a plan in place. There is obviously no onus for you to move if you are invited to apply under Express Entry. But remember the process can take many months from the start, especially a business application, so it will not be a case of just upping and moving when the time comes.
Interested employers: Kindly contact us here to receive further information.
Interested candidates: Find out whether you qualify to Canada by completing our free on-line evaluation. We will provide you with our evaluation within 1-2 business days.
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