The “I’m moving to Canada if they win” Guide to Moving to Canada

Backstory

A few months ago I did some serious, intensive research into the logistics of moving to Canada. Despite interviewing and receiving a job offer there, I ultimately chose to remain in the US, but kept my notes on the process just in case.

Who’s this for?

Someone like me: US citizen, young, unmarried, generally mobile, with no major health issues and no ~unbreakable ties to the US (mortgage, dependent family, etc.) with job prospects in an industry that also exists in Canada (tech being an easy example).

Am I eligible for political asylum?

Anything’s possible, but a claim of political asylum because the President is a lunatic would near-certainly be rejected.

What to Consider

  • The Canadian dollar. It’s hovered at about 1.4:1 to the USD. This is awesome if you’re currently employed by some US company who will allow you to transfer to their Canadian office. It’s considerably less awesome if your job pays you in CAD and you have any obligations in USD (student loans, for example) or plan to spend any significant amount of time/money back in the US.
  • Salary differentials. This, in addition to the low Canadian dollar, will mean that (especially if you’re in tech) you might be making a lot less than you were in the US. Some places in Canada are a lot cheaper in terms of cost of living, but certainly not all — and if you want to live in e.g. Montreal or Toronto, don’t expect to save a huge amount on rent. I had a professional cost-of-living assessment prepared for a proposed Oakland, CA to Toronto move, which found the cost of living difference to be… 1.7%. However, my offered salary was 60% of my current salary. In other words: don’t expect to be making San Francisco/NYC/Boston salaries in Canada, even if you’re working for a US-based company.
  • Paying US taxes. Almost uniquely, the US IRS requires you to continue to pay US taxes when living abroad, even on income earned entirely abroad. However, you get credit for taxes paid to foreign governments, meaning you ultimately end up paying MAX(US taxes, Canadian taxes). For most tax brackets, you’ll likely end up paying more in Canada. You’ll need to factor this in when considering your ultimate pay differential.
  • Going back and forth to the US. Like any other move, if you have significant ties (family, etc.) to someplace in the US, you might need to consider the difficulty and cost involved in going back there on a regular basis. Is it somewhere far (California, Florida, etc.) where the flight is going to be expensive? Remember, it’s an international flight.
  • The weather. If you do happen to be from California or Florida (or anywhere sufficiently far south) and haven’t experienced the Great White North… well, suffice it to say that it’s cold and dark. Think about whether this is OK with you, especially if you’re prone to seasonal depression (SAD) or just really don’t like the cold.
  • Getting around. Will you need to bring your vehicle to Canada? I believe those on work permits can bring a vehicle in without technically “importing” it, while permanent residents with vehicles need to go through the import process. If it’s a newer vehicle, you might have to pay significant licensing and import fees. Buying a vehicle in Canada might be easier (and you may be able to save a significant amount if you buy used from the owner in US dollars, but look into the difficulty of registering.) Toronto and Montreal both have excellent public transit systems and are very walkable/bikeable, but keep in mind the previous bullet point: how much will you want to walk when it’s -20F outside?

Getting a work permit through NAFTA

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) specifies a (random-seeming) set of jobs that are “eligible for facilitated processing.” If your job is on the list, and you can get a job offer from a Canadian company, you’re golden — your job offer doesn’t require a Labor Market Impact Assessment, so it’s a lot easier for companies to employ you. If you’re under this category, I’ve been told getting a two-to-three year work permit is basically trivial (“show up at the border with your job offer and $120” trivial). After a few years in Canada, you’ll be in a much better place to apply for permanent residence if you want it through the Canadian Experience Class pool in Express Entry.

Permanent Residence

Say you don’t want to get a job offer but want to get to Canada anyway, or know you want to stay in Canada indefinitely (not just for a few years). You might just be eligible through a system called Express Entry that governs who they hand out permanent resident cards (basically “green cards”) to. To go through it (specifically the Federal Skilled Worker Program stream), you need at least:

  • age (you max out in your 20s; they want to attract workers who contribute to the welfare system)
  • a college degree in fields that require one
  • Skill Transferability Factor (some combination of work experience in Canada, foreign work experience, and college degree/trade certification)
  • Job offer (worth 600 of your total 1200 points!) or provincial
    nomination, e.g. Ontario’s Human Capital Priorities Stream

Conclusion

Let me know if you actually end up moving to Canada (for political reasons or not) — I’d love to know how it goes.

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