With every Trump victory, an increasing number of U.S. citizens are considering the possibility of moving to Canada. Of course, wanting to move to Canada is not the same thing as actually being allowed to move here. So how hard would it really be for a U.S. citizen to move to Canada?
There are two options that a Trump-averse U.S. citizen might consider: (1) seek permanent residence in Canada; or (2) seek temporary status in Canada (such as a work permit or study permit) until the next presidential election. Their choice would depend on whether they believe Mr. Trump would win a second presidential term.
In terms of permanent residence, the three categories that a disgruntled U.S. citizen should first consider are the Federal Skilled Worker Class ("FWSC"), the Canadian Experience Class ("CEC"), and the Federal Skilled Trades Class ("FSTC"). Of course, there are other options such as the Quebec Immigration Program, the Provincial Nominee Programs (which have been established by the Canadian Provinces), the Start-Up Business Class, the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Class, and the Caregiver Program. Even family-sponsored permanent residence may be an option in appropriate cases. However, the FSWC, CEC, and FSTC do not require a Canadian employer or Canadian relative to sponsor the foreign national.
The biggest problem with the FSWC, CEC, and FSTC is that they are now subject to the Express Entry Program, which has been in place since January 1, 2015. Under Express Entry, it is no longer possible for foreign nationals to directly apply for permanent residence under the FSW, CEC, or FSTC.
Instead, applicants must now submit an Express Entry profile through the Citizenship and Immigration Canada ("CIC") website, indicating their interest in immigrating to Canada. If they satisfy the eligibility requirements of the FSWC, CEC, or FSTC, they will be accepted into the Express Entry pool of potential candidates. However, acceptance into the Express Entry pool does not guarantee that a particular candidate will be issued an invitation to apply for permanent residence.
All applicants who are accepted into the Express Entry pool are assigned a certain number of Comprehensive Ranking System ("CRS") points. CIC will then invite applicants having the highest number of CRS points to apply for permanent residence. Only then will the applicant be permitted to apply under the FSW, CEC, or FSTC.
To date, the lowest CRS score that has resulted in an invitation to apply is 450. An unmarried 40 year old with a U.S. bachelor degree, with at least three years of skilled work experience in the United States, who is fluent in English but not French, and who has never worked or studied in Canada, would receive only 381 CRS points. Such an applicant would not have received an invitation to apply.
Applicants who are accepted into the Express Entry pool will remain there for one year. However, if they have not been invited to apply for permanent residence after one year, their profiles will expire. Although CIC claims that the majority of applicants who are invited to apply will receive their permanent residence in six months or less, applicants don't actually know when they will receive an invitation to apply.
Although some U.S. citizens who submit Express Entry profiles will be invited to apply for permanent residence, the uncertainty of whether they will be invited and the timing of when this will occur might make the process of seeking Canadian permanent residence too unpredictable for them. As a result, they may wish to consider temporary options instead.
In order to address the concerns of U.S. citizens seeking to avoid a presidential term with Donald Trump, they would need to ensure that they could remain in Canada for at least four years. Clearly, they could not remain in Canada as tourists for such an extended period of time. So they would need to obtain a work permit or study permit in order to maintain their status for four years or more.
Younger U.S. citizens could consider seeking a study permit to attend college or university in Canada. Study permits are typically issued for the duration of an applicant's academic program but bachelor degree programs in Canada are generally four years long. Of course, even a student who is participating in a shorter program could enroll in a subsequent program and then extend their study permit.
Unfortunately, most work permits require a Canadian employer or entity that is prepared to sponsor or otherwise support the foreign national's application. However, U.S. business owners would be in a better position to obtain work permits through their existing businesses, perhaps as intra-company transferees, NAFTA treaty investors or treaty traders. Certain professionals may also be eligible for work permits as NAFTA Professionals, if they can find a Canadian employer or entity willing to hire them. Executives, managers, and specialized knowledge workers employed by multinational companies may also seek intra-company transferee work permits, if they can convince their employers to transfer them abroad.
If a foreign national is not eligible under any of the above work permit categories, it is still possible for them to seek a Canadian work permit by obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment ("LMIA"). The LMIA process requires the Canadian employer to go through a very expensive and time-consuming procedure in order to demonstrate that no qualified Canadian workers are available. Although this route is technically available, in practice, most Canadian employers will be reluctant to attempt the LMIA process unless they believe that the foreign national is indispensable to their business.
It is clearly possible for many U.S. citizens to relocate to Canada, either on a temporary or permanent basis, but the actual process of seeking Canadian status is much more complicated than many Americans believe. Nevertheless, if Donald Trump actually does become President of the United States and U.S. citizens feel morally compelled to leave, Canada stands ready to welcome them (if they qualify of course).
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