Dreaming of Moving to Canada? Here’s What to Know If You’re American

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Downtown Toronto, Ontario

Whether you’re curious about what life is like in our neighbor to the north or your job has been relocated to a new city, moving to Canada is a lot more complex than just packing up your things and crossing the border. 

Quick Overview

How to Move to Canada

  1. Apply for a work or study permit if you’re moving temporarily. Apply for Express Entry if you’re moving permanently.
  2. Receive a medical exam and get police certificates.
  3. Set aside money for application fees, including $1,040 CAD for a residence fee.
  4. Provide proof of funds.
  5. Consider becoming either a permanent resident or a dual citizen.

Get your ducks in a row if you’re ready for life in the Great White North. There’s a whole checklist of things to take care of first before you can officially call yourself a Canadian resident—and finally feel justified in your crush on Justin Trudeau (just me?). 

How do you move to Canada?

Sure, you know how you’ll get there physically, but what’s the best way to stay without wearing out your official government welcome? It depends on how long you intend to be there.

If you’re just planning on relocating for a change of pace for a few months, consider a visitor visa. A visitor visa allows you to stay in the country for up to six months, with the option to renew 30 days before your visa expires.

If you plan on staying more than six months (but still, ultimately, temporarily), you’ll need to apply for a work or study permit. The amount of time you can stay on this type of permit will depend on how long your university program is or how long your job is guaranteed in Canada. 

If you’re planning on permanently moving to Canada (and pledging your full allegiance to a lifetime of Tim Hortons and poutine), your best bet is to try to apply for Express Entry. This is an all-online, fast-tracked immigration process, which takes about six months to process. It assesses your skills, education, and employment history to determine if you’d be a good fit for the country.

As far as what they’re looking for: Those with excellent English or French proficiency, as well as skilled workers with at least one year of experience in a field (think: professions that require a college degree) or skilled tradespersons (like a plumber, electrician, contractor, etc.). It also doesn’t hurt if you already have family ties in Canada. 

“There are categories for points for skilled work entry, similar to the procedure professionals are facing when they want to move to the U.S.,” says Lior Rachmany, CEO and founder of Dumbo Moving in Brooklyn, where he assists clients relocating to Canada. “If you have any arranged employment or you’re a certain age, it will gain you more points.”

When you’re being assessed for Express Entry, the answers you give on the questionnaire are worth a certain number of points. The goal is to get at least 67 out of 100 points.

You can also permanently move to Canada if you’re self-employed. But just like when you’re applying as a skilled worker or skilled tradesperson, you’ll be assessed on your experience, education, and language proficiency. You’ll also need to get a medical exam and a police certificate

How much money do you need to immigrate to Canada?

In addition to actual moving costs, you’ll have to pay application fees to either become a permanent resident or work or study there for a temporary period. 

For a work permit application, it’ll cost you $155 CAD, or $117 USD. As for students, those who plan on attending a Canadian school can apply for a study permit for $150 CAD. A visitor visa application—the kind for those who are staying more than 180 days—is $100 CAD with an option to renew for another $100 CAD. 

If you plan on making Canada your permanent home, you’ll have to dish out a bit more: An economic immigration (which includes the Express Entry) application with a permanent residence fee is $1,040 CAD.

In addition to that sum, you’ll need to provide proof of funds if you’re immigrating through the Federal Skilled Worker Program or the Federal Skilled Trades Program. Essentially, you need cash in the bank to prove you can be self-sufficient. The amount of money that’s required will depend on how many family members you have.

Can I live in Canada if I am a U.S. citizen?

The short answer? Yes, you can live in Canada if you are a U.S. citizen—and actually, unless you actually apply for citizenship in Canada, you will still be considered an American citizen, even if you are a permanent resident of Canada.

This sort of arrangement happens all the time, according to Rachmany.

“I have many customers, especially in New York state who own property [in the U.S.] and go back and forth on a visa for years. Eventually, they are looking to get permanent residency,” he says. 

Really looking to pledge your love of Canada and all things maple syrup and hockey? You can achieve dual citizenship if you’re not quite ready to leave your red, white, and blue heart behind. 

Can you move to Canada without a job?

If you’re jobless but are still looking to make Canada your new home, fear not. Several immigration programs don’t require you to have a job offer, like the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Trades Program, Canadian Experience Class, as well as a few Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), which are programs where a province looking for a specific kind of immigrant can “nominate” you to live there.

Moving is no small feat, no matter how you slice it. Here are our 117 best moving tips of all time.