The following is a list of frequently asked questions and answers about moving to Canada from the U.S., either temporarily or permanently.
If you have a question that is not on this page, please send your question to USA@canadavisa.com — we will take the time to answer the question before adding it to the list below.
- Canadian permanent residence
Permanent resident status allows an individual to live in, work in and enjoy Canada on a permanent basis, with no time limitation to the status and no restriction on movement within the labour market. Broadly speaking, there are three categories of immigration programs that lead to permanent residence: economic programs (for skilled workers and business persons), family reunification programs (for spouses, common-law partners, parents, grandparents and dependent children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents), and refugee/humanitarian programs. U.S. citizens are unlikely to be successful through the latter category (see question 19).
- To learn more about your Canadian immigration options through the economic programs, fill out a free assessment form.
- For individuals who have a close family member who is a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, as well as individuals who have a Canadian spouse or common-law partner, please complete this free Family Class assessment form to learn more about your options.
- Temporary residence in Canada
Many U.S. citizens and residents choose to come to Canada on a temporary basis, and many go on to pursue permanent residence. U.S.-based workers enjoy certain benefits due to the close trade relationship between the U.S. and Canada (see question 10), while students may pursue further education in Canada — quality institutions and cheaper tuition costs are just two of the incentives. In addition, U.S. citizens can come to visit Canada, typically being granted the right to travel around the country for up to six months per entry.
- Short-term visitors (i.e. less than six months)
- International students
- Work permit holders
- Permanent residents
It is best to review which type of entry to Canada you wish to undertake, then look into the options for bringing family members.
Admissibility/Entry to Canada
Whether you're entering by air, land or water, it is recommended that you carry a valid passport for all travel abroad, including visits to Canada from the U.S. A passport may be required by your airline or alternative transportation authority, as it is the only universally-accepted identification document.
Citizens of the U.S. who are members of the NEXUS program may present their membership card to the CBSA as proof of identification and as a document that denotes citizenship, when arriving by air, land, or marine modes.
Permanent residents of the U.S. who are members of the NEXUS or FAST programs must travel with a passport and proof of permanent residence, and may be asked to present these documents to the officer upon arrival at the border.
If you have been found to be criminally inadmissible to Canada, or think you may be inadmissible, it is important to know that you still have options. Contact a legal advisor to learn more about your options.
- The less common of these is medical inadmissibility that results from being assessed as a threat to the health of Canadians. This would be case for those afflicted with a communicable disease that poses a risk of proliferation within Canada. This is relatively rare as there are not many contagious illnesses or conditions that permanently affect one’s state of health. HIV and AIDS are examples of such a situation, and can be grounds for a determination of medical inadmissibility.
- More often than not, medical inadmissibility is determined by assessing how large a strain a particular individual would put on the Canadian healthcare system. If one’s state of health requires significant and frequent medical intervention, that individual can be found medically inadmissible. There are no strict criteria or guidelines as to what constitutes medical inadmissibility in this context as this determination is made on a case by case basis. However, the cost of any medication required and the frequency with which one must see a medical specialist are among the factors that that are considered.
Working or studying in Canada temporarily
Transferees must have at least one year of full-time work experience with the foreign enterprise and be coming to Canada to perform comparable work for the Canadian affiliate. Work in Canada must fall under one of three categories:
- An employee who primarily directs the management of the enterprise or a major component thereof.
- Senior Managerial
- An employee who manages all or part of the enterprise and supervises/controls the work of other managers or professional employees.
- Specialized Knowledge
- An employee who can demonstrate specialized knowledge of the enterprise's product or service or an advanced level of expertise in the enterprise's processes and procedures.
In order for the foreign worker to receive a work permit, the Canadian business will have to demonstrate a qualifying relationship with its foreign counterpart, as well as a qualifying relationship with its employee.
Learn more about working in Canada a business visitor.
Get the full list of workers who may work in Canada without a work permit.
At a time when young Americans are faced with escalating tuition costs, mounting student debt, and higher barriers to entry than before, many are noticing that a world-class higher education is available on the same continent, and often for a fraction of the cost. International students in Canada can also work while studying, allowing them to supplement their income and gain vital work experience.
Furthermore, studying in Canada also a pathway towards developing a professional career and immigrating to Canada permanently.
To learn more about studying in Canada, visit our dedicated study section.
Canadian permanent residence
The Federal Skilled Worker Class is the federal government’s flagship immigration program. The concept is relatively simple; there are up to 100 points available for a number of factors including age, level of education, language ability, work experience, whether or not the individual has arranged employment in Canada, and certain adaptability factors. If the individual can claim 67 or more points, he or she is eligible to enter the Express Entry pool.
Here, the individual (now a candidate, having created an online Express Entry profile) is ranked along with other candidates, including candidates who entered the pool via other programs that allow people with Canadian work experience and skilled tradespersons to immigrate to Canada. The Express Entry pool is a competitive environment, with a points-based ranking system where candidates are awarded up to 1,200 points under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) for a variety of factors. The government conducts periodic draws, in which the top-ranked candidates are issued an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
Confused? Let’s use a hypothetical example. A U.S. citizen wants to immigrate to Canada and, having filled out a free assessment form, finds that she can claim 74 points under the Federal Skilled Worker Class. She creates an Express Entry profile, where she is awarded 500 CRS points. She then receives an ITA is a subsequent draw from the pool. This ITA provides a 90-day during which she may submit a complete immigration application, and from that point the government aims to process the application within six months.
In addition to this federal system, there are also a range of points-based immigration categories under the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). The criteria for these categories are set by provincial and territorial governments, who may issue a nomination certificate to successful applicants and their family members, if applicable. Under the PNPs, the federal government only oversees admissibility factors, including medical and security background checks.
In the U.S. a United States Permanent Resident Card is popularly known as a Green Card. Instead of a Canada Green Card, permanent residents of Canada have the right to a Canada Permanent Resident Card as proof of their Canada immigration status. A U.S. Green Card grants the holder the permission to enter and live in the United States. In contrast, Canada Permanent Resident status grants an individual the right to enter and live in Canada.
To find out if you are eligible to obtain Canadian permanent residence through one of the currently available immigration programs, please fill out a free online assessment form.
For the federal economic immigration programs, all candidates must include International English Language Testing System (IELTS), OR Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program (CELPIP), OR Test d'Evaluation de Francais (TEF) results. No other method is approved to support language abilities for these programs. The CELPIP exam is only available within Canada, and the TEF is only for individuals wishing to be tested in French ability. Effectively, this leaves the IELTS General Version as the only real option for English-speaking individuals outside Canada.
Language test results are also required for the economic categories of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). There is a separate program for individuals with work or study experience in the province of Quebec that allows eligible individuals to submit an application without necessarily submitting language test results, but this program (known as the Quebec Experience Class) only assesses French ability, not English ability.
- Potential applicants under the Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC, Canada’s flagship immigration program for skilled international workers) may obtain up to 10 points towards eligibility for a job offer. The pass mark for eligibility is 67 points.
- A job offer is required for potential applicants under the Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC).
- A job offer is also worth 50 or 200 (for senior executive positions) points once a FSWC or FSTC candidate is in the Express Entry pool. The total number of available points is 1,200, and these points for a job offer could make all the difference in being invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence.
- A job offer is often, though not always, required under the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).
As for working in Canada temporarily, in most cases a job offer would be required. Under the auspices of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. citizens may be eligible for facilitated processing when applying for a temporary work permit in Canada. Work permits under the provisions of NAFTA do not require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a process that ensures Canadian citizens and permanent residents are able to apply for an open position before the job may be offered to a foreign worker.
Workers in the U.S. who work for a company that has a Canadian office or affiliate may work in Canada as an intra-company transferee. See question 10 to learn more about intra-company transfers.
U.S. citizens under 30 years of age who have been enrolled in full-time post-secondary study at some point in the past twelve months may be able to work in Canada on a SWAP working holiday visa.
It is not a new immigration program. Rather, it facilitates the selection and processing of Canada’s economic immigration programs:
- the Federal Skilled Worker Class,
- the Federal Skilled Trades Class,
- the Canadian Experience Class, and
- a portion of the Provincial Nominee Programs.
Applicants make an "expression of interest" (EOI) in immigrating to Canada and, if they are eligible for at least one of the aforementioned programs, they then enter the Express Entry pool, where they are ranking according to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). The federal government then selects candidates from this pool, who receive an Invitation To Apply (ITA) for immigration to Canada under one of the programs. Express Entry moves Canada from a first come, first served (or supply-driven) system to an invitation to apply (or demand-driven) system. Modeled on similar systems in use in Australia and New Zealand, Express Entry aims to fast track the processing of skilled immigrants deemed most likely to succeed in Canada.
We have an entire FAQ page dedicated to Express Entry.
Provincial and territorial governments have been using these programs to more effectively and efficiently welcome newcomers to their region. Each PNP is tailored to the province or territory's specific needs to select nominees who will be able to settle into life and work in the region and to effectively contribute to the community. Most PNPs contain at least one stream/category aligned with the federal Express Entry immigration selection system. These are known as 'enhanced' nominations. The remaining streams/categories exist outside the Express Entry system, and are known as ‘base’ nominations.
Some PNP categories allow individuals in certain in-demand occupations to submit an application without a job offer. One such example is the Saskatchewan International Skilled Worker category, which includes base and enhanced sub-categories.
Both the Canadian citizen or permanent resident (also called the 'sponsor') and the foreign national (the 'sponsored person') must be approved by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in order for the sponsored person to receive a visa.
In order to receive a visa through this immigration program, the sponsor and sponsored person must prove that their relationship qualifies under one of three categories:
- Common-law partner
- Conjugal partner
Canada recognizes same-sex marriage, and same-sex partners may be eligible to apply under any of the above three categories, provided they meet all eligibility requirements.
There is also an investment opportunity under NAFTA. A NAFTA Investor must demonstrate that he or she has made a substantial investment in a new or existing Canadian business and that he or she is seeking entry to Canada to develop and direct the Canadian business. Work permits in the NAFTA Investor category may also be granted to employees of the primary investor who can be considered essential staff.
That being said, the following documents are typically required in every case:
- Valid passport
- Language test results
- Documentation attesting to work experience
- Police clearance certificate(s)
- Photographs of principal applicant and family members
Depending on circumstances, the following may be asked for:
- Upfront medical receipt
- Birth certificate
- Canadian Education Credential OR Educational Credential Assessment (ECA)
- Letter of attestation
- Official transcripts of post-secondary education study program courses taken
- Secondary education documents
- Original letter from a Canadian employer indicating an offer of arranged employment
- Proof of family relationship(s) in Canada
- Proof of settlement funds
- Legal documents showing changes in name or date of birth
- Marriage certificate(s)
- Signed Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union and documents attesting to cohabitation for a period of at least 12 months
- Divorce or annulment certificate(s)
- Death certificate(s) for former spouse(s) or common-law partner(s)
- Children’s birth certificates
- Adoption papers
- Proof of full custody for children
- Travel documents (non-passport)
- Certified copy of a certificate of qualification in a skilled trade occupation issued by a Canadian provincial/territorial authority
- Copies of work contracts and/or pay stubs
- Documents relating to income taxation
If you have a source of income that assures you have at least the applicable amount of settlement funds at your disposable, this means that in terms of finances you are eligible to apply for permanent residence. However, beyond this, an independent source of income will not further increase your chances of becoming a Canadian permanent resident. Canada is typically looking for applicants that can contribute economically to the country, not for those who are merely financially self-sufficient.
Canadian settlement and culture
To learn more about the tax consequences of moving to Canada from the U.S., click here.
- Canada does not have a President. The head of government is the Prime Minister.
- The Prime Minister is not directly elected by the electorate. He or she is voted into that office by members of the House of Commons, which meets on Parliament Hill in the capital city, Ottawa.
- Members of Parliament are elected using a first-past-the post system, whereby the candidate who wins a plurality of votes in a riding (like a congressional district) is elected to serve that riding in Parliament.
- Currently, five political parties are represented in the House of Commons. The governing Liberal Party holds a majority of seats. The Conservative Party, with the next highest number of seats, forms the official opposition. The New Democratic Party (NDP) has a sizeable number of seats and is generally perceived to be a social democratic party of the left. The Bloc Québécois, which has a handful of seats, is devoted to the interests of the province of Quebec, and the Green Party has a single elected Member of Parliament (MP).
- There is currently no avowedly anti-immigration party with elected representation at the federal level. Each party recognizes the contributions that newcomers to Canada make to the economy and Canadian society.
- Canada does not have states. Instead, it has 10 provinces and three territories. Each province and territory has its own democratically-elected government that holds jurisdiction over certain areas of governance. Other areas of governance are held by the federal government, while certain powers are shared between the federal and provincial/territorial governments.
- Only Canadian citizens may vote at the federal and provincial levels.
Overall, the tone and rhetoric of how politics is ‘done’ in Canada is quite different to its U.S. counterpart, particularly if we are just comparing recent years.
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