How to move to Canada from the U.S.
Over 10,000 people immigrate from the United States to Canada each year. This number is set to rise as Canada looks to welcome over 400,000 immigrants per year under its 2021-2023 Immigration Levels Plan.
Tens of thousands more will arrive as workers, business people, and students to pursue economic and educational opportunities in Canada. Canada also offers many opportunities to those looking to sponsor loved ones coming from the U.S.
This comprehensive page covers the full range of immigration, temporary residence, and citizenship options that are open to those in the U.S. Simply click on any item in the menu below to go directly to the section that is most relevant to your particular needs.
Table of Contents
- Immigrate as a Skilled Worker
- Family Sponsorship
- Work in Canada
- Start a Business
- Study in Canada
- Canadian Citizenship
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is the easiest way to immigrate to Canada from the U.S.?
Express Entry is Canada's main way of managing skilled worker applications for permanent residence. The U.S. is the second-leading source country of those who immigrate to Canada through Express Entry. A major advantage with the Express Entry immigration selection system is that applications are processed within six months or less. U.S. citizens and residents typically have a strong chance of being invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence through Express Entry, thanks to their strong language skills, skilled work experience, and high levels of education.
There are three federal skilled worker immigration programs managed under the Express Entry system that lead to permanent residence in Canada:
- The Federal Skilled Worker Program for skilled workers with foreign work experience.
- The Canadian Experience Class for skilled workers with Canadian work experience.
- The Federal Skilled Trades Program for skilled workers with qualifications in a skilled trade.
What are my other options for moving to Canada other than Express Entry?
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
Like the U.S., Canada is subdivided into different jurisdictions, called provinces and territories. These provinces are, in some ways, similar to the different states that make up the United States. However, unlike American states, Canadian provinces and territories have an important role to play in determining who comes to these jurisdictions as new immigrants. The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) can be a great starting point for U.S. citizens and residents who know which province or territory they want to settle in, as well as others who have specific skills and work experience sought by a particular province or territory. If you are eligible for Express Entry, there is another major benefit to submitting an Express Entry profile. Candidates nominated by a Canadian province or territory who have a profile in the Express Entry pool receive an additional 600 points toward their Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score, effectively guaranteeing them an Invitation to Apply for Canadian permanent residence.
I have a spouse or common-law partner living in Canada, can he or she sponsor me?
Sponsorship of a spouse or common-law partner
Canadian citizens and permanent residents can sponsor their spouse or common-law partner to obtain Canadian permanent resident status. Since Canada recognizes same-sex marriage, same-sex partners may apply for reunification as long as they meet all of Canada's standard eligibility requirements. Both the sponsoring Canadian citizen and the sponsored person must be approved by IRCC in order for the sponsored person to be granted permanent residence. To receive a visa under this immigration program, the sponsor and the sponsored person must prove that their relationship qualifies under one of these three categories: Spouse; Common-Law Partner; Conjugal Partner. The processing standard for spousal sponsorship applications in Canada is approximately 12 months from the date the application is received.
I would like to move to Canada to work, what are my options?
Obtaining a Canadian work visa (referred to as a work permit in Canada) is usually an important step towards working legally in Canada on a temporary basis. You and your prospective employer may have to obtain a document called a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before you begin working in Canada. However, most work permit holders in Canada however do not need an LMIA. In some cases, an LMIA is needed as it serves as evidence that your employment in Canada is likely to have a neutral or positive effect on the local labour market. Once the LMIA is granted, you will be able to apply for a temporary work permit from the IRCC. There may be opportunities to speed up the process, depending on your occupation and the work you plan to do in Canada.
Global Talent Stream
The Global Talent Stream is part of Canada's Global Skills Strategy. This federal program allows Canadian employers in high growth and IT industries to streamline the hiring of skilled foreign workers when Canadians are not available for particular positions. The hiring process under this fast-track program involves meeting certain requirements, such as completing a Labour Market Assessment (LMIA), commitment to certain salary requirements, among others. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to process work permit applications from the Global Talent Stream in one month or less.
Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)
Thanks to the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), formerly known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and also known as “USMCA”, U.S. citizens can benefit from a facilitated process when applying for a temporary work permit in Canada. Work permits issued under the provisions of the CUSMA agreement generally do not require an LMIA.
U.S. citizens may work in Canada under CUSMA in one of the following categories:
A CUSMA professional must be qualified to work in one of the more than 60 targeted professions, including teaching, science, medicine, finance, law, and many others.
Individuals transferred from the U.S. within a CUSMA company may be temporarily transferred to Canada to work for a branch, subsidiary or affiliate of their employer. These individuals must have worked continuously for their U.S. employer for at least one of the last three years and be employed by the company at the time of their application in a position considered to be managerial, executive or involving specialized knowledge.
A U.S. CUSMA trader must demonstrate an intention to engage in substantial trade in goods or services between Canada and the U.S.. A CUSMA investor must demonstrate that he or she has made a substantial investment in a new or existing Canadian business and is seeking to enter Canada to develop and operate the Canadian business.
Because Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, and vice versa, many American businesses have affiliate offices, branches, or subsidiaries in Canada. The Intra-Company Transfer Program allows international businesses to bring key employees to Canada without the requirement to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Employees who work in executive, managerial, or specialized knowledge roles may be eligible to come to Canada with their family and work as an intra-company transferee.
Work Without a Work Permit
A number of situations may occur when those in the U.S. can perform work in Canada without needing to secure a Temporary Work Permit. This includes individuals who engage in business or trade activities in Canada but will not enter the Canadian labour (labor) market, collectively referred to as Business Visitors.
Working Holidays falls under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program and aims to facilitate international exchanges between young people from different nations. U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 to 35, may obtain an open work permit for 12 months under this program, provided that they have been enrolled in full-time post-secondary study at some point in the past twelve months. Final year students not returning to studies are also eligible.
Can I move to Canada to start a business?
Starting a business in Canada
The goal of Canada's business immigration programs is to attract investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals from outside Canada with venture capital, business acumen, and entrepreneurial skills.
Provincial Business and Entrepreneur Programs
Canadian provinces and territories have an important role to play in the settlement of economic migrants in their territory, and many are looking for energetic and innovative entrepreneurs to help grow their economies. Canadian provinces and territories can nominate individuals for immigration to their province based on their own criteria. Most Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) have streams dedicated to business immigration.
Self-Employed Persons Program
Individuals who wish to settle in one of Canada's provinces or territories as a professional athlete or artisan can obtain a business immigrant visa for themselves and their immediate family. This program is designed to bring people to Canada who will work as self-employed individuals. Applicants must have either relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics.
The Start-up Visa Program
Under the federal Start-up Visa Program, immigrant entrepreneurs can develop their business in Canada. This program, recognized as one of the most unique immigration streams in the world, grants permanent residence to immigrant entrepreneurs while helping them settle in Canada.
Work Permit Options
For many entrepreneurs, the fastest way to enter Canada is to obtain a temporary work permit.
Under the CUSMA Investors stream, citizens of the United States who invest in new or existing businesses in Canada may be allowed to apply for an Investor Work Permit to manage their Canadian business. Entrepreneurs who intend to maintain the operation of an existing business abroad while expanding into Canada may be eligible for Intra-company Transfer Work Permits. Those who are majority owners of a business in Canada can seek to obtain an Owner-Operator Work Permit. U.S. residents and citizens also have the option to enter Canada through the Global Talent Stream. Employers working in high-growth sectors or wishing to hire highly skilled global IT professionals can apply for work permits through this stream and benefit from quick application processing times.
Can I move to Canada from the US to study?
There are now some 15,000 U.S. citizens who study in Canada each year. Over 1,500 universities, colleges and other educational institutions are authorized by Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to admit international students. International students can work while studying in Canada, which helps supplement income and gain work experience. Graduates of eligible Canadian institutions can apply for an open work permit called a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The PGWP allows recent graduates to get valuable Canadian work experience, which in turn can make them eligible for permanent residence and increase their odds of successfully obtaining immigration status.
How can I apply for Canadian Citizenship?
U.S citizens and residents who immigrate to Canada and reside in the country for a few years may eventually apply to become citizens of their adopted country. This is a process known as naturalization, and Canada has one of the most liberal and welcoming naturalization processes in the world. A person can be a citizen of both the U.S. and Canada.
Proof of Canadian citizenship certificates can be obtained by those born abroad to Canadian citizens, by Canadian citizens living abroad who wish to work in Canada in jobs reserved for those of Canadian nationality, or for children born abroad to Canadian citizens.
Can I move to Canada if I have a criminal conviction?
Not everyone may be aware that a prior offence, even apparently as minor as a traffic violation, can render a person inadmissible to Canada. If in doubt, it is necessary to know what steps to take before and during the process of applying for an immigration or temporary resident visa to Canada in order to be allowed to enter Canada. Examples of convictions that could make a person inadmissible to Canada include impaired driving, theft, petty theft, assault, drunkenness and disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice and possession of marijuana, cocaine or other controlled substances/drugs.
A person may also be refused entry to Canada on health grounds if their condition is likely to be a danger to public health or safety or might reasonably be expected to cause excessive demand on Canada's health or social services. For family sponsorship cases involving the sponsorship of a spouse/common-law partner and dependent children, this excessive demand component of refusals on medical grounds is removed.
Even if a person or family member is found to be medically or criminally inadmissible to Canada, they still have options.