Serious About Moving to Canada? Here's How (It's Not as Easy as You Might Think)

Whether you’re in the Clinton camp, the Trump camp, or the “Holy Mother of God, let’s just write someone in and be done with it” camp, all of the scandals and hacks and general craziness of this election season might be enough to make you want to throw in the towel on the U.S. of A., and head up north before the ballots are even counted. But what about after Nov. 8? What happens if—dear Lord—the wrong candidate winds up running the country?

Are you ready to finally make good on your threat to move to Canada? For real?

Before you pack up the house and build your North Face wardrobe, you should know that while that the Land of Canucks is very similar to the U.S. in many ways, joining the ranks of Canadians won’t be as easy as you might think. It’s a process.

But if you’re really ready to trade your apple pie for ketchup chips, we’ve got you covered.

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You’ll need a good reason to move to Canada

First off, you’ll need a substantial and demonstrable reason to move, or at least one that the Canadian government recognizes and accepts. Here’s a tip: Despising Trump, Clinton, or politicians in general won’t cut it.

“The Canadian government does not admit political refugees from the U.S. You need more substantive reasons to move,” says Michael Niren, an immigration consultant who frequently helps people relocate to Canada.

Valid reasons can include relocating for work, attending a university, getting married, or another life change that would require you to be in Canada. But even if you have a life change, you’ll still have a lot of hoops to jump through.

“Most people assume because Canada and the U.S. share a border—and because of the general ease with which people travel back and forth—relocation is also seamless. But this isn’t the case,” says Niren. “Immigration to Canada can be challenging. There are lots of rules and restrictions for admission.”

So here’s Rule No. 1: If you want to move to Canada to work, don’t wait until you’re at the border to look for a job.

“Generally speaking, to qualify for a work visa to Canada, at minimum you would need a job offer in advance,” says Niren. Same goes if you’re attending a university or marrying a Canadian. Get the process in motion before you arrive, because it could take months.

Make sure your visa and immigration paperwork is shipshape

Once you’ve got a valid reason to stay in the country long-term, you’re going to have to assemble your paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. All your required documentation must be complete, accurate, and verifiable—which trips up some people.

“We see cases that should have been approved but were denied for failure to properly complete forms or provide information. In some cases, we can resolve these issues. In other cases, it may be too late,” says Niren.

At a minimum, you should be prepared to provide proof of your current residence, your income and net worth, your education level, and your background.

If you’re moving for job purposes, you’ll need to provide proof of your work status (your future employer can help you), and you’ll have to go through a background check. It isn’t impossible to do all this yourself, but if the thought of tackling it alone makes you nervous, you can hire an immigration expert. These professionals can help you work through the paperwork, filing times, and red tape.

Going for Canadian citizenship

You won’t become a Canadian citizen right away, no matter what your reason for moving. The process for full citizenship typically takes years.

“It took me two years and thousands of dollars in legal bills to achieve permanent resident status. Dual citizenship is still years away,” says Heidi Lamar, owner of Spa Lamar, who moved from the U.S. to Canada after marrying a Canadian.

Adjusting to living in Canada

Once you’re in, you might have another surprise coming: Canada is actually a different country. While Americans and Canadians are similar in a lot of ways, there will be quirks you’ll have to get used to.

Take, for example, your morning coffee.

“If you order a regular coffee, it will come with milk and sugar, and if you order a double double, you will not get a larger or stronger coffee, but double milk and sugar. Canadian portions are smaller, so if you order a double-double takeaway, you will get a paper cup that you can hold between your thumb and pointer finger by the top and bottom, and it will be mostly milk and sugar,” says Lamar.

There are other, bigger adjustments too, which could be potentially costly (and embarrassing) if you don’t study up. For example, Canada uses the metric system, and if you’re looking at the miles per hour on your car’s odometer, you could be exceeding the Canadian speed limit.

“In some places, if you are driving 50 kilometers (translation: about 30 mph) over the limit, they can actually seize your car,” says Lamar.

But there is a big upside. It turns out, the welcoming, friendly stereotype of Canadians has roots in reality.

“I have only been pulled over once, and I thought maybe I was on some ‘Punk the American’ hidden camera show, the officer was so nice,” says Lamar. “He was like a parody of Canadian niceness. He kept apologizing, ‘Aw geez! I am so sorry I have to do this. You seem really nice, let me tell you how to beat this thing.’ I can’t imagine how bad the poor guy would have felt if he had to take my car.”

It might make all that paperwork (and those ketchup chips) worth it. But if you aren’t sure, you’ve still got some time to decide. After all, President Obama isn’t officially out of office until January.

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