Thinking about moving to Canada, Eh?

Trying to look at your options?

We are receiving a large number of inquiries from US nationals expressing their desire to “move to Canada” following the 2016 presidential election.

As a Canadian firm, this office makes no comment on US political events. However, given the volume of queries, we feel it is important to give our US friends a general idea about the process of moving “up-North”.

How does one go about moving to Canada?

When a client sets up a consultation to explore the various avenues to settling in Canada, we begin with the most obvious questions. What do you want to do in Canada? How are you going to support yourself? Do you want to temporarily reside for a number of years or permanently move?

If you wish to temporarily reside in Canada, you may be surprised to learn that, unless you are merely planning to visit or study in Canada, it is rather a challenge to secure a temporary work permit. While US citizens are visa-exempt and may remain in the country as a visitor for up to six months, keep in mind that one needs a work or study permit to, well, work or study in Canada.

If you wish to study, a US citizen may apply at the border for a study permit provided they have an admissions letter from a designated learning institute. US citizens who are thinking about studying in Canada may contact our office for a study permit kit.

Working in Canada requires a work permit. A work permit is principally employer-centric which means the Canadian-based employer must first obtain approval by the Canadian labour department before they can hire a foreign worker.

For a lucky few, a US citizen in an eligible occupation may obtain a NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) work permit directly at the border for expedited processing. For most others, however, the Canadian employer will need to advertise your position for 4 weeks, offer a “prevailing wage”, fill out forms and pay a $CAD 1000 filing fee. This process is referred to as obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Employers, or prospect employees, who need advice in obtaining a NAFTA work permit or LMIA, may contact our office for a free consultation.

For Americans wishing to permanently move to Canada, and assuming they do not have a Canadian spouse, a prospect candidate will have to obtain “PR” or a Permanent Resident visa.

There are three major PR classes to choose from including the Family Class, the Refugee and Asylum Class and the Economic Class. We’re going to assume that this reader does not have a Canadian spouse and is therefore not eligible for a family class visa. Similarly, a US citizen will not qualify for refugee status. This leaves the Economic class as the principle means for permanent residency.

Within the Economic Class, there are two basic categories for permanent residency – Business and Professionals.

The vast majority of economic immigrants in Canada qualify under a Professionals stream. A few, including high net-worth clients, entrepreneurs and self-employers qualify under a Business stream.

If you are a high net-worth individual (defined as having at least $1½ million in personal assets), or a business owner with at least $400,000 in assets or a self-proprietor with at least $100,00 in assets and capable of sustaining your own employment while in Canada, you may qualify for permanent residency under one of several Business Class programs. For all other economic class applicants, we would consider your eligibility for permanent residency under the “professionals” class.

By far the most popular professional stream for permanent residency is the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP). Ninety percent of Economic applicants who are filling outside of Canada obtain permanent residency via FSWP.

While FSWP provides for a quick pathway to permanent residency, and has the benefit of NOT requiring a Canadian-based sponsor, the program is exceedingly rigorous and restricted. In a nutshell, this is an invitation-only program that requires registration to the Express Entry portal. This portal is managed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Our office registers dozens of FSWP applicants on a monthly basis.

To register your Express Entry profile, you must answers questions about your age, work history, language proficiency, your spouse’s language proficiency, education and other “adaptability” factors. The portal then computes a Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) based on your answers. If you meet a high enough CRS, you receive a gold ticket invitation to formally apply for FSWP within 90 days.

Express Entry is relatively new and went into effect in January 2015. From experience, the minimum CRS score to obtain a precious invitation for FSWP is 450 points. If applying under the Ontario Human Capital Priorities Stream, which is very similar to the federal program, an invitation can be obtained with a score as low as 400 points although 430 is more typical. If English (or French) is your first language, and you are less than 34 years of age with over 3 years of work experience and you have a master degree, chances are that you will secure an invitation to apply for FSWP. For a free assessment, you may send your resume and date of birth, as well as your spouse’s resume and date of birth, to Upon receiving the above information, our office will submit your estimated CRS score within one business day.

In short, unless you have a Canadian spouse, establishing yourself in Canada is a lot harder than meets the eye. Obtaining a temporary work permit requires a formal sponsorship from a Canadian employer. Obtaining permanent residency requires entrepreneurial and business experience or a combination of youth, full English (or French) proficiency, work experience in your relevant field and an advanced degree.

To assess if your profile has potential for a temporary or permanent visa to Canada, we invite you to contact our office at 888-827-6605 for a consultation. At the consultation, we’ll outline the list of eligible settlement streams, discuss cost, time-frame, filing strategy, probability of a successful outcome based on your circumstances, with plenty of time for questions. At the end of the hour, we’ll provide you with a written summary and a recommended plan of action moving forward.