Can I Move to Canada as a US Citizen?

Moving to Canada as a US citizen is absolutely possible, but there are a few key things you need to know. As a US citizen, you have the privilege of entering Canada without a visa as a tourist for up to 6 months. However, if you want to live, work or study in Canada long-term, you will need to apply for the appropriate Canadian visa or permit.

Overview of Moving to Canada from the US

Here is a quick overview of the main steps involved in moving to Canada from the US:

  • Determine your eligibility for Canadian immigration programs as a US citizen
  • Choose which pathway makes the most sense for you (work, study, permanent residence, etc.)
  • Gather all required documentation for your visa/permit application
  • Submit your complete application to the relevant Canadian immigration authorities
  • If approved, move to Canada on your new status!
  • Once in Canada, apply for permanent residence if desired
  • After meeting residency requirements, apply for Canadian citizenship if desired

Let’s explore each of these steps in more detail.

Determine Your Eligibility for Canadian Immigration

The first step is determining if you are eligible for any of Canada’s many immigration programs. As a US citizen, you have several excellent options:

Skilled Worker Programs

If you have skilled work experience and meet other criteria, you may be eligible for permanent residence through Express Entry, Canada’s main skilled immigration system. The three main programs are:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program: For skilled workers with foreign work experience
  • Canadian Experience Class: For skilled workers with Canadian work experience
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program: For qualified tradespeople

You will be scored under the Comprehensive Ranking System and can get an Invitation to Apply if you score high enough. Processing is typically within 6 months.

Work Permit Programs

If you want to work in Canada temporarily, there are various work permit options including:

  • CUSMA work permits: Special work permits for US citizens under the Canada-US-Mexico trade agreement
  • Employer-specific work permits: If you have a Canadian job offer
  • International Experience Canada: For US citizens aged 18-35 to get Canadian work experience

Spouses of temporary workers can also get open work permits to work for any employer.

Study Permit Programs

As a US citizen, you can study in Canada by applying for a study permit. You can work part-time on a study permit. Graduates of certain programs can get post-graduation work permits to gain valuable Canadian work experience after studies.

Business/Investor Programs

If you want to invest or start a business in Canada, options include:

  • Start-Up Visa Program: For innovative entrepreneurs with a business idea
  • Provincial Nominee Programs: Some provinces have business/investor streams
  • Self-Employed Program: For those looking to be self-employed in cultural or athletic activities

Family Reunification Programs

If you have family in Canada, they may be able to sponsor you through programs like:

  • Spousal/common-law sponsorship
  • Dependent child sponsorship
  • Parent and grandparent sponsorship

Be sure to evaluate all your options to see which programs you may be eligible for.

Choose the Right Pathway

Once you’ve determined the programs you are eligible for, decide which pathway makes the most sense for your situation:

  • Do you want to move permanently or temporarily?
  • Are you focused on work, study, starting a business, or reuniting with family?
  • Do you already have a job offer, admission letter from a Canadian school, business proposal, or family sponsor?

Think about your short and long-term goals to select the ideal program for you. A temporary program like a work or study permit can also lead to permanent residence later on.

Gather Required Documents

Every Canadian immigration program will require certain documents to be submitted with your application. Here are some common examples:

  • Passport
  • Proof of funds/financial statements
  • Educational credentials and transcripts
  • Employment verification letters
  • Language test results
  • Police certificates to show you have no criminal record
  • Medical exam results

In addition, programs like Express Entry will require more documents like proof of work experience, reference letters, proof of settlement funds, etc.

It’s crucial that you gather all the documents needed for your particular program. Organize and prepare these documents well in advance.

Submit Your Complete Application

Once you have all your documentation ready, you can submit your full application to the relevant Canadian immigration authority. Where you apply depends on the program:

  • Express Entry applications are submitted online to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).
  • Work permit applications are typically submitted online to IRCC.
  • Study permit applications are submitted online to IRCC.
  • Business programs have special application portals you must use.
  • Family sponsorship applications are submitted by the sponsor to IRCC.

Work with an immigration lawyer if you need help navigating the application process. Submit a complete and accurate application to boost your chances of approval.

Move to Canada!

If your application is approved, it’s time to move to Canada on your new status!

  • For temporary programs like work or study permits, ensure you enter before the validity date on the permit.
  • For permanent residence, enter Canada before the expiry of your confirmation of permanent residence document.

When entering Canada, bring your approval letter/visa, passport, and any other requested documentation.

Apply for Permanent Residence (if desired)

If you first came to Canada on a temporary status, you can often transition to permanent residence.

For example, if you have 1+ year of skilled Canadian work experience on a work permit, you may be eligible for permanent residence through the Canadian Experience Class program.

There are also Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams that can nominate temporary residents for permanent residence. Talk to an immigration lawyer to understand your options.

Apply for Canadian Citizenship

Once you become a permanent resident and meet the residency requirement (physically staying in Canada for 1095 days in a 5 year period), you can apply for Canadian citizenship.

You must also meet requirements like filing Canadian taxes, having basic knowledge of English or French, passing a citizenship test, etc.

Citizenship gives you additional rights like the ability to vote, hold a Canadian passport and live abroad without impacting your status.

Key Tips for US Citizens Moving to Canada

Here are some important tips to help US citizens plan their move to Canada:

  • Get your paperwork in order: Document gathering is critical. Have language tests, medical exams, police certificates, proof of funds and other documents ready.

  • Hire an immigration lawyer: Especially for complex cases like Express Entry or family sponsorship, legal help maximizes success.

  • Have a plan to obtain Canadian healthcare: Seek private health insurance until eligible for your province’s public healthcare.

  • Make sure you remain admissible: Declare DUIs, arrests, medical issues etc. or you could be denied entry.

  • Ship belongings wisely: Use a customs broker and properly declare your personal effects and goods when shipping items.

  • Get a Social Insurance Number: Once in Canada, apply for an SIN from Service Canada to work, file taxes, access benefits.

  • Open a Canadian bank account: You can open an account as a visitor, worker or student. Ask your US bank about cross-border options.

  • Consider tax implications: Talk to cross-border accountants about your US and Canadian tax obligations when moving.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some common questions about moving to Canada from the US:

Do I need a visa to move to Canada from the US?

US citizens do not need a visa to visit Canada as a tourist for up to 6 months. However, to immigrate long-term, extend your stay, or work/study in Canada, you need to apply for the appropriate Canadian permit or visa for your purpose.

Can I just move to Canada and get a job?

No, you cannot just move to Canada and start working without authorization. You need a work permit to work in Canada, unless you are entering for short business meetings or other narrow exempt reasons.

Can I get Canadian health insurance as an American?

Once you become a permanent resident of Canada, you qualify for your provincial health care plan like all other residents. As a temporary resident, you may be eligible for public health insurance depending on the province. Otherwise private health insurance is recommended.

What documents do I need to move to Canada?

It depends on your immigration program, but common documents include your passport, proof of funds, police certificates, medical exam results, education credentials, English/French language test results and employment/family support letters as applicable.

Can I keep my US citizenship if I move to Canada?

Yes, the US permits dual citizenship and does not require you to renounce your US citizenship if you become a Canadian citizen. However, you will need to continue filing US taxes.

Moving from the US to Canada


How long can I live in Canada as a US citizen?

US citizens can stay in Canada for up to six months with just their US passport, but if you want to immigrate to Canada from USA, then there are a few conditions you have to meet.

Can an American move to Canada easily?

One of the easiest ways to immigrate to Canada from the US is through Canada’s Express Entry system. Express Entry is used to process the majority of Canadian immigration applications for three of the country’s economic immigration programs.

Can a US citizen move to Canada without a job?

Most Canadian immigration programs have no job offer requirement. In fact, about 84% of Express Entry candidates were invited to apply for permanent residency without holding a Canadian job offer, according to IRCC’s Year-End Report 2022.

How much does it cost for a US citizen to move to Canada?

How Much Money do You Need to Immigrate to Canada? The cost of immigrating to Canada is generally about $2,300 CAD for a single applicant, or about $4,500 CAD for a couple.

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