How to Immigrate to Canada

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During the American Presidential Election, the website for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) crashed due to the huge volume of traffic it received from Americans trying to learn about how they could immigrate to Canada to join our fine country with the election of a US President whom nobody can predict. It used to be, back in the day, Americans could just drive up here, settle in and find a job. But that was a long time ago. Things have changed. It's not so easy to move to Canada now.

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Can I Move to Canada?

Moving in Montreal by I, Claude Boucher [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

by Claude Boucher / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

Canada prioritizes a couple of different types of immigrants:

  • So-called "Economic immigrants" i.e. immigrants with education and skills, or immigrants that can fill a particularly need in a particular region of the country
  • Family members of Canadians and Canadian permanent residents
  • Refugees (and no, you cannot claim refugee status from the United States)
  • Investors and Entrepreneurs.

Basically, you need to have work experience and related education, or you need to have a Canadian spouse, or you need to have TONS of money (or a brilliant idea). That's it.

How to Immigrate to Canada in 2017: The Complete Guide

There are additional options for those who are okay with comping to Canada temporarily to start and then want to become permanent later. They include:

  • Going to school in Canada.
  • Transferring from an office of a company in the US to an office in Canada for that same company.
  • Getting a job offer from a Canadian company and then proving to the government of Canada that they need to hire you, the American, instead of a Canada.

Finally, it's worth noting that the province of Quebec runs its own immigration system, so everything you read in this article is not necessarily true for Quebec. But you should only immigrate to Quebec if you have the French language ability.

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Let's look at all of these different methods individually:


Immigrating to Canada as a Permanent Resident

If you qualify to immigrate as a permanent resident, that's certainly the best option, as you'll be able to apply for citizenship sooner than if you come here temporarily to start. There are four categories for immigration as a permanent resident:


Economic Immigrants

"Economic immigrants" are those immigrants who have a skill; they have the education and the work experience in that skill area to contribute to the Canadian economy. There are a few different types. The good news is that Canada is increasing the number of these immigrants we let in during 2017.


Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

CEC candidates are those who have at least 1 full year of skilled work experience in the last 3 years. This is the way those who work in Canada temporarily (see below) can become permanent residents. CEC candidates are selected using a point system run through something called Express Entry.  If you are eligible, you can set up a profile at right now and don't have to worry about the actual application until you are given an Invitation to Apply (ITA). Remember, you need recent Canadian work experience in a skilled occupation. Click on the hyperlink in the heading to learn more.

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Federal Skilled Worker (FSW)

Those eligible for the federal skilled worker program have college education and at least one year of work experience in their area of education. FSWs are selected for immigration using Express Entry as well. It works the same way as it does for CEC: only in this case you can start setting up your profile right now on, as you don't need Canadian work experience. Click on the hyperlink in the header to learn more.

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Federal Skilled Trades (FST)

Canada has been experiencing a shortage of tradespeople lately and so this program is designed to allow those with an education and accreditation in the trades to immigrate to Canada. It is a relatively new program. It is also administed through Express Entry. Click on the hyperlink in the header to learn more.

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Live-in Caregivers

Because Canada has a lot of elderly people, Canada prioritizes those with work experience or education. Unfortunately, you must first come to Canada as a temporary worker on a temporary work permit before applying for permanent residence through this route. This program has nothing to do with Express Entry. Learn more by clicking on the hyperlink in the header.

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Select Skills by Region (Provincial Nominee Programs - PNPs)

In Canada, the provinces are allowed to "nominate" immigrants for permanent residence based on economic need. These immigrants often have ties to the province (education or work experience but not always). This area is complicated and there are a lot of avenues. This year the PNP programs have been integrated into Express Entry.

You can learn more here:

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If you're not eligible to come to Canada permanently, you can always start by coming here temporarily:


Family Connections

If you have a Canadian boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse, this is probably the easiest way to come to Canada. Immigroup has over a decade of experience with spousal sponsorship applications; it's our bread and butter. Call us at 1-866-760-2623 for a consultation.

If you have other relatives, it's much harder, unless you're still under 18 and your parents are here. There a couple of provinces that might let your relatives sponsor you, provided they own a business. Click on the hyperlink in the header for more information.

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It's extremely hard to claim refugee status as an American. Give it up. (If you're not an American citizen, you will also have a hard time claiming refugee status if you are already in the United States. Canada is looking to take in refugees from dangerous countries.)


Investors and Entrepreneurs

There are a few programs for investors/entrepreneurs, including a federal program, and some provincial programs. There is also a special "start up" program. All of these programs require lots and lots of money, except of the start-up program, which requires you to get financial support from Canadian companies. Either way, this is likely the hardest way to come to Canada for most people.


Moving to Canada as a Temporary Resident

If you do not qualify for permanent residence, you can always come as a temporary resident first, and eventually become permanent through Canadian Experience Class (CEC).


Studying in Canada

If you have money, the easiest way to come to Canada is to enrol in an academic program you qualify for (must be longer than 6 months), apply for a study permit, and then attend school here. Once you graduate, you'll be eligible for a work permit (albeit one valid for only as long as your program's duration). Warning: you must get a skilled job after you graduate in order to qualify for CEC. And you still must work for a year. You'll also be eligible to be nominated by the province you attended school in. Also, we expect the government to make permanent residence easier for students in 2017. To learn more, click on the hyperlink in the header. Students who are not adults need a guardian in Canada.

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Working in Canada through NAFTA

If you work for a corporation in the United States which has offices in Canada, and your occupation is "skilled," you can transfer to the Canadian office under t

Working in Canada

The last and hardest option is to get a work permit the old fashioned way. Most work permits require the following:

  1. You find an employer to give you a job offer in your area of expertise in Canada
  2. You and your prospective employer submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to the government of Canada; this includes posting a job opening for Canadians to apply to
  3. The government decides whether or not your prospective employer needs to hire you, or could hire a Canadian instead.
  4. If the LMIA is approved, you apply for a work permit.

Simple, right?

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There are some people are eligible for an exemption to the LMIA requirement, like those transferring to Canada under NAFTA. (Canada has other international agreements that could lead to an LMIA exemption, but these do not apply to the USA.) The other categories of exemptions concern dependants of those already working in Canada, French speakers, religious workers and academics, and a sometimes applicants for permanent residence who are allowed to work here before their permanent residence applications are approved. Most American are not eligible for any of these exemptions.

There are some occupations that are work permit exempt too, but these occupations are exempted for temporary work in Canada, not work that will lead to permanent residence, so we won't list them here.


So there you have it; the options for immigrating to Canada. If you qualify for any of the above, or want to know more, please give us a call at 1-866-760-2623.

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