Moving to Canada from the US

If you are interested in moving from the United States to Canada, it is important to consider your options based on what you are hoping to do. There are various visa programs dependent on whether you are a skilled worker or graduate, have family in Canada or seeking an entrepreneurial opportunity.

US Citizens moving to Canada

As a US citizen you are permitted to travel to Canada for personal or business reasons without having to obtain a visa. You only need to ensure you are travelling with a valid identity document. You can stay in Canada for up to 6 months. However, to be able to enter through this visa waiver arrangement, immigration must be satisfied that you will be returning to the US after your trip. Therefore, it may not be practical to move to Canada without obtaining a valid visa that provides you with work rights. This is because as a US citizen visiting Canada as a tourist, you are not permitted to work.

Pathways to Move to Canada Permanently

Skilled Workers

If you are a Skilled Worker with skilled work experience, the Canada Express Entry system will allow you move to Canada as a permanent resident to live and work. There are three streams within the system:

  1. Federal Skilled Worker Program
  2. Federal Skilled Trades Program
  3. Canadian Experience Class

In general, the Express Entry system processes applications as quickly as 6 months.

Recent Graduate

If you are a recent graduate looking to kickstart your career in Canada, you can enter on an Open Work Permit Program. This work permit program allows people to move to Canada for work. This is a suitable work permit for those who do not have a job offer from any employers.

Semi-Skilled or Unskilled Worker

If you are a semi-skilled or unskilled worker and interested in migrating from the US to Canada, the Government of Canada has introduced Special Immigration Pilots. Special immigration pilots are targeted to address labour shortages in specific sectors within the Canadian economy. There are two types of special immigration pilots:

  • Agri-food Immigration Pilot
  • Child and Home Care Provider Pilot

The Agri-food Immigration Pilot works to address the labour needs of the Canadian agri-food sector.

The Child and Home Care Provider Pilot to address labour demands and needs for the Canadian home care sector.


If you are an entrepreneur seeking a new business venture, you can move from the US to Canada through the Start Up Visa Program. The Start Up Visa Program targets immigrant entrepreneurs with skills to build a business in Canada that is innovative, creates jobs for Canadians and can compete on a global scale.

Family Sponsorship

If you have family who are already living in Canada and they are permanent residents, they may be eligible to sponsor you to move to Canada. The two options for who your family member in Canada can sponsor is:

  • Orphaned brother, sister, nephew, niece, or grandchild; or
  • Other relative

There are specific requirements as to which relative can be sponsored. It is important to assess the personal circumstances of you and your family.

Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

The Canada-US-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) entered into force on 1 July 2020. It allows permits workers travelling from the US to apply for a CUSMA work permit. There are four categories under the CUSMA:

  1. CUSMA Professionals
  2. CUSMA Intra-company transfer
  3. CUSMA Traders
  4. CUSMA Investors

CUSMA Professionals

To be eligible for a CUSMA Work Permit as a Professional, you must have a pre-arranged job offer or a contract in Canada in one of the targeted professions. Alternatively, Canada also allows CUSMA Professionals to come as business visitors with the caveat that they are not performing remunerative duties and simply conducting business activities such as consulting, advising and meeting clients.

CUSMA Intra-company Transfers

If you are a US citizen that works for a company that has a Canadian office, you may be able to move to Canada under the CUSMA intra-company transfer. It is important that the transfer be for temporary work in Canada. To be eligible for this CUSMA category you must have previously worked for your employer for at least one of the last three years in a similar position to the one you are filling in Canada.

CUSMA Traders

CUSMA Traders must be travelling to Canada to carry out a trade of substantial goods or services between the US and Canada.

CUSMA Investors

If you are looking to move from the US to Canada and are interested in making a substantial investment, the CUSMA Investor category allows investors to make an investment in a new or existing Canadian business. Work permits in the CUSMA investor category may also be granted to staff of the company that are essential to its operation. Therefore, people moving from the US to Canada may also be able to do so under the CUSMA investor permit.

What are the differences between the US to Canada?

Health Care

Canada’s healthcare system is more accessible than the US healthcare model. Canada provides healthcare to its all citizens, permanent residents, and some temporary residents. The provinces and territories within Canada also have public health insurance plans that cover an individual’s basic medical needs. It should be noted there may be a waiting period for access to these services. Therefore, this may be a factor that impacts your decision to move to Canada from the US.

Cost of Living in Canada

The cost of living in Canada is similar to that of the United States. The Canadian Government imposes a Goods and Services Tax (GST) to the price of most goods and services. In some provinces there is also a Provincial Sales Tax (PST) which varies between 6% and 10%. This can understandably make the cost of goods and services more expensive. However, in Canada healthcare and education costs are more affordable than the United States. Therefore, the cost living in Canada will likely not be that different to the United States.

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