HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA: A PRIMER FOR AMERICANS

An exhibit at Pier 21 in Halifax. Between 1928 and 1971, around one million immigrants entered Canada through Pier 21. It is now a museum. (Photo credit: Terese Loeb Kreuzer)

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Discussion

Q: In the next six months, my wife and I will apply for permanent residency in Canada. However there is an event in Montreal next July (a year from now) that we want to attend. How do we overcome the problem of Dual Intent if we have already filed our permanent residency application when we visit? In HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA you say that the immigration authorities must be convinced that you will leave Canada at the end of your temporary stay. How do we convince them? What kind of documentation would we need?

A: I checked with Vancouver immigration attorney, Linda Mark, who said, "Given the circumstances described, it would probably be possible for this couple to visit Canada. Generally it is not difficult, especially if there is documentation related to the event you plan to attend and if you enter Canada with a return plane ticket."

Q: My wife and I are considering moving to Canada and want to be certain we can be covered by Canadian healthcare. We are both in excellent health but in our early 60's. What do we need to do to be eligible for healthcare?

A: In order to move to Canada, you will need to undergo a medical examination by a doctor from an approved list of physicians. (See pages 49-50 of HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA for more information about the exam.) If you and your wife pass that exam and are accepted by Canada as permanent residents, you will then be treated like any other Canadian. I quote from page 7 of HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA:

"Basic health care in Canada is publicly funded and available to all residents, though a waiting period of up to three months before enrollment is often required. Those moving from the United States to a province with a waiting period will want to continue their health insurance for that time."

The appendix to HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA includes a rundown on health care, province by province, including what's covered, waiting periods, how to register and where to go for more information.

Q: My wife and I are planning to move to Canada for a period of 4-6 years. I have been accepted to a graduate program. My wife is a nurse and we were hoping that she could work while we were up there. Will that be possible?

A: This is what HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA says on that topic:

"Study permits are granted to people who have been accepted by a Canadian university, college or private institution and have satisfied a Canadian immigration official that they're bona fide students....They can be accompanied by their spouse, common-law or same-sex partner. ...The partner is eligible for a work permit so long as the applicant is attending a publicly funded institution."

So, yes, your wife can work in Canada, however the wrinkle in her case is that she is in a field that requires credentialing. (Getting Canadian credentials for licensed professions such as medicine, architecture, accounting and others is also discussed in the book but is too lengthy to go into here.) Your wife will definitely be able to work in Canada. Whether she can work as a nurse will depend on her getting Canadian credentials.

Q: My wife and I have questions about financial things in Canada. For instance, what is a good way to bring up a large sum of money, say, for a down payment on a home?

A: HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA has a section on "Arriving in Canada." Under "Currency and Monetary Instruments" it notes: "Currency and monetary instruments that are physically imported into Canada or exported from Canada and have a value equal to or greater than $10,000 must be reported to Canadian customs. The penalty for failure to report could be fines and imprisonment. The funds could be in the form of cash, securities....or negotiable instruments...."

That being the case, I would say that your best bet would be to open a bank account with a bank that has branches both in the United States and in Canada. HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA mentions some of the largest Canadian banks, all of which have U.S. branches

Q: As an American citizen moving to Canada for several years at least, what should I expect as far as taxes are concerned?

A: HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA has a lot to say about taxes, but here's one of the relevant paragraphs: "Anyone living in Canada must report all their worldwide income on their Canadian income tax return. The same applies to U.S. citizens wherever they live. The two countries have a treaty aimed at preventing double taxation, but U.S. citizens living in Canada as permanent residents or dual citizens must file federal income tax returns in both countries."

I would suggest consulting an accountant with experience handling cross-border tax issues. An immigration attorney should also be able to advise you.

Q: What are the standards for importing an automobile from the United States to Canada?

A: There's a lot about this in HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA. I will quote a few sentences from the section entitled "Vehicles:" "Personal effects can include vehicles as long as they are used for non-commercial purposes. However, Transport Canada has many restrictions on vehicles. They must meet Canadian safety and emission standards, which are not necessarily the same as in the United States. No vehicle can be imported that cannot be modified to meet Canadian standards. For more information, call Transport Canada at 800-333-0371."

Q: What do Canadians think about Americans? Do they really want us to move there?

A: It's hard to generalize about what millions of people think. They think all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons — but it's a fact that many Canadians have American ancestors and vice versa, so we're already kissing cousins.

The United States also happens to be Canada's largest trading partner. (In 2004, 86.4 percent of Canadian exports went to the United States. In 2003, 70 percent of Canadian imports came from the United States.)

However, in spite of economic incentives to agree with United States policies on almost everything, Canada has resolutely disagreed about some very important issues. There are Canadian troops in Afghanistan, for instance, but none in Iraq.

According to a recent poll reported in the Globe and Mail, 58 per cent of Canadians consider "Americans as their closest allies, up five percentage points from last year."

Bottom line: if you decide to move to Canada, you're likely to find everything from a warm welcome to, at the very least, a polite one.

Q: You say in HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA that Nova Scotia is "actively seeking immigrants." What's it like there?

A: I've just returned from several days in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia is the second smallest province in Canada, but I think it's plenty big.

I drove from Halifax, the largest city in the Atlantic Provinces (that would be Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland/​Labrador) to the end of Cape Breton Island and then back to Halifax. The roads are very good, but even driving on highway most of the way, it would take around nine hours of steady driving to reach the end of Cape Breton Island from Halifax — and there's lots more of Nova Scotia stretching in the opposite direction.

Halifax has some fine universities including Dalhousie, which draws students from other parts of Canada and internationally. The waiters and waitresses in the Halifax restaurants where I ate (VERY good food by the way, especially fish), were all students and spoke glowingly of Halifax. One of them said it was a "young" city, by which I think she meant that there are so many students there, that there's lots going on — music, pubs, sports, and so on. I noticed quite a few book stores. People were mostly very friendly.

However — the economy in Nova Scotia has not been in good shape for awhile. Wages are lower than they are in western Canada and there are fewer good jobs. (The cost of living is also lower.)

The economy in beautiful Cape Breton Island is in even worse shape than that in Halifax. Tourism on Cape Breton is one of the biggest sources of income for many people, and the tourist season begins in June, reaches a peak in July and August and is over by mid-October.

If you have a computer-based business and could work from almost anywhere, or if you have income from other sources and don't need to work, Nova Scotia could be a very good choice as a place to relocate. Also, there are certain professions such as health care and engineering where good jobs are available.

Should you decide to visit Halifax, be sure to stop at Pier 21. This was the immigration point for one million people who arrived in Canada between 1928 and 1971. Exhibits show why people came and what they brought with them — sometimes just what they could carry in one suitcase. I'm sure you'll relate — and I'd be surprised if you leave without feeling a little misty eyed.

Q: If I move to Canada and eventually become a citizen, can I still keep my U.S. citizenship?

A: Yes! Canada has permitted dual citizenship since 1977 and the United States, since the early 1990's.

Statistics Canada (www.StatCan.ca) estimates that there are around 500,000 people living in Canada who have dual citizenship, and even more living outside the country.

Even after becoming a Canadian citizen, Americans can travel with a U.S. passport if they wish and vote in U.S. federal elections, using as an address their last place of U.S. residence. They can also vote in Canadian elections, of course.

However, there are some tax complications for dual citizens. As HOW TO MOVE TO CANADA states, "Anyone living in Canada must report all of their worldwide income on their Canadian income tax return. The same applies to U.S. citizens wherever they live. The two countries have a treaty aimed at preventing double taxation, but U.S. citizens living in Canada as permanent residents or dual citizens must file federal income tax returns in both countries."

Q: I'm interested in retiring to Canada. How can I arrange that?

A: There are no special immigration provisions for retirees.

According to Vancouver immigration attorney Linda Mark, "It used to be easier than it is now to retire to Canada. Formerly, you could just apply for a special category of permanent residence. You had to show that you were independent financially, that you had no criminal record and that your health was good. That was it. Now you have to enter the country under one of the categories that apply to everyone else."

What this means is that if you think you will eventually want to retire to Canada as a permanent resident, you either have to start planning early or have a substantial amount of money. You could retire to Canada in the Investor category if you have a minimum net worth of $800,000.

Otherwise, you would probably have to come in as a Skilled Worker — and if you're 54 or older at the time you apply, you would get no points for age, which might lower your total score below the acceptable threshhold. (If you have arranged employment, that could compensate for your loss of points on age.)

For most people, those are the options. If you think you want to retire to Canada, talk to an immigration attorney to see what route would be most advisable in your particular case.


Q: I've been accepted as a permanent resident of Canada and have to send money and documents to Buffalo. I'm thinking of going there myself rather than putting them in the mail. Can you suggest some places to stay in Buffalo?

A: Here are a few recommendations. The prices are approximate:

The Mansion on Delaware, 414 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY 14202; Phone: 716-886-3300; www.mansionondelaware.com. Historic mansion, built in 1869 and renovated in 2000. 28 rooms. From $126.

Adam's Mark Buffalo Niagara, 120 Church St., Buffalo, NY 14202; Phone: 716-845-5100 or 800-444-ADAM; www.adamsmark.com; $76-$125.

Best Western Inn Downtown, 510 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY 14202; Phone: 716-886-8333 or 888-868-3033; $76-$125.

Holiday Inn Buffalo Downtown, 620 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, NY 14202; 716-886-2121 or 800-HOLIDAY; www.harthotels.com; $76-$125.

Hyatt Regency Buffalo, 2 Fountain Plaza, Buffalo, NY 14202-2290; Phone: 716-856-1234 or 800-233-1234; www.buffalo.hyatt.com; $89-$169.

Lenox Hotel and Suites, 140 North St., Buffalo, NY 14201-1535; Phone: 716-884-1700 or 800-82-LENOX; www.lenoxhotelandsuites.com; $51-$150.

EAST AURORA

The Roycroft Inn, 40 S. Grove St., East Aurora, NY 14052; Phone: 716-652-5552 or 877-652-5552; www.roycroftinn.com; $120 (guest house room)-$230 (five-room suite). Arts and crafts architecture and furnishings. Thirty-minute drive from Buffalo.

WESTERN NEW YORK BED & BREAKFAST ASSOCIATION

P.O. Box 2814, Niagara Falls, NY 14302-2814; 800-510-4626; www.bbwny.com; $76-$126.