Washington Week

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You Want to Move to Canada, Eh?

By Matt Loffman

You've probably heard one of your friends say it. 

"If so-and-so wins the presidential election, I'm moving to Canada."

Well, your friend is not alone.

At one point on Super Tuesday, when Donald Trump won seven of the eleven Republican contests and moved one step closer to the GOP nomination, Google saw a 1,250 percent spike in people searching for "how can I move to Canada."  Mashable reported the average for the day was a 500 percent increase. 

In fact, people searching out how to move to Canada hit a more than 11-year high on Google -- beaten only by November 2004, when George W. Bush was reelected president.  The Canadian immigration website was "experiencing delays" during the search spike around Super Tuesday.

One Toronto official tweeted the link to the Canada immigration page.  It has already been retweeted over 40-thousand times.

This is mostly just hyperbole.  Your friend and the thousands of others on Google wouldn't actually move to Canada, right? Americans immigrating to Canada as permanent residents averaged just 8,736 a year for the past 10 years.  (For comparison, Canadians coming into America averaged 15,452 a year during the same time period.)

And this phenomenon is nothing new.  People threatened to move to Canada after Jimmy Carter lost his reelection bid to Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Washington Post reporters Pete Earley and Janet Cooke wrote at the time:

"At the other end of the bar, 21-year-old Bairbre Kennedy lamented the outcome of the second presidential election in which she has been able to vote. 'I voted for Carter and I'm so depressed. I think I'll move to Canada.'"

But what if people are serious this time and really want to move?  Just how easy is it to up and move to the Great White North?

Getting a visa for Canada is relatively straightforward.  You can take a short survey to determine your eligibility on the Canadian immigration website.

The Canadian immigration website experienced delays during the height of Super Tuesday searches.

For skilled workers, entrepreneurs and people with family already living in Canada, some factors being assessed include: age, education, work experience and language skills.  (Take solace. If you're an American escaping to Canada, you've probably got a leg up on the language skills.  They speak English, too, although French is prevalent in Quebec Province.)

There are a few no-nos that Canada doesn't want.  If you have been convicted of a crime, are a security risk, or have serious financial problems, don't even bother applying. 

If you make the cut, you'll also have to pay an application fee (about $350) and wait an average of 38 days for a permanent resident visa. 

While there may be a few hoops to jump through before setting up your homestead, chances are your soon-to-be Canadian neighbors really want you there.  After all, Canadians are notoriously (some might say comically) friendly.  

One Canadian radio host started a website as a joke encouraging Americans to move to his small island in Nova Scotia that has its own population problem (more than one thousand people are leaving every year).

Rob Calabrese started a website encouraging Americans to move to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. [Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins]

"We welcome all, no matter who you support, be it Democrat, Republican or Donald Trump," reads the homepage of Cape Breton If Donald Trump Wins.

What started as a joke quickly became very, very real.  The website has gotten over 700,000 hits since Feb. 15, according to one Halifax newspaper

The site's founder, Rob Calabrese, told NPR that he got over 2,500 email inquiries asking serious questions like, "What kind of job opportunities are there? What’s the housing market like? What is the education system like?"  After that, the local tourism association took over responsibility for responding to these would-be Canadians.  

In 2014, 8,500 Americans joined over 250,000 other people (family members, economic immigrants, and refugees) around the world in making the move to Canada.

And when U.S. politicians opposed allowing Syrian refugees into the country at the end of last year, Canada announced plans to take in 25,000 refugees.  Prime Minister Justin Trudeau actually greeted 160 refugees in person at the Toronto airport in December.  

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau [right] greets Syrian refugees arriving in Canada. [Official Ontario Government photograph]

"Welcome to your new home," CNN reported Trudeau saying as he handed a teddy bear to a little girl.

Plus, if you head to Canada and love it, it could soon be easier to make the change permanent.  The Canadian Parliament is currently debating a bill that would lower the number of years you have to live in Canada before being eligible for citizenship. 

So pick up a maple leaf and hockey puck and make the trip up North.  You just may be greeted with open arms.