Americans Moving to Canada: There are Numerous Ways

Posted on November 17th, 2016 at 4:15 am


Our previous article (LINK) made a compelling case for moving to beautiful British Columbia (B.C.). In this article we’ll explore how to make that move a reality. Moving to Canada isn’t as easy as it sounds, but the Governments of Canada and British Columbia have a great deal of information to help new arrivals. Here’s what you need to know:

There are numerous ways to immigrate. The Government of British Columbia (in partnership with the Government of Canada) has one main and at least nine secondary ways to immigrate.

Option 1: B.C. Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The B.C. Provincial Nominee Program helps qualified individuals gain access to the labour market by filling defined shortages in the workforce. Each year roughly 5,800 talented workers and their families are invited to apply for permanent resident status. Processing times range from just a few months to over two years, and the program has three main components:

  • Express Entry. High demand occupations such as health care professionals and talented tradespeople are sometimes eligible for a system that fast-tracks permanent resident status. This program relies on the applicant having a job lined up in Canada, and Canadian employers are required to meet strict criteria before welcoming express entry applicants. This system is also used to help keep graduates from Canadian universities working in their chosen field.
  • Skills Immigration. The skills immigration stream helps connect employers with employees that have the right skills. This program covers skills at every level instead of focusing on high demand fields, so the application wait times are usually longer. Applicants to this stream need to have verifiable experience and an employer lined up to be considered. Just like the express entry stream, graduates from Canadian universities are welcome to apply.
  • Entrepreneur Immigration. Finally, B.C. welcomes experienced entrepreneurs from all business backgrounds through a process that involves creating or expanding an existing B.C. business. The entrepreneur immigration stream is the only stream not to require full-time employment at an existing Canadian company as a condition for acceptance, but it has other – stricter – requirements. For example, this stream is only available to people with a net worth of at least $600,000, demonstrated business management experience, and the ability to immediately invest $200,000 in a existing business. There are also a variety of requirements for how well the business needs to preform.

Option 2: Secondary Streams. If there is no PNP program that fits you, don’t despair. There are still several options available.

  • An immediate family member who is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can sponsor your immigration process. There are a variety of restrictions surrounding who can be a sponsor, and the screening process takes a hard look at the relationship between the sponsor and the potential immigrant. Wait times can be very long, but recent government changes promise to bring those times down. (The current wait time to bring a spouse to Canada from the United States is approximately 14 months.)
  • Canadian Express Entry. This is a program managed by the Federal Government that closely matches B.C.’s express entry system. Workers interested in applying are sorted into categories and then Canadian employers can hire them through a national job bank.
  • Start-up Visa Program. If you have an innovative business idea and the means to support yourself while your business grows, you may be eligible for this unique program designed to fast track your citizenship.
  • The three programs listed here are only a few ways to apply for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship. You can learn about all of the programs here:

How to take advantage of provincial services. While there are limits on the amount and type of social assistance available to new citizens, there are a variety of free services designed to help new arrivals get adjusted. Settlement service agencies, the Community Airport Arrivals Network, and others can connect you to the community and give you the best possible start in your new home. Even temporary residents can receive free mentoring, workshops, and more.

How to work, study, and stay in BC. If you’re not looking to move to B.C. full time just yet, there are a variety of programs designed to help you get temporary work and study visas. In the very likely event that you fall in love with B.C. during your stay, there are a variety of extension options available to help keep you around longer. If you decide to stay permanently, there are ways to transition a temporary visa into permanent residency.

British Columbia is a beautiful province full of exceptional people. While moving across an international boundary isn’t the easiest thing in the world, there are many resources available to help you. You can check out the Government of Canada’s immigration website at and see the resources published by the Government of British Columbia at You can also get in touch with an experienced immigration lawyer by calling 1(800) 818-1373 or emailing