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Over recent years and months, we've had lots of Americans getting in touch wondering about immigration to Canada from the USA. We've put together this article to guide you through your options.

Immigration to Canada from the USA may not be as easy as you may think, and yet many thousands of American citizens move to Canada each year. Plus, thousands of non-citizen US residents make the move north.

In this guide, we take you through some of the most popular options for immigrating from the United States to Canada. Prefer learning from a video? Check out our webinar with regulated Canadian immigration consultant, Jenny Perez:

Moving to Canada from the USA as a permanent resident

Canada has a range of permanent residence programs for those seeking immigration to Canada from the USA. The system of selecting candidates for many popular economic programs (i.e. not family reunification, or refugee programs) is called Express Entry.

Applicants will need to become eligible under one of the following federal economic immigration programs:

Canada’s provinces also have a say in who gets to move to Canada. A portion of these Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) are streamlined through Express Entry, while some PNP streams exist entirely outside the Express Entry system.

Each program has its own criteria, and the Express Entry system can help you discover which ones you may be eligible for.

To get started, candidates seeking immigration to Canada from the USA can submit an Express Entry profile to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), the government department that processes applications. Candidates will be assessed to determine their eligibility for at least one of these programs.

They will need to provide some information on their foreign work history, Canadian work history (if any), education level, language ability in either English or French (a test is necessary, even if you went to Harvard!), and some other factors. From there, they will be assigned a score out of 1,200 points, under what’s called the Comprehensive Ranking System.

You can receive up to 600 points right away if a Canadian province has agreed to nominate you under a Provincial Nominee Program.

Twice a month, usually, IRCC will select the top-ranking candidates and invite them to complete their application. In other words, anyone with a score above the minimum cut-off will receive an invitation to apply.

The cut-off is varies from draw to draw. You can see what the most recent cut-off was on our Express Entry Draw page.

To learn more see our Express Entry Canada guide on Moving2Canada. For other programs, visit our Permanent Residency section.

Immigration to Canada from the USA using USMCA (formerly: NAFTA)

Under the terms of the United States – Mexico – Canada Agreement (USMCA), which has replaced the older NAFTA agreement, provisions around immigration and mobility remain the same as before.

There are three key ways you can obtain a work permit using this agreement. These categories are:

1. USMCA / NAFTA Professional
Candidates in this category must meet the following criteria:

  • Qualified in one of the targeted professions (including accountants, architects, engineers, lawyers, teachers, medical and scientific staff). Learn more here.
  • Must have pre-arranged work in one of these fields.
  • Self-employed work is not eligible.

2. USMCA / NAFTA Intra-Company Transfers
Staff of an American company can transfer to a Canadian branch of the firm. The following requirements apply:

  • Must have been in continuous employment at the firm for at least one of the last three years.
  • Must be employed by the company when applying.
  • Must work in a specialized or managerial role.

3. USMCA / NAFTA Traders and Investors
Suitable for those who are investing in a Canadian business, and are seeking immigration to Canada from the USA or Mexico to grow that business.

Under Canada’s Express Entry immigration system, USMCA workers in Canada may benefit from additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points for a valid job offer.

Immigration to Canada from the USA as a recent graduate

If you have been enrolled in a full-time, post-secondary educational program in the past year, you may be able to receive an open work permit for Canada.

The permits, issued under the SWAP Working Holidays program, last for 12 months. They are available for those aged 18 to 35.

What do I do when I have my status in Canada?

Explore our website! Since 2011, we’ve specialized in providing updated news and information across our website for newcomers. Our articles and resources can help you plan your immigration to Canada from the USA.

Also, our Outpost Recruitment agency has also been finding work for construction and engineering professionals, placing them in companies across Canada who value foreign work experience.

What other advice is there for those seeking immigration to Canada from the USA?

Americans seeking information on immigration to Canada from the USA have been reading these articles on our website.

Have more questions about immigration to Canada from the USA? Our free Getting Started Guide download can help.

And for updates, be sure to join Moving2Canada on Facebook where you’ll find the latest immigration updates.

We have a constantly updated immigration to Canada guide.

For further advice and information, you can visit our Book an Immigration Consultant page.

Editor’s note, Nov 3, 2020. We notice that a lot of US-based readers are reading this page right now. One of the best ways to explore your options for moving to Canada from the US is to create a Moving2Canada account and complete your profile.

See our full section on moving to Canada from the USA

About the author

Hugo O'Doherty profile picture

Hugo O'Doherty

Canadian Immigration & Integration Specialist
Hugo O’Doherty has over a decade of experience and research in Canadian immigration, establishing him as a recognized authority on immigrant integration and adaptation. His personal and professional experiences with immigration have made him an expert on the practical aspects of successfully moving to and settling in Canada.
Read more about Hugo O'Doherty
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