Canada

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

After all, it's a land where healthcare is free, people are friendly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains quantum computing just for laughs.
How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen
Image credit: Blair Gable/Reuters
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Senior Innovation Reporter
5 min read
This story originally appeared on Business Insider

If the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has you feeling disillusioned with American democracy, you may find yourself imagining a move to Canada.

After all, it's a land where healthcare is free, people are friendly and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explains quantum computing just for laughs.

But actually becoming a citizen is tough: You need to live in Canada for at least six years, stay on your best behavior and know a thing or two about the country you'll soon call home.

For those who actually want to head up north, here's how you move to Canada.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Preface: Make sure you're not already a Canadian citizen.

Preface: Make sure you're not already a Canadian citizen.
Image credit: Shaun Best/Reuters

Before you go through the hassle of applying for citizenship, take a short quiz to see if you may already be Canadian.

The government outlines several caveats for being a citizen even if you weren't born there, many of which depend on your parents' citizenship. Maybe you secretly inherited their status at some point along the way.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Be at least 18 years old.

Be at least 18 years old.
Image credit: crabchick/Flickr

If you're not a legal adult, you've got an uphill climb ahead of you.

Minors need their parent or legal guardian to fill out the application for them; they need to be permanent residents in Canada (more on that later); and the parent must either be a citizen or applying to become one at the same time.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Or enter the pool for skilled immigrants.

Or enter the pool for skilled immigrants.
Image credit: Thomson Reuters

Canada has a fast-track system for immigration called Express Entry. It's how skilled workers transition into a role in the country.

All applicants into Express Entry are given specific scores based on their specific talents and job prospects and then ranked with other applicants. Those at the top of the rankings are invited to become permanent residents.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Have a permanent residence in Canada.

Have a permanent residence in Canada.
Image credit: Malcolm Hasman

To become a permanent resident, people can choose between several avenues. They can apply through the province of their choice, go down a special entrepreneur route, get help from a family member who lives in Canada or go through Quebec, which has special immigration requirements.

Permanent residents are entitled to healthcare coverage and can work, study and travel anywhere in Canada. You just can't vote, run for office or hold some jobs with high security clearance.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Declare your intent to reside.

Declare your intent to reside.
Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you're invited to become a permanent resident, you must confirm your plans to stay Canadian. The government defines permanent residence as living in Canada for at least two years in a five-year period. If you don't spend that much time within the borders, you could lose your permanent residence status.

If you don't live in Canada, you must work outside Canada as a public official known as a Crown Servant or live abroad with certain family members who are Crown Servants.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Spend six years at that residence.

Spend six years at that residence.
Image credit: Flickr/Dafne Cholet

Permanent residents don't always become citizens. The bar for citizenship is higher.

If you're living in Canada, you must have been a permanent resident and physically present in Canada for at least 1,460 days (four 365-day periods) in the six years immediately before the date of your application.

You must also be present for 183 days (half a year) during each of the four calendar years that are fully or partially within the six years before the application date.

In other words, your time in Canada needs to stay relatively consistent.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Provide your income tax filing.

Provide your income tax filing.
Image credit: Canadian Finance Blog

Like the residence requirement, you must be able to provide four years' worth of tax returns in the six-year period leading up to the date of your application.

Basically, they want to see if your job is legit.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Speak English or French.

Speak English or French.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Along with dozens of other countries, Canada has two official languages: English and French.

To become a citizen, you need to know just one. You don't need to be fluent, just conversational enough to make small talk, give directions, use basic grammar and know your vocab well enough to describe yourself.

You'll send along written documents with your application, but a citizenship officer will make the final call whether your English or French is up to snuff.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Know a thing or two about Canada.

Know a thing or two about Canada.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

You should probably brush up on your Canadian history anyway, but the government also issues a formal quiz to applicants on the history, values, institutions and symbols of Canada.

You take the test if you're between 16 and 64 years old. Typically, it's a written test, but the citizenship officer may also ask questions orally.

There are no real surprises. Everything you'd need to know can be found here: Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Know why your application might get denied.

Know why your application might get denied.
Image credit: Reuters/Carlo Allegri

There are a number of reasons your past may prohibit you from becoming a Canadian citizen.

For instance, the government looks down upon granting citizenship to people who have committed a crime within four years of submitting their application or are on trial for a crime.

It also specifies that people in prison can't use their sentence toward becoming a permanent residence. (That doesn't quite fit with the "intent to reside.")

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Invest in durable clothes for your local climate.

Invest in durable clothes for your local climate.
Image credit: Getty/Jan Hetfleisch

Canada is the second-largest country on earth, behind Russia. As such, there is no singular "Canadian climate," even if people may think it's just cold most of the time.

Depending on how close you live to the British Columbia coast, for example, spring can begin as early as February and summer temperatures can rise into the 90s.

So if you're looking for places to take up permanent residence, research what the weather's like. You won't waste money or space buying unnecessary items.

How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen

Take advantage of the customs of your new life.

Take advantage of the customs of your new life.
Image credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Now that you've left your home country behind (and if you're an American, abandoned the circus of presidential elections), embrace what makes Canada unique.

Many Canadians express deep fondness for Tim Hortons, quirky slang, celebrity ambassadors and hockey.

No one will expect you to dive headfirst into this new world, but if you want to become a genuine citizen, formal requirements are only the start.

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  • How to Move to Canada and Become a Canadian Citizen
  • 1. Preface: Make sure you're not already a Canadian citizen.
  • 2. Be at least 18 years old.
  • 3. Or enter the pool for skilled immigrants.
  • 4. Have a permanent residence in Canada.
  • 5. Declare your intent to reside.
  • 6. Spend six years at that residence.
  • 7. Provide your income tax filing.
  • 8. Speak English or French.
  • 9. Know a thing or two about Canada.
  • 10. Know why your application might get denied.
  • 11. Invest in durable clothes for your local climate.
  • 12. Take advantage of the customs of your new life.
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