Are more Americans moving to Canada because of Trump?

By Daniel Otis | CTV Network

TORONTO — While a growing number of Americans may be considering moving north to Canada to escape Donald Trump, an immigration lawyer says few will actually qualify to live and work here.

“Since Trump, we are seeing many more immigration applicants wanting to leave the U.S. for a more liberal Canada,” Toronto-based immigration lawyer Jacqueline Bart told CTVNews.ca. “I’m noticing a considerable increase in immigration interest in the past year, even since Trump’s trial and guilty verdict.”

Bart, who has more than 30 years experience in immigration law, says she has witnessed an “exponential” increase in Americans wanting to move to Canada since Trump announced his first White House bid in 2015, which has resulted in “substantially more” immigration cases for her firm.

“Most of the Americans seeking to move to Canada are liberal middle-aged Americans,” Bart said. “Given their age, it is difficult to immigrate unless they have Canadian full-time employment or start a business in Canada.”

From British loyalists who fled north in the late 18th century over the American Revolution, to those who evaded the draft for the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s, Canada has long been a destination for thousand of Americans disenchanted with their country’s tumultuous politics.

The outcome of the U.S. election in November could lead to renewed interest, but how many Americans actually make the leap? And how easy or difficult is it to move here?

Vancouver-based immigration lawyer Ryan Neely has also noted increased interest around U.S. elections, but finds many Americans are ultimately turned off by Canada’s tax system.

“It seems to be this sort of in vogue thing in the United States to say that you’re going to move to Canada if your candidate doesn’t win the election,” Neely told CTVNews.ca. “Whether that converts to actual people ending up moving here, I would say that that’s unlikely.”

Data provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) shows that 88,830 U.S. citizens have been admitted as permanent residents to Canada since 2015. If there was Trump bump in immigration after the 2016 U.S. election, it was a minor one.

While numbers have fluctuated over the years, Americans typically represent a small but steady portion of new permanent residents to Canada at just under three per cent since 2015. In recent decades, most new immigrants to Canada have come from India, China and the Philippines.

Meanwhile, a growing number of Canadians are moving to the U.S., partially due to Canada’s higher housing costs. According to American census data, 53,000 people who were born in Canada moved to the U.S. in 2022.

The same year, 10,415 U.S. citizens were granted permanent residency status in Canada, while 9,243 U.S.-born people became Canadian citizens. Unless you are eligible through a parent, you must be a permanent resident and have lived in Canada for at least three years during the five years before the date of your application to become a Canadian citizen.

“I do see a sharp increase in my practice for individuals who may have a claim for Canadian citizenship through descent,” Neely said of U.S. election cycles. “So for instance, an elderly gentleman in California whose mother was born in Canada in the 1920s but moved down to the States in the 60s… but has decided, ‘Hey, I want that Canadian passport as an escape card if I need it.’”