What Moving to Toronto from the US is Really Like
One thing Toronto is generous with is being accommodative to almost anyone looking to make the city their home. In fact, it’s estimated that roughly 80,000 eligible US voters live in Toronto, a fact that makes it home to the third largest population of Americans living abroad.
Does it mean it’s painless to obtain residency in Canada as a US citizen? Definitely not. However, the legal requirements for living in this country are relatively straightforward for US and UK citizens.
Before trying anything else, ensure you’ve identified an immigration option that works for you as that will increase the chances of your visa application getting approved. It could be through work, family sponsorship, school, or any of the many other options accepted by Canada’s Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) department.
In this guide, we’ll share information and insights about planning and moving to Toronto from the US that we believe will make your dream of living in this city realizable.
How to Move to Toronto from the US as an Expat
As an expat seeking residency in Toronto, it’s common to be worried about things like eligibility, distance, culture, and so on, but those who’ve done it already will admit that the exceptional quality of life, great career prospects, friendliness of the city, and a reliable immigration process make up for these worries once one arrives.
You can tell there’s plenty of expats and immigrants living in Toronto given the fact it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world, with half of its residents being foreign nationals.
That said, Canada has a wide range of visa options designed according to the purpose and timing of an individual’s planned stay in the country. There are those that will allow you to acquire permanent residency (PR) while the rest will only allow you temporary residency.
Another thing to note is when relocating to Toronto from the US as a new immigrant, there’s a long list of documents you may be required to present to the immigration officials, including:
- Confirmation of Permanent Residence (COPR)
- Canadian immigrant visa
- Valid passport (When coming to Canada via air, you will need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Only those coming in by land or sea require a valid passport)
- Detailed list of things you are bringing along and those arriving later plus a valuation of them (in Canadian dollars)
- Birth certificate/adoption papers
- Proof of funds
- Family records; i.e., marriage certificates, divorce papers, etc.
- Official school reports (if you have school-going children)
- Medical records
- Degree(s), diploma(s) and certificate(s)
- An evaluation report of your academic credentials
- Reference letters from current and previous employers
- Up to date résumé
- Trade licenses/qualification certificates
- Vehicle registration documents
What you’ll specifically be required to present to the immigration department will depend on the type of visa, preferred residency option, country of origin, and other things you will learn about later on in the guide.
Americans moving to Toronto for business purposes and have no plan of taking a job in the country don’t necessarily need a work permit. But if you plan to take a job in this city, you are probably going to need a work permit. The two categories available include:
- Open Work permit – Allows a person to work for any eligible employer
- Employer-specific work permit – States how long your work permit will last, the employer, and location
To find out whether or not you need a work permit, check out the National Occupation Classification system (NOC), which groups jobs based on the duties involved and the work a person does.
For example, if your occupation falls under Skill Type 0 or is a professional role that usually requires a degree (skill Level A) and entails working for 15 days back to back once every 6 months or for 30 consecutive days once a year, you won’t require a work permit.
However, if it turns out that you require the permit, you must check to ensure that you are eligible before submitting your application.
The eligibility factors include:
- Have a job offer from a Canadian employer
- Give proof that you have enough money to sustain yourself and members of your family during the time you’ll stay in Canada and to return to your country.
- Have a clean criminal record (a police clearance certificate may be required)
- Be in good health (A medical exam certificate may be required)
Because your permit is temporary, you can’t use it to immigrate to Canada. Later in this article, we’ll show you how you can obtain permanent residency (PR) in Canada based on your work experience and skills.
Meanwhile, if you wish to extend your stay, change your permit type or permit conditions, you should apply 30 days before the expiry of the status in question.
If your plan is to study in Canada, you’ll need to acquire a study permit. It allows foreigners to enroll and study at designated learning institutions within the country.
Like with other immigration programs, you’ll have to go through a couple of steps in order to be accepted as a Canadian citizen. But before you do that, it’s important to take a brief quiz to find out if you could already be a citizen of Canada.
For example, if either of your parents was a citizen of Canada when you were born, you could already be a citizen, in which case you’ll only need to submit your application for proof of citizenship.
That aside, your eligibility for Canadian citizenship will be based on your situation. For example:
- A permanent resident applying for themselves or their child (under 18 years). Fortunately for minors, they don’t have to meet the residency requirements.
- Former Canadian citizens looking to get their citizenship back (You may also be lucky if you are a former or existing member of the Canadian Armed Forces as your application process may be fast-tracked)
- A Canadian citizen seeking citizenship for their adopted child born outside the country
- Spouse of a Canadian Citizen
Generally, there are a number of requirements that must be met for you to obtain Canadian citizenship. For instance, you must:
- Demonstrate that you know how to write and speak in either English or French
- Have permanent residency status
- Have been a permanent resident of Canada for a minimum of 1095 days in a five-year period (You can use the residency calculator to check your eligibility)
- Have filed your taxes in the five-year period leading up to your application date and paid any outstanding income tax.
Please note that the requirements will vary based on the situations we mentioned earlier.
Should your application be accepted, you’ll be required to write the citizenship test, which usually comprises multiple-choice questions about Canada’s political system, history, geography, national symbols, rights and responsibilities, identity and values, and so on. People aged 54 years and above and children under 18 years are exempted
Be advised that there are a number of things that could prevent you from becoming a Canadian citizen. Examples include if you are:
- In prison or got out recently
- On probation or parole
- Serving a conditional sentence
- Have been convicted or charged of an indictable crime
- Under a deportation order
The unfortunate thing about being an expat living in Canada without a permanent residency status is that you won’t be eligible for Medicare. Normally, in order to qualify for this service, one must have a health insurance card, which should be applied for soon as you’ve acquired PR status.
The average waiting period for the card is three months. Until it’s ready and you are able to access healthcare services, it’s recommended that you enlist for a private health insurance plan (IPMI).
Most expats find IPMI advantageous compared to local policies because you can access medical services not just in Canada but anywhere in the world and experience shorter waiting times.
Countries like the United States, France, and Australia, just to name but a few, have a special agreement with Ontario when it comes to obtaining a driving license in the province. Americans moving to Toronto can get a license without the need to go through the regular process of securing a driving license in Ontario.
An important point to note is that if you are relocating to Toronto from the US and you plan to stay for not more than 3 months, you can use a valid license from your country. However, you will require a vehicle permit and insurance in order to be allowed to drive.
If you will be around the city for more than 3 months, you’ll have to bring an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) issued by the US government, in addition to your valid driver’s license.
Your driving experience will determine the kind of license you will be issued with. The process is pretty much similar to what drivers from other Canadian provinces go through before they are given one.
Alternatively, you can choose to apply for the license as a new driver in which case you’ll be subjected to the same process as any other new driver.
Seeking Permanent Residency in Canada
Canada has several categories under which one can apply to obtain permanent residency in the country. They include:
1. Express Entry (EE)
EE is an online-based immigration application system in which applicants are required to set up a profile complete with details about their education, skills, work experience, and language ability in order to be considered as a skilled immigrant.
After submission, the Canadian government will review your profile to determine whether you qualify for permanent residence (PR). Your application will be graded based on a points system.
Candidates who are ranked high after the assessment are then invited to submit their applications for PR. Once you’ve done so, expect feedback within six months from the date of submission.
EE covers several immigration programs. This means when applying for these programs, you must use the Express Entry system. They include:
I. The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW)
This option is for people who’ve been selected to come live permanently in Canada because of their skills and work experience. Normally, you need a minimum of 67 points to be eligible for this program. Not sure if you qualify or how the points are arrived at? Then familiarize yourself with the six selection factors.
Before you submit your application for PR, the following requirements must be met:
- Have a job offer ready
- Be eligible to work in Canada
- Prove that you have enough money to sustain yourself and your dependants (if any) while you settle in the country. However, if you have a valid job offer or are authorized to work in Canada, you do not need proof of funds.
- Meet the language requirements
- A minimum of one year of full-time skilled work experience (or equivalent) obtained during the last ten years. There are different skill types and levels you must meet, as specified by the Canadian National Occupational Classification (NOC)
- Possess a degree, diploma, or post-secondary certificate
- Plan to stay outside Québec (province)
II. The Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)
The FSTP program is designed for those who want to obtain permanent residency based on their qualifications in a specific skilled trade. Qualifications for this program include:
- Have not less than two years of full-time work experience in an eligible skilled trade obtained during the last five years. The work experience has to be in a trade that is under Skill Level B in the NOC
- Meet the language requirements
- Have a full-time employment offer adding up to at least one year or a certification of qualification in your skilled trade provided by a province or territory
If you plan to move to Québec, you’ll have to familiarize yourself with the Québec-Selected skilled workers program.
III. The Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
The CEC is designed for those with skilled work experience in Canada looking to obtain PR. To be eligible to apply for this program, the following conditions have to be met.
- Have more than one year of full-time (or equivalent) skilled work experience in Canada as specified by the NOC.
- The application must be made within a three-year period of obtaining your skilled work experience
- You must have had legal status during the time you studied or worked in Canada
- Meet the language requirements
- Plan to settle outside Québec Province
If you completed your post-secondary studies in Canada and you studied for over two academic years as a full-time student, you may qualify for this program. Note that you’ll still need the required work experience, which must have been obtained while on a post-graduation work permit or any other related permits. Any work experience you obtain while on a student visa doesn’t count as eligible work experience
IV. Ontario’s Provincial Nominee Program (OINP)
Under the OINP, select foreign nationals who would like to immigrate to Ontario are given the opportunity to apply for PR via an expedited process. Generally, the program is designed for prospective immigrants who have specific skills and work experience targeted by the province of Ontario.
Under this program, you have two ways to get nominated, namely:
- Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program
- Ontario Express Entry
Ontario express entry involves the potential immigrant setting up an Express entry profile and then registering their interest in Ontario within the system. You can then be contacted by the Ontario province via that same platform whereby they’ll invite you to apply to their Provincial Nominee program.
If you get a nomination from Ontario Province, the certificate will then be transferred to your Express Entry profile. This will instantly increase your score, making you more likely to get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) during the following Express Entry draw.
Outside Express Entry, you can contact Immigration Ontario and apply directly to the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program. If they give you a provincial nomination, you can then proceed to create an Express Entry Profile complete with the nomination credentials.
Applications can be made under any of the following three main categories. Please note that each category has a unique set of requirements and also various streams through which one can apply.
- Business Category: Corporate Stream and Entrepreneur Stream
- Employer Job Offer Category: Foreign Worker Stream, International Student Stream, and In-Demand Skills Stream
- Human Capital Category: Masters Graduate Stream, Ph.D. Graduate Stream, Ontario’s Express Entry, which comprises French-Speaking Skilled Worker Stream, Human Capital Priorities Stream, and Skilled Trades Stream
2. Business Immigrants; i.e., Entrepreneurs, Investors, Self-Employed, etc.
In general, business immigrants are people who have the potential to invest in or launch businesses in Canada and support the development of a thriving Canadian economy.
Therefore, selections made under this program are based on an individual’s ability to establish themselves economically and add great value to the economy of Canada. This includes creating jobs and making the country competitive at a global level.
The two categories under which you can apply for PR as a business immigrant include:
- Start-up visa
- Self-employed persons
Consider yourself qualified for the start-up visa option if you can:
- Give enough proof that your business has the support of a designated organization, like a Canadian business incubator or venture fund.
- Show that your business complies with ownership requirements. In this case, a maximum of five people can make an application for this program as owners of one business.
- Meet the language requirements; i.e., able to read, write, speak, or listen in English, French, or both.
- Have enough money to sustain your stay as you settle
To apply for permanent residency via this program, simply fill out the application forms, pay the required fee, and then submit.
As for the self-employed option, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have relevant experience; i.e., you’ve participated in world-class athletic competitions or cultural activities or been self-employed in either of the two. Your experience should be able to make a reasonable contribution to the athletic or cultural space in Canada; or
- Have relevant experience in the management of a farm; or
- Intend to and be able to acquire and manage a farm in Canada or be self-employed
- Pass the selection criteria for self-employed potential immigrants
3. Family Sponsorship
A family class immigrant is a person who is sponsored to remain or come to Canada by a relative who is a permanent resident of Canada or a Canadian Citizen.
As the latter, you can sponsor your spouse or common-law partner who looks to obtain PR if he/she lives in Canada with you and has a legal immigration status or if he/she lives outside.
Both of you must meet specific eligibility factors before making your application.
Canada provides refugee protection to individuals facing persecution in their country of origin or the country they usually live in or who would be persecuted if they went back to their country.
You can file your refugee claim within Canada once you’ve arrived by air, land, or sea. If outside the country, you can do so if a private group or the government sponsors you.
The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) will decide if you are eligible to submit a refugee claim while the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) makes decisions about the refugee claims made. If your claim is denied, you have a chance to appeal the decision.
How To Apply
The immigration category you choose will determine where you will make your application. Normally, this is done either inside or outside Canada.
For more information on how to go about your application, you can visit the IRCC website or the nearest Canadian Embassy in your area.
Bear in mind that you will have to part with an application fee, which is non-refundable regardless of the outcome.
Final Thoughts On Moving To Toronto From the US
Looking at everything it takes to successfully move and settle in Toronto from the US, it would be great if you plan well ahead. First, figure out what immigration program is suitable for you. Check if you are eligible and then gather all the necessary documents you may be required to present to the immigration officials. This is possibly the most challenging part. Once you’ve navigated this part successfully, you can easily handle the rest of what awaits if you seek proper guidance and information.