A step-by-step guide for moving to Canada and becoming a citizen there

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assumed office on November 4, 2015.
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Whether it’s US-Iran tensions — or rumors that Meghan Markle is going to move to Canada — some Americans are joking about moving to the US’s northern neighbor. The Canadian government has a handy tool that helps you figure out if you’re eligible to become a permanent resident, and a quiz to help you find out if you may already be a citizen. Becoming a Canadian citizen is difficult, with language, history, and physical residency requirements. Here are the factors you need to consider. Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.If tensions between the US and Iran have you feeling worried about the country’s future, you may find yourself imagining a move to Canada.Or perhaps you’re a loyal fan of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle and read about her rumored return to the country. Despite the specific reason why, it is theoretically possible — but certainly not easy — to move to Canada. Becoming a Canadian citizen is tough. You need to first be a permanent resident and have lived in Canada for three out of the last five years, among other requirements.For those who actually want to head up north, here’s how you become a permanent resident and citizen of Canada.

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

The quiz asks about your parents, where you were born, your marriage status, and more.
Shaun Best/Reuters

Before you go through the hassle of applying for citizenship or permanent residency, 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.

Be at least 18 years old.

Rules for minors are more stringent.
John Moore/Getty

If you’re not a legal adult, you’ve got an uphill climb ahead of you. To become a citizen, minors need their parent or legal guardian to fill out the application for them; they need to already be permanent residents in Canada; and the parent must either be a citizen or applying to become one at the same time. 

Become a permanent resident.

There are approximately 321,000 permanent residents residing in Canada.
Malcolm Hasman

The Canadian government created a handy tool to help you figure out if you’re eligible to be a permanent resident, which is required to become a Canadian citizen. There are several avenues available to becoming a permanent resident. For example, you can apply through a specific province, go down a special entrepreneur route, get help from a family member or spouse 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.

If you’re a skilled worker, consider Canada’s Express Entry system.

Canada launched its Express Entry system in 2015.
Thomson Reuters

Canada has a fast-track system for immigration called Express Entry. It’s how skilled workers transition into a new role in the country.All applicants into Express Entry are given specific scores based on their talents and job prospects and then ranked with other applicants. Those at the top of the rankings are invited to become permanent residents.

Declare your intent to reside.

Someone who resides in Canada temporarily, like a student or foreign worker, is not a permanent resident.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

If you’re invited to become a permanent resident, you must confirm your plans to stay Canadian. If you don’t spend that much time within the borders, you could lose your permanent residence status and your chance to become a citizen.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.

Spend enough time physically present in Canada.

You have to prove that you’ve been in the country for a long enough period of time in order to become a citizen.
Jesse33 /

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 1,095 days during the five years right before the date you sign your application. In other words, your time in Canada needs to stay relatively consistent.

Provide your income tax filing.

Canadian officials require applicants to submit a few financial documents.
Canadian Finance Blog

Like the residence requirement, you must be able to provide three years’ worth of tax returns in the five-year period leading up to the date of your application.Basically, they want to see if your job is legit.

Speak English or French.

As long as you’re proficient in English or French, this step should not be an issue.

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.

Know a thing or two about Canada.

There’s a Canadian culture test, so study up.
Wikimedia Commons

You should probably brush up on your Canadian history anyway, but the government 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.

Know why your application might get denied.

It takes several months to hear back about your application.
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.

Invest in durable clothes for your local climate.

Canada is a big place, so make sure you know what type of clothes to bring!
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 Columbian 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.

Take advantage of the customs of your new life.

From great hockey to maple syrup, there’s a lot of culture in Canada to absorb.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Now that you’ve left your home country behind, 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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