Everyone’s talking about moving to Canada, but most of the tips on immigration haven’t gotten past moose and poutine. I’m here to clear up some common misconceptions about moving to Canada.

Two years ago, my wife and I decided to move to Canada. Neither of us had a job offer or any Canadian family. A year and a half later we became permanent residents of Canada. If you’re wondering if you might qualify to move to Canada, you can find out in under five minutes.

You can’t just move to Canada

Showing up at the border with a U-Haul is a bad idea. It’s another country and they’re not going to allow you to move up without a Canadian passport or the proper immigration documents.

Canada is not a frozen tundra

The majority of Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border, so it shouldn’t come as a shock that Canada is not much colder than nearby US cities. Winters in Edmonton aren’t to be scoffed at, but the temperature in Vancouver rarely drops below freezing. Toronto is about as cold as Chicago in the winter and has perfect beach weather in the summer.

You can vote from Canada

Making the move to Canada doesn’t mean you’ve stopped being a US citizen. You continue to have the same rights and obligations of any US citizen, regardless of where you live. In fact, renouncing your US citizenship is a pretty involved process.

No, you can’t just become a Canadian citizen

You have to become a permanent resident of Canada for several years before you can apply to become a Citizen. While politicians are talking about shortening the wait time for citizenship, nothing has changed yet.

You try out life in Canada before you commit

A US passport will get you six months in Canada as a visitor — and once your time is up, you can leave for a day and come back for six more. The tricky part is this may mean you owe taxes in Canada. And you can’t legally work, so you’ll need a way to support yourself. Be prepared for some questions at the border.

The more conventional way to spend time in Canada is as a student, which allows you to work a few hours a week and during school breaks. You can even use FAFSA to pay for it. You can parlay that part-time job or internship into a full-fledged job offer, since there’s a post-graduation work permit program you can apply for.

If you can’t go a year without working and don’t want to go back to school, you can do a work exchange through International Experience Canada. This program has become more competitive in recent years and you may not be invited unless you get a job offer.

Canada is recruiting new immigrants

Canada has a history of looking to immigration to boost their economy, but there’s no shortcut for Americans. If you’re under 35, have a university degree, and two or more years of professional experience you’re likely to qualify to become a permanent resident in as little as six months through Express Entry. If you’re older, you’ll want to have a job offer or speak French.

Your odds are also good if you have a successful startup, are a world-class artist or athlete, or are in the investor class ($1.5 million for Quebec, $10 million for the rest of Canada).

Life in Canada is good

Canada and the US are very similar, but differ in a few key ways. The cost of living is similar, but there is less inequality in the north. Life expectancy is longer in Canada than in the US (79 v 82 years) and the infant mortality rate is lower (5.6 v 4.3), partly because everyone has basic health insurance. The fact that the crime rate in Canada is half as much as the US also plays a role. Homophobia, racism, and sexism are less extreme in Canada and it’s a country that embraces immigrants — perhaps because there’s twice as much social mobility. Canadians are more satisfied with life than their counterparts to the south. Life in Canada is a little better, it’s true.

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