In light of Donald Trump edging out Republican leadership hopefuls Ted Cruz and John Kasich in Indiana this week, cheeky rhetoric enticing Americans to make the move north of the border has picked up once again.
Last month, music streaming site Spotify jumped on the buzz, using the already popular #movingtoCanada hashtag and offering subscribers a tool to find the Canadian equivalent to their favourite American artists. Travel website Hotels.com built a special page inviting people to “be a tourist before becoming a resident.”
But the reality – and perhaps more importantly – the costs associated with running from Trump by immigrating to the north isn’t as easy as switching to Bryan Adams from Bob Dylan.
“It sounds nice in the media: ‘I’m going to leave and go to Canada’ – well… you can’t, unless you’ve got some kind of (work or family) sponsorship,” says Brian Wruk author of ‘The American in Canada’ and founder of Transition Financial Advisors Group – which helps both Americans and Canadian navigate cross-border finances and retirement. “You are not considered refugees, let’s put it that way.”
In other words, don’t hold out for the Trump card. [Editor’s note: I am sorry.]
“In all sincerity it is difficult,” says Wruk. “Unless you’ve got a family member to sponsor you or you’ve got some unique skills that Canada is looking for and therefore have a company that is willing to sponsor you.”
And then there are the costs.
“They’re not exorbitant,” says Wruk. But they can still stack up.
Yahoo Canada Finance breaks it down:
This one may seem like a no-brainer but it’s the little odds and ends associated with the immigration process that get you. Fees differ between the skilled worker or sponsorship categories. For skilled workers, it’s $550 for the principal applicant, $550 for the spouse, and $150 per child under 22 years old. On the sponsorship side, the Canadian sponsor pays $75 to apply and the person hoping to be sponsored pays $475. Investors, entrepreneurs or self-employed Americans wishing to immigrate to Canada will be hit with a heftier $1,050 fee plus $550 for a spouse and $150 per child under 22.
While some skip the lawyers and immigration help in favour of doing their own research, there’s something to be said for having the extra support.
Of course, it can come with a heft price tag says Brent Soucie, cross-border tax and financial planning specialist and vice president of T.E. Wealth.
“Lawyers quote people anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the complexity,” says Soucie. “If you have an employer sponsoring you, that’s one thing, that cost is borne by your employer but if you don’t, that’s $5,000 to ensure you paperwork is done correctly.”
“Nobody likes packing a house and moving boxes but people also don’t think about the cost of housing, particularly if you’re moving to Ontario or Toronto,” says Soucie. “Say you’re coming from the U.S. mid-west, a 2,000 square-foot home could sell for $300,000 – look at what that gets you in Toronto.”
And then there are the fees of selling your home.
“If your house is worth $300,000 you’re going to be paying $15,000 to someone to sell it,” he adds.
Just in time for taxes
And then there are the taxes. Soucie refers to a recent middle-aged couple, clients of his, who candidly hinted that their plan of retiring north of the border might have something to do with the political situation stateside.
“They didn’t say the name Donald Trump but they certainly said U.S. politics are one of the reasons,” says Soucie. “They’ve lived in Canada before, the husband was born here, so the have some ties.”
One element that stood out in the discussion was the difference in taxes.
“This is a middle class couple and it’s going to be about $10,000 a year extra just in income tax,” says Soucie. “It’s things like the cost of housing, income tax rates that floor people thinking of immigrating to Canada – everyone knows that it costs money to move but it’s sort of the big life changes you have to make when you cross the border that surprise people.”
Wruk agrees, pointing out that all joking aside, fleeing the country because of Trump seems a bit “excessive.”
“Trump won’t make all the decisions, he has a congress to report to… look at all the executive orders Obama had to sign to get things through congress,” says Wruk. “There are checks and balances in the system – that’s the way the country and the constitution were designed from the very beginning. No one man can exert complete control (and) Canada’s parliament (functions) the same.”