With the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States, immigration lawyers in Canada are fielding a record number of queries from Americans interested in moving north of the border.
Immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann, founding partner of immigration law firm Mamann Sandaluk & Kingwell LLP, says his firm always receives a handful of inquiries from Americans unhappy with the results of an election and looking to make a move to Canada, but “the volume we’ve received this year is unprecedented.”
“We’ve got more emails in the past few hours than we have in all previous campaigns,” Mamann says. “Americans are amongst the most patriotic people in the world and for them to actually think seriously about turning their backs on their country and American identity is actually quite remarkable.”
The tone of the inquiries is very different this year too, he notes — there’s an exhaustion, a sense of futility. It’s a “very, very historic time,” he says.“There is a visceral reaction to the election results and the perceived direction that the United States is about to embark upon."
As the republican presidential nominee inched closer to a surprising victory in the United States’ presidential election last night, disbelieving Americans began visiting the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website — so many, in fact, that the site temporarily crashed.
Mario Bellissimo, of Bellissimo Law Group, says the response to the very divided election was one he can only compare to the hotly contested Bush/Gore election in 2000.
“We’ve got a lot of calls, a lot of emails today,” he says. “Anxious people as the election was unfolding last night were already emailing. I think it’s somewhat unprecedented, at least in my lifetime, in terms of some of the issues that were raised.”
Bellissimo says because of the immigration website going down, they are currently unable to access the portal to file or review applications.
He points out immigration was a very hot issue in the presidential debates, and “some of the racial and ethnic divides became part of the narrative so I think that’s playing into the anxiety of many in terms of what their place might be in the United States moving forward and then they look to Canada as a potential solution.”
Reports say Internet searches about moving or immigrating to Canada spiked Tuesday night, ranking as a top trending Google search, as poll results rolled in red. Over one million tweets from the U.S. referenced Canada.
Mamann says every U.S. election brings chatter of moving to Canada from those not happy with the choice of the electorate, and that dies down after a few days. But in the case of this election, momentum only seems to be growing.
But moving to Canada isn’t as easy as it may seem — or as easy as Americans may wish it to be.
Mamann says it’s expensive and takes time. Canada is set to accept a record number of 300,000 people in 2017, including the specific allotment of refugees set out by the federal government. There is a set of categories with targets within each, Mamann says, as laid out on the federal government’s website.
Bellissimo adds that some people want to come temporarily to see how things play out in the United States, and those applications can be facilitated more quickly. He also sees the recent changes to Canada’s system aimed at processing applications faster as making the country more attractive to Americans who last checked in after the Bush/Gore election.
Regardless of what length of time an American might seek to stay in Canada, and whatever their reasons for the move, “there are no special privileges or favouritism given to any persons coming to Canada as a permanent residence by virtue of nationality — the fact you’re an American is not going to score you any more points than if you were a citizen of Russia or China or South Africa,” Mamann says.
Anyone can apply under the categories, assuming they meet certain criteria. Young candidates — those in their 20s and 30s — as well as those with a post-secondary education or a skilled trade with a few years of experience under their belts and a healthy savings account will get maximum points, he says.
Those with the most points are put in a pool and every month or two “the government goes fishing and skims the top candidates,” Mamann says.
A candidate can stay in the pool for a year, and if they aren’t selected have to register again.
Bellissimo says immigration lawyers will be “watching very closely how the policy unfolds in the United States in terms of any mass deportations, how the amnesty situation is dealt with, NAFTA, border perimeter control — all of these issues will inevitably affect Canadian immigration law and policy.”
With a Republican president, house and senate Trump is well-positioned to make changes.
“We’ll see if the tone remains the same or if we now shift into governance which is often, as we know, a lot more difficult than stating political positions during a campaign,” he says. “What becomes reality, what really is a priority in the first 100 days — it’ll be very interesting to see how it plays out.”