How to prepare to leave the U.S?

I think it’s safe to say that the U.S is approaching some sort of inflection point. I’d rather not be around for that. And even if it doesn’t devolve into lawlessness, I don’t feel as confident that I’ll be able to shield my LGBTQ family members from discrimination. 

I’m also not really sure how I would get things in place so that I could take my family and leave. Canada is the most likely place. This isn’t really a “bug-out” scenario where I need to grab my Level 3 bag and leave suddenly. I’m thinking of this as a “5-year” plan scenario. 

How would I got about learning how this might work?  Has anyone here made this move? What did you have to do?


  • Comments (3)

    • 2

      I think your main issues will be getting a job in Canada and getting a Canadian work VISA. I have not been through this process and don’t know the details. You might need an immigration lawyer to help you through the process.

    • 3

      First make sure you and your family have up to date passports and/or other legal documents.  Then research online what the entry requirements are for the countries you might be interested in.  Find out how long a tourist visa will last and then find out the requirements to get a permanent visa.

      I found the best way to get this info is to follow some bloggers who have made the jump already.  They love to talk and explain what they got right & what they did wrong.  Also you can probably find some online companies who specialize in making your move easier.  A little bit back, I was looking at retiring in Panama, and the company, Panama Relocation Tours, had just a wealth of information online.

    • 6

      As a Canadian – welcome (potentially) 🙂

      I think your timeline sounds realistic. The system is deeply backlogged right now. As Redneck suggested, reviewing accounts of people who’ve done the move would be helpful, but in general, the federal government should have most of the information laid out, and a number of provinces also have their own agencies or departments that help facilitate immigration (ex. ISANS for Nova Scotia, for example).

      As I understand it, we have an immigration system that is skills- and points-based, so if you are not joining family members that already live here, your prospects will be affected in part by how in demand your skills/trade are. You might breeze right in if you’re in healthcare, tech, etc. due to expedited processes, but otherwise it may take several years.

      I’m not sure if you’ve visited before or how familiar you are, but I think sometimes Americans tend to view Canada from a ‘grass is greener’ perspective, and Canadians tend to have a sort of insecure superiority complex that can cloud things. Many of the problems in the US are present here, just not always to the same extent. For example, housing costs and availability are very bad in some provinces, and our politics tend to be infected by some of the same strains. Including a right wing with an increasingly MAGA-like base. There are also growing efforts to chip away at the public healthcare system and to start privatizing it, especially since it’s been so overtaxed by COVID-19. I do suspect we’re better at LGBTQ+ issues and codifying rights for various social groups, but there’s still a long way to go here too.

      It’s also a very big country in ways that are not dissimilar to the US. “Canada” is in many ways a hugely different experience if you’re talking about moving to a major, international, incredibly multicultural city like Toronto or Vancouver versus moving to the Prairies, Quebec, the Maritimes, etc. I think it might behoove you to think about what kind of setting you’d like to live in and visit first to get more of a sense of things.

    • 5

      We made this move in the 00’s, but I was a child and not privy to a lot of the details.

      If you can score a work visa, do it; if not, don’t lose hope. My dad’s attempts to find a sponsor failed, so he went directly for permanent residency instead: this took five years (most of which was convincing the U.S. to let us leave), and all of the immigrants I talk to are surprised that we went straight to permanent residency instead of coming to Canada on a work visa and getting permanent residency later or never. (One of my co-workers had been in the country on a work visa for seven years.) But while permanent residency took a lot of time and a lot of fingerprints, we did get here in the end.

      (Corollary, not just for the original poster but for every American reading: if you’re thinking you don’t want to be living in the United States in 2030, you should start making serious plans now. It can take a while.)

      If you have foreign ancestors within the last couple of generations, check if you’re eligible for any citizenships by descent. IIRC I met a woman who got Hungary to give her an EU passport that way.

      You can read the Canadian government’s information on immigrating at https://www.canada.ca/en/services/immigration-citizenship.html

      U.S. non-resident tax liability is a minefield. If you don’t renounce (I haven’t, to keep my options open), you’re going to have to be very careful, especially about how you invest. In Canada, do not use TFSAs, RESPs, RDSPs, or non-registered mutual/exchange-traded funds not domiciled in the United States. RRSPs are good (including for mutual or exchange-traded funds you wouldn’t otherwise be allowed to have), and I hear individual stocks are okay although I don’t have personal experience there (not rich enough to have needed to branch out that far). And of course, shelf-stable food is always a sound investment. 😉

      Regardless, keep filing your taxes and your FBARs every year that you have U.S. citizenship. They credit you for taxes paid in other countries and Canada is generally higher (integrating health-insurance payments into the taxes and all that), so you’ll approximately never actually owe anything as a U.S. citizen residing in Canada unless you f**ked up the investments or something, but the IRS wants to see the paperwork anyway. Good news: they will give you stimulus checks.

      You can also still vote in U.S. elections (no taxation without representation, eh?), as long as you’re willing to fill out an extra form or two and chip in a few bucks for postage. Jurisdiction-wise, you vote as if you still lived in your most recent American residence. If you live (or, now, “”live””) in one of the states with rampant privacy violations regarding their voter registries, this has the happy side effect of laying false trails on the Internet regarding your home address.

      I’d be happy to help new immigrants get settled in as best I can (the level of detail in my advice will depend on how similar your area is to mine: I live in Ontario and can’t speak as much to other provinces, that sort of thing). I especially enjoy introducing people to grocery price-matching, which is not merely vestigial here the way it is in the States.

    • 2

      Italy, the birth place of Fascism, started with gangs beating up unions/laborers, anyone perceived as “left” wing, so “random” violence is definitely something to worry about currently. Nationalism and Fascist trends are global now, so the entire world is at a delicate balance, I would say. 

      I’ve thought about Canada, but I might be too old to get into the health care system, which I would have regarded as a great reason for being there in the first place. But other considerations are being able to visit family or friends in America via different methods besides just flying if you were in Canada. The Great Lakes Region in Canada would have similar benefits as in America, very large sources of fresh water if they don’t get contaminated with algae or pollution, or get too low (thinking of climate change). 

      I had a brief period where I thought about retiring in Scotland, because I like the landscape so much and I wouldn’t have to learn a new language, etc. Not sure about the whole Brexit thing, though. New Zealand is gorgeous, but very far away.