In the current political climate, many Americans gaze with covert longing toward our northern border. After all, you don't hear about terrorists plotting to kill Canadians, do you? When was the last time anyone held an anti-Canadian protest? And even the French don't raise a ruckus about the Canadianization of popular culture, despite all that fuss over Quebec.
Although I'm not going anywhere, thousands of American citizens have made the trek north in the last few years. If you decide to spend your summer figuring out how to step out of the cross-hairs, our neighbors to the north would be happy to welcome you -- with a few conditions. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is responsible for would-be immigrants seeking to join the ranks of polite North Americans who trade higher taxes for health care, the metric system and bilingual highway signs. Check the ministry's Web site - www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/index.html -- or contact the nearest Canadian embassy or consulate. (The Seattle mission's immigration line is 206-443-1372.) All of the application forms you'll need are available online, so that's the best place to begin. Print out the forms and send them in to CIC, including all required fees, and you're on your way.
The most commonly used immigration track is the skilled worker class. Basically, the higher your educational and skill level, the more "points" you earn. The prime age range for immigrants is 20 to 49; if you're younger or older, you'll be docked points. (To see how you measure up, check out the CIC Self-Assessment Tool on the Web site.) If you're serious about moving to Canada, the best bet is to apply for a job because pre-arranged employment counts heavily in your favor. After three years as a resident, you may apply for Canadian citizenship.
Immigration is not cheap, even when counted in Canadian dollars. The government requires fees for processing your initial application ($550), for issuing an immigrant visa ($975) and for various other steps along the way. In addition, if you haven't secured employment, then you must prove that you have enough funds to support yourself when you first come to Canada. Amounts needed vary from about $10,000 to more than $20,000, depending on family size.