‘Moving to Canada' Over Politics? Experts Say It's All Talk So Far

"It's a good little line at cocktail parties, but there's no one acting on it," a Washington, D.C.-based immigration lawyer says

Internet searches for "move to Canada" have hit an all-time high as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rack up primary election wins, but are many Americans actually preparing to jump ship?

Not that we could find.

Government records show the number of Americans applying to live in Canada has remained relatively stable through December, and a handful of immigration lawyers interviewed in both countries say they aren't fielding any more requests than usual.

Google Search Trend

"It's a good little line at cocktail parties, but there's no one acting on it," Washington, D.C.-based immigration lawyer David M. Morris said.

Morris, who has shepherded Americans through moves abroad for 25 years, said he hasn't seen talk about moves to Canada result in a spike in inquiries to his office. Attorneys Charles W. Pley in Oakville, Ontario, and Amy R. Novick in Washington also said they hadn't seen any recent boost in plans to move to the Great White North.

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Dozens of news outlets published essays and blog posts about Americans threatening to flee after Google shared data that showed a spike in searches for "move to Canada" on Super Tuesday.

Clinton and Trump each piled up seven wins then across the country, and Trump picked up three more states -- Mississippi, Michigan and Hawaii -- last night, while Clinton won Mississippi and Bernie Sanders won Michigan.

The travel website Kayak ran a sweepstakes giving away 10 one-way tickets to Canada "for those who are debating a move," and a resident of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, launched a website encouraging Americans to relocate there if Trump wins.

But Pley, the Ontario-based attorney, said the talk hadn't resulted in any visa applications.

"It's definitely kind of the chatter, but in reality I'm not seeing it," he said.

In Toronto, immigration lawyer Heather N. Segal said Americans in Canada on vacation or for business are testing the waters for staying on a longer-term basis. Other clients already considering moves to Canada said a Trump presidency would be the last straw.

"When people call me to come to Canada or get a work permit, they say, 'Hey, how hard is it?' or 'I may be calling you in a few months,'" Segal said. “I have this conversation a few times a week."

Still, none of her clients agitated by the presidential race have decided to take the plunge.

Statistics provided by the Canadian immigration office show relatively steady numbers of permanent residence applications by Americans from January through December 2015, the most recent month for which data is available. Between 370 and 630 Americans applied each month, with no clear trends from month to month.

Americans similarly threatened to move to Canada when George W. Bush was re-elected president.

Data shows Canada did see a 20 percent influx in the number of permanent residents from the U.S. between 2004 and 2005. That figure continued to climb during Bush's second term -- hitting 10,187 people in 2008. The number of Americans in the country had not been so high since 1981.

A Canada resident who moved from New York City in 2005 after she "lost hope" in the country she saw plagued by "endless wars" told The Guardian she breathes a sigh of relief when she returns from the U.S. to her adopted home.

"God, I’m so glad to be out of that crazy country," she said.

The number of Americans registered as permanent residents of Canada began to fall in 2009, when President Barack Obama began his first term, dropping 11 percent to 8,995 people.

As of Dec. 2015, about 7,519 Americans were registered as permanent residents of Canada. Data on why they emigrated was not available.

While data doesn't show a boost in attempts to move to Canada, Americans may be visiting the country more. 

The travel company Kayak saw a 9 percent increase in searches for flights from the U.S. to Canada between Jan. 1 to March 3, Super Tuesday, 2015 and the same period this year. But the company can't say what's driving the trend.

Americans who do want to explore moving north may find the process is more involved than they expected.

Applicants are assessed using a point system that favors people who are younger than 48, healthy and have job offers or will start a business, Segal, the Toronto-based lawyer said.

"It's not a slam dunk. You still have to go through the process," she said.

The Canadian government establishes a number of immigrants to be admitted each year. The 2016 level is expected to be discussed in the coming weeks, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokeswoman Nancy Caron said.

Though the latest data shows no mass exodus toward Canada, Segal said she wonders if the country will see a wave of immigration applications by Americans once presidential candidates win their parties' nominations, or after the general election in November.

"It will be interesting to see what will happen," she said.

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