It’s real: Donald Trump could become the next American president this Election Day.
As the businessman’s campaign has swept the country over recent months, celebrities from Bryan Cranston to Barbra Streisand have threatened to move to Canada.
It’s the hackneyed roar of the American electorate, and we hear it with every major change our country faces.
Moving to Canada, Eh?
Canadians hear your cries, and they’re ready for you.
They’re ready every four years.
But you never go. (Seriously: Please, just go — or stop talking about it.)
Americans seem to view our big little buddy to the north as some kind of haven of free health care, liberal politics, a beautiful Prime Minister and wide open spaces ready for the taking.
And it is … for Canadians.
(Except the Prime Minister. His beauty is for all of us to enjoy.)
It turns out, immigrating to a new country and soaking up all its benefits is hard.
(Someone should point that out to Trump — but I digress.)
In addition to the logistics of moving and dealing with the distance from your loved ones, you’ll face a slew of practical, financial issues on your northerly trek.
I’m not from Canada, but I have done my research, I know a Canadian and I grew up in Wisconsin, so I speak the language.
Here are some of the financial details you might be forgetting when you threaten that ‘cross-the-border move to soothe your Election Day blues.
You Don’t Actually Get Free Health Care
I’ll start with the biggie: Canada’s free health care.
Americans have been either praising or upbraiding our neighbors for decades for their free-love approach to health care.
And many Americans appear to believe that all you have to do to indulge in the all-you-can-eat buffet of medical treatment is set foot on Canadian soil.
A Canadian resident must apply to and potentially pay a premium for public health insurance in their province or territory.
Once you apply, there’s a waiting period for your health insurance to take effect — usually three months.
But wait! To even apply, you must first be a citizen or permanent resident.
Becoming a Canadian Resident Costs Up to $800
Permanent Resident Application: $428-$817
- Work experience
- Language (English and/or French) ability
If you’re an investor or entrepreneur, or you’re self-employed, your fee will be CA$1,050 ($817).
And your application can take up to six months to process, during which time you’ll just be hanging out in America enduring the rule of President Trump.
After four years as a permanent resident, you can consider applying for full citizenship.
You’re Probably Going to Want a Job in Canada
Visa and Work Permit: $197
If you don’t want to jump right to residency, you could instead apply for a visa to live and work there temporarily.
You can apply for a Temporary Resident Visa for CA$100 ($77).
Once your application is accepted, you’ll probably need a work permit, which requires another application and another CA$155 ($120).
When you do get a job, expect paycheck deductions for taxes, pension and insurance similar to what you see in the U.S. — somewhere between 25% and 35% of your check.
Your visa will last a maximum of four years, after which time you’re going to have to leave the country and hope your least favorite candidate isn’t elected to a second term.
And You’ll Need Somewhere to Live …
Home: $393,000 to buy, or $4,470 a year to rent
The average selling price of a home in Canada is CA$508,567 ($392,822).
You might sell your home in the U.S. for the average price of $297,000 (based on 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, adjusted for inflation).
Your home is likely to spend a month or two on the market before it sells. If you get it listed as soon as the polls close, you might get out before Inauguration Day — if you’re lucky.
If you want to save money, you might consider renting. Rent is a whopping 25% lower on average in Canada than in the U.S.
A three-bedroom apartment outside of a city center costs an average of about CA$1,450 ($1,120) a month, so if you shared with two new friends, your cost would be about CA$483 ($373) each month.
… and Food…
The overall cost of living in Canada is about 5% lower than in the U.S.
Note for your grocery budget: While overall costs look to be lower, you’ll pay a lot more per item in sales tax, depending on your province of residence.
The Canadian national Goods and Services Tax adds 5% to the price of most purchases. Most provinces add an additional 7-10% in Provincial Sales Tax.
Compare that total 12-15% with U.S. combined tax rates (local plus state), which range from 5.5% to 9.43%.
… And a Vehicle
Car Registration and Gas: about $50-$500
If you want to take your car with you — which, in a country with half the population density of Wyoming, you’ll probably want to do — you’ll have to have it inspected by the Registrar of Imported Vehicles and pay to register it in your province or territory.
Registering your vehicle could cost anywhere between CA$42-$258 ($32-$199), depending on where you decide to live and what kind of vehicle you drive.
Assuming you immigrate in that vehicle, you’ll also have to cover gas. Costs, of course, will vary with how far you’re driving and how much gas costs after the election.
I’ll estimate high: If I were to move from my Tampa Bay area home in Florida to Vancouver, B.C. — 3,228 miles — I’d spend about $300 in gas.
Hop the border from Seattle, and you’ll probably spend less than $50.
God Bless the U.S.A.
One final note before you take off: If you’re headed hastily to Canada without a job or authorization to work, you’ll have to prove that you can afford to live there.
A single person needs at least CA$12,164 ($9,400). If you’re a family of four, you must have at least CA$22,603 ($17,465).
When you start to break it all down… is the U.S. really so bad?
Your Turn: Do you know anyone threatening to move to Canada over the 2016 election results?
Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, Writer’s Digest and more, attempting humor wherever it’s allowed (and sometimes where it’s not).