Post election advice on moving to Canada

Advice for Americans, with some extra insights for gamblers, who are looking to flee a Donald Trump presidency by moving to Canada.

Canada offers a great opportunity for those looking to move in the wake of Trump's victory.

After the passage of the UIGEA in 2006 I was inundated with letters from gamblers asking if I could write something about moving to Canada. It was hard to fathom that anyone would seriously consider changing countries just because of a gambling law but indeed I know of 2 people who did just that. One person moved from California to Vancouver and one moved from Pittsburgh to Toronto. Fortunately for them they were skilled laborers and were not married so the move was easy. But now with Donald Trump getting elected many celebrities, including Amy Schumer and Snoop Dog, are threatening to move north and no doubt gamblers are concerned too. After all it was under the last Republican government that online gambling laws were toughened. With that in mind I'm updating the article I wrote in 2007 to reflect current realities and fix some oversights which were pointed out to me regarding taxes.

As many will know Canada has greatly increased the number of refugees it has accepted in the last year. Justin Trudeau made it clear when he was elected as Prime Minister that he was prepared to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees because of the crisis in that country and in fact to date Canada has accepted 33,000. Most of the refugees have gone to the major centres and housing has been an issue. But Immigration Canada was quick to point out that refugees and immigrants are 2 different entities altogether and the Syrians that have come in have not impacted immigration through legal channels. Immigrants can't simply come to Canada and live and work. They would need to fill out an application and obtain a work visa. Work visas generally are for one year at a time and only when someone is in Canada for a specified period can they apply for citizenship. This could work out well for some Americans who don't want to be in the country while Trump is in power but can move back in 4 years should the Republicans lose that election.

Of course, there are ways to fast track obtaining a work visa and speed up the immigration process and they include the following:

- If you have a spouse that is a Canadian citizen, Immigration Canada will generally fast track your application. This applies as well to common law and same sex partners although having a spouse doesn't guarantee citizenship. Still, Canada will not try to keep partners in real relationships apart if possible.

- If you get transferred from a company with an American office to the same company in Canada, you will almost certainly get an immediate work visa.

- If you are a skilled worker in high demand areas such as manufacturing, home building, medical etc., Immigration Canada will generally fast track the application. The list of all occupations that Canada has a demand for is on the immigration website. It should be noted though that as part of meeting that demand you could be asked to live and work in a certain part of Canada.

- If you are a live-in caregiver to elderly people or children, Immigration Canada will generally fast track the application.

- If you are an entrepreneur and plan to set up a small business and create jobs, Immigration Canada will generally give priority to that application over someone who plans to work in existing companies.

The Canadian Immigration website Citizenship and Immigration Canada | Citoyenneté et Immigration Canada has more tips and an immigration lawyer is always best to help with immigration queries.

The next question that comes up from gamblers is whether Canada is truly more gambling friendly than the United States. The answer is that it depends where you live. Every province in Canada has a casino as well as lotteries and most provinces now have online casinos. Sports betting lotteries that require 2 or more selections are also available in each province. Daily Fantasy Sports is legal everywhere except Quebec and offshore gambling is a grey area. Most offshore companies accept Canadian customers although Ladbrokes, Skybook, Matchbook and Paddy Power-Betfair recently cut off Canadian customers since those companies were worried about meeting the requirements of the UK Gambling Commission regulations that were passed last year. Almost all other offshore gambling companies accept Canadian customers, although a few companies have disallowed customers from Quebec, Manitoba and British Columbia because of concerns over provincial laws, and also because Paddy Power runs the sports betting lottery product and online casino in British Columbia and Manitoba. Some provinces are looking at possible ways to block offshore gambling URLs.

There was a bill aimed at legalizing single game sports betting introduced 6 years ago and while it initially passed in parliament, it was officially quashed by the Liberal dominated House of Commons this year. For those interested, the law regarding gambling is covered in Section VII of the Canadian Criminal Code and essentially says that it is illegal for someone to take wagers, supply gambling information or run pools or lotteries with the following exceptions:

- Pari-mutuel horse racing run under the Ministry of Agriculture is legal
- Lotteries owned by the provincial governments or run by charities are legal
- Private wagers placed between two individuals who are not in the betting industry are legal
- Betting information provided for media outlets are legal
- Sports pools that do not have a fee attached to them are legal
- Sports betting on single outcomes are illegal but multiple outcomes are ok in a "lottery scheme"
- Casinos owned or commissioned by the provincial governments are legal

All these laws of apply only to people taking bets. There is nothing in the law that talks about the placing of bets themselves. The only instance where Canadian federal law deems an individual placing a bet in violation of the law is if that person is "found in a common betting house". However, this does not apply if that betting house is a social club.

It should also be noted that credit card deposits are accepted from a few banks such as the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, but other banks, like the Royal Bank, will not process offshore gambling transactions. There are also a few e-wallet solutions available to Canadians, with Instadebit being by far the most popular.

The next question usually asked by those wanting to move is where in Canada is the best place to live. When I first wrote on this topic I mentioned that Alberta was an ideal province because of the amount of jobs available, the lack of a provincial sales tax and the bustling economy which could be attributed to high oil prices but that has changed. As oil prices have tanked in recent years (pardon the pun), Alberta's economy has been struggling. Jobs are being cut in droves and the province for the first time ever elected a more socialist premiere who naturally has looked at taxes to make up for the deficit. One bright spot is that Donald Trump made it part of his platform to complete and access the Keystone Pipeline. If that indeed takes place, then jobs in the oil industry and consequently revenue to the province will increase as well. Still, until that comes I won't discuss Alberta as one of the best places to live. I'll focus on the 4 largest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Ottawa.

Move to CanadaToronto is Canada's largest city located on the northern part of Lake Ontario, approximately an hour and a half drive from Buffalo, New York. The city of Toronto has 2.5 million residents and the Greater Toronto Area, which is described as the area people would commute from to work in Toronto has about 6 million people. The climate is pretty much like any north-eastern U.S. state, although the precipitation is much less than Buffalo or Niagara Falls. Toronto generally gets less snow each year than does New York City. The city is multiethnic with 3 separate Chinatowns a large Italian population as well as Korean, Greek and Portuguese communities. And the high immigration from Muslim based countries recently like Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have made Urdu, Sinhalese and Tamil very popular languages in the city. English and French are Canada's official languages, but there are very few French speaking people in Toronto. Toronto has a large theatre district, similar to Broadway, a vast array of restaurants, numerous hospitals including one of the best children's hospitals in the world, 3 universities, 5 community colleges and major league baseball, hockey and basketball teams. As well, the city has the Toronto Argonauts CFL football team and a major-league soccer team. Many American visitors have referred to Toronto as a clean Manhattan. The city's crime rate is very low compared to American cities of the same size, although the homicide rate has never exceeded 90 in any year. All of Canada has gun control laws and it is possible to get a long gun for hunting with a permit but handguns are generally illegal except under extraordinary circumstances. The predominant industries in Toronto are finance, software engineering, telecommunications, media and medical research. As well being the capital city of Ontario, government and non-profit jobs are plentiful. Toronto is also very expensive to live in. With foreign investors buying up land in droves in Toronto the price of housing has skyrocketed. The Canadian realtors just announced that the average price of a detached home in Toronto proper was $1.3 million. The average price in the suburbs is close to $800,000. And a 1 bedroom, 700 square foot condo in downtown Toronto exceeds $500,000. Naturally rent is also expensive and depending on the type of dwelling, the number of rooms and location, rent tends to run from $1,500 to $5,000 per month.

Montreal is Canada's second largest city, located about an hour north of Burlington, Vermont. The city itself has about 1.6 million residents and the Greater Montreal area has just under 4 million people. Unlike Toronto, Montreal boasts a large French speaking population, although it is possible to get by in Montreal with just English, particularly downtown or in the west part of Montreal. In fact, West Montreal is over 80% English speaking. The city has large Chinese and Italian populations, although they are tiny in comparison to Toronto and there is a very large Jewish community. The weather is generally cold in the winter and Montreal gets quite a bit of precipitation. Like Toronto, there are many excellent restaurants, art galleries, 2 universities and a major-league hockey team and soccer team as well as the Montreal Alouettes Canadian football team. The baseball team, the Montreal Expos, moved to Washington over a decade ago. Housing prices in Montreal averaged $350,000 which is lower than the national average and in the suburbs people can find detached houses for under $300,000. The Indian reservation of Kahnawake where many online casinos and sportsbooks operate from is located just outside of the city. The major industries in Montreal are finance, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, software engineering, telecommunications and transportation.

Vancouver is Canada's third largest city, located about a hundred miles north of Seattle Washington with a population in Vancouver proper of about 610,000 and the Greater Vancouver area of over 2.4 million people. Vancouver has one of the warmest climates in Canada being on the Pacific coast, but like Seattle they get a lot of rain. The city has a very large Asian community encompassing almost 1/3 of the population, and the city is known for its drug problems in the downtown corps. The city instituted the first heroin safe injection site in North America and police generally don't bother prosecuting British Columbia natives for simple possession of marijuana. The city is also the most expensive place to live in Canada with an average housing price over $1.5 million in the city and over $1 million in the suburbs. British Columbia recently instituted a foreign buyers tax to try and quell prices and it worked as the number of foreign buyers has dropped considerably. So far, however, it has had little effect on prices. The primary industries in Vancouver are finance, lumber and forestry, fishing, transportation, biotechnology and software development. The city only has one major league sports team, the Vancouver Canucks of the NHL as well as the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League. The Vancouver Grizzlies NBA team folded shortly after it started due to lack of interest.

Ottawa, Ontario is the capital of Canada and is located on the French/English border of Ottawa-Hull. The city has just under 900,000 people and 1.2 million including the area in Quebec. The city is fully bilingual in English and French. The city is cold in the winter and gets a lot of snow at times. The average price of a house in Ottawa is $370,000 and the major industries in Ottawa are politics, tourism and anything hi tech. In fact, the city has been called "The Silicon Valley of the North." Ottawa has an NHL hockey team and the Ottawa Red Blacks Canadian football team.

Other larger Canadian cities Americans may want to consider are Winnipeg, Manitoba located just north of North Dakota; Hamilton, Ontario, located halfway between Buffalo and Toronto; London, Ontario located about a 2-hour drive west of Detroit; Halifax, Nova Scotia located northeast of Maine; and St. John's, Newfoundland which is about as far east in Canada you can go.

There are other considerations that must be considered with a move to Canada:

The Canadian dollar is currently worth about ¾ of the American dollar although that fluctuates. When oil prices were at a peak 3 years back the Canadian dollar was worth more than the greenback.

Taxes are extremely high with income tax (federal and provincial) ranging from a low of 27% to over 50% in some provinces. As well there is a federal 5% tax on all goods and services purchased and each province adds an additional sales tax ranging from 5% to 10%. In Ontario, the 2 are combined into a 13% harmonized sales tax. It was also brought to my attention that Americans may still be required to pay U.S. income tax for up to 7 years after leaving although there tends to be tax treaties that avoids double taxation.

As well Americans will discover a lower selection of goods than in the United States, fewer statutory holidays and cheaper education.

One advantage is that health care is technically free under provincial drug plans although it is paid for by taxes. But Canadians still usually purchase extended health care insurance either privately or through their employers because prescriptions, dentistry, appliances (including casts, wheelchairs etc.), glasses including eye exams and various procedures are not covered by the provincial plans. And many procedures will not be granted if the province considers them not life and death. For diabetics, Ontario provides a $600 per month subsidy to help with the cost of supplies and some other ailments get subsidies as well. And because it's free waiting times both to see a doctor or to get a procedure done can be long. Emergencies like heart attacks are always treated immediately at any hospital.

Lastly because of gun control laws, violent crimes are much lower than in the United States and most large cities are considered very clean when compared to American cities.

One last thing Americans should know is that if they have been found guilty of a felony in the United States within the last 5 years including DUI within they will not be granted permission to Canada. Individuals can appeal saying they are rehabilitated but they still must wait until 5 years have passed and then plead their case to the immigration courts as to why they should be permitted. As well according to the Canadian immigration and citizenship website, the following reasons will deem a person inadmissible:

• you are a security risk,
• you have committed human or international rights violations,
• you have been convicted of a crime, or you have committed an act outside Canada that would be a crime,
• you have ties to organized crime,
• you have a serious health problem,
• you have a serious financial problem,
• you lied in your application or in an interview,
• you do not meet the conditions in Canada's immigration law, or
• one of your family members is not allowed into Canada.

Canada is a great place to live, although expensive. Canada is always near the top of the best countries to live when the Economic Intelligence Unit lists the best places to live and Toronto and Vancouver are always in the top 5 cities. Not one U.S. city is in the top 10. Still moving countries is always a big ordeal and will create a culture shock. But if you can't stomach 4 years of Donald Trump hopefully this article gave from food for thought.

Read insights from Hartley Henderson every week here at OSGA and check out Hartley's RUMOR MILL!

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