Hi. This is following up on my more general post about visas. And it’s going to be shorter because I’m focusing on only two countries—but with very different requirements.
It’s also geared for Americans, as Canada and Mexico are our most popular destinations. Though the residency information is the same for you other folks too.
But if you are a U.S. citizen, you may be thinking…
1. Gee, Canada seems really nice to people, not like the bread and circus show we have here. How do I apply for citizenship?
Now the first thing Americans need to know is that you can stay in Canada as a tourist for up to 180 days, and vice-versa. For a stay that long, you should probably get your passport scanned. Which means getting out of your car, instead of being waved on.
For more than tourism, things get complicated—even for getting a temporary work permit. Which I’m not covering here. Basically, a Canadian employer has to start this process for you.
But for those of you who are looking at residency leading to citizenship (and this is from Justlanded.com), immigration is central to Canada’s economic policy. Every year, over 200,000 people are allowed to enter Canada as permanent residents. One-fifth of the country’s population of 36 million is foreign-born.
To summarize what the above link says, you can apply for residency under one of six categories: as a skilled worker, as a business or professional person, through provincial nomination, through Quebec immigration, as a family member of a Canadian citizen, or lastly, if you are a minor, get yourself adopted. (All of these are meant to lead to citizenship.)
And like Australia and New Zealand, other commonwealth nations, Canada also uses a point system. You can gain points in the cross-categories of education, employment background, your language proficiency, your financial means, among other considerations.
NB: The U.S. does not use a merit-based system, although Trump has suggested it. Some say it’s not a bad idea. Right now, 66 percent of immigrants to the U.S are admitted on the basis of family ties, rather than through an emphasis on skills. But Trump’s proposal would shut out less-educated folks, like many of the farm and kitchen workers that add growth to the U.S. economy as a whole.
Back to Canada—and a case in point. In Russia, I taught a number of private students, hoping to immigrate to Canada. Most were from Muslim southern Russia. In the metro stations, I often saw politsiya stopping these folks, shaking them down for their documents. Scary.
So I wasn’t surprised when Anya came to my kitchen table for her first lesson. The problem was that her English was at a beginner’s level. Her husband didn’t speak it at all. Neither had a high school degree. I didn’t see how they would ever gain enough points. But she was so eager I had to take her on, eventually giving her free lessons.
A year after I left Moscow, I got a Skype call from Anya—from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Her sister-in-law had emigrated to Toronto. So they picked up family points. But what finally did it was provincial sponsorship in the skilled worker class. Her husband was an electrician specializing in train engines. Who knew?
I imagine they also had to gather all the supporting documents, get their sponsors’ letters, and go on lots of interviews. To me, this sounds like quite a slog. You’d have to really want to do it.
At any rate, you can expect that Canadians will follow the letter of the law. So, no cheating.
2. Canada sounds like too much work. What about Mexico? I’ve heard lots of Americans go there.
Yep, about a million Americans live in Mexico on a fairly permanent basis.
And no wonder. It’s not Canada.
First, if you’re staying within 30 km of the border (and for less than 72 hours), you can go in visa-free.
That’s what happened to me a couple months ago, when I went to Tijuana for a little dental tourism. I parked in the U.S. and walked across the border, where I was simply given an entry card, which I showed to them when I left.
(BTW, I went to Washington Dental Clinic. I know. You can tell who they cater to. But I recommend them, they were super efficient. I’ve also that heard Los Algodones is another dental-haven border town.)
If you’re going beyond the border zone, ask for the Forma Migratoria Multiple Visa. The border official will ask how long you intend to stay. In the majority of cases, American and Canadian tourists are given 180 days.
The problem—though some people may not consider it so—is that this 180-day tourist visa is easily renewable. You can do it once in-country. Or you can leave, have a cup of coffee and re-enter, asking for another six months.
Do you really want to be a “dry-back” as this Quora post asks you not to do? (NB: Dry back is mentioned in the post about ¾ of the way down.)
I don’t want to get into the argument about whether American and Canadian retirees put more money into the economy than they take out. But some say that they don’t create jobs except in the service industry, and in many communities, their presence can cause water and electrical power shortages.
Well, I guess you can tell which side of the argument I’m taking. But the temporary residency permit doesn’t appear that hard to get. After five years you have to go permanent. Plus, the $260 fee you pay for this permit should (theoretically) help offset the cost of the roads you drive on, and other infrastructure you use.
But maybe I spoke too soon about how easy the residency permit is. Different Mexican consulate sites say different amounts for the minimum monthly income you need to prove you have. Which drove me nuts trying to figure out. But this International Living post is recent and claims the monthly requirement is $1553.
One other advantage of getting your residency permit, besides knowing you’re doing the right thing, is that you can then qualify for Mexico’s national healthcare insurance, which can be as low as $300 a year. That’s according to Dr. Gordon on this link, but the rate is adjusted according to your age, sex, and other variables.
Okay, friends, I hope I’ve given you some idea of what’s involved. Please let me know what I’ve gotten wrong—or what you’ve experienced.