ATLANTA — Turmoil in the United States is tied to a growing number of Americans interested in moving to Canada.
Channel 2 investigative reporter Nicole Carr met Michael Lavender outside of his DeKalb County storage unit in October. After 23 years in Atlanta, he sold his house and made a permanent move to Canada.
“It’s pretty much the same crowd, just a little more patient,” said Lavender.
He joins a growing number of Americans who have cited increased political and social polarization in the U.S. as the start of their consideration to move in with our neighbors to the north.
After the first Presidential debate in September, Google searches about moving to Canada and landing citizenship spiked after the 90-minute discourse.
Over a three-month period, this summer compared to last year, the International Living website reported a 945% increase in page traffic for its guide on moving from the U.S.
According to the IRS 5,816 Americans gave up their citizenship or U.S. residency in the first six months of 2020. That’s compared to 2,072 in all of 2019.
At the same, countries like Barbados have offered special visa applications for foreigners to work remotely during the pandemic.
In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Ghana expanded on its 2019 ‘Year of the Return’ campaign that encouraged African Americans to invest in the nation, commemorating 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in Jamestown.
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In 2020, the nation spoke to U.S. social justice concerns, encouraging Black Americans to ‘return home.’
In Canada, those specializing in immigration services are seeing a growing trend.
“I’ve been practicing for 25 years and I have never seen this kind of response by Americans of seeking an interest to come to Canada. It’s highly unusual,” said Toronto-based immigration attorney Heather Segal.
Her office began receiving an influx of calls in the months leading up to the election but is still fielding three to four calls a day post-election from Americans seeking information on immigrating to Canada.
At this point roughly 40 clients have actually gone through with their plans to permanently relocate to Canada since August.
“What is kind of the first thing coming out of people’s mouths?” Carr asked.
“So initially there was a tremendous amount of fear from people saying I don’t know what’s happening to this country. I’m concerned about the future. Some people were anti-Trump and wanted to escape Trump,” replied Segal.
She said those calls are coming from U.S. citizens across all walks of life. Some are coming from people looking to reconnect through their own family trees.
“An interesting group of people that I’ve been getting calls from are people who have lived in the United States their whole lives, but one of their parents were Canadian and suddenly they’re saying ‘Hey, can I come to Canada? I think I’m a citizen,’” said Segal.
Lavender falls into that category. “I have the benefit of having family in Canada. I am presently a Canadian citizen. I did the paperwork last year. But if you’re here in America without any connections, you got some hills to go through,” said Lavender.
For those looking to move to Canada without family ties, Segal said the first step is becoming a permanent resident which takes about a year. After four years as a permanent resident, you can become a citizen.
As for a cultural shift, Segal said she was much more accustomed to helping Canadians move south prior to the pandemic and elections.
“The world is changing and we’re watching it and so you know you start off the conversation with you know COVID is crazy and then it goes to and what’s going on in the States? And they want to come here. There’s an evolution happening,” said Segal.