Nova Scotia

Americans fleeing Trump's presidency faced Canada's stiff immigration process

After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, many Americans considered moving to Canada, but some have realized it's not that easy leaving their country behind.

Many considered the move but didn't follow through

Canadian and American flags fly near the Windsor-Detroit Ambassador Bridge, a major trade link (Rob Gurdebeke/The Canadian Press)

After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States in 2016, many Americans considered moving to Canada, but some have realized it's not that easy leaving their country behind.

Heather Vargas was one American who actually made the move after Trump's inauguration in early 2017.

She moved to Halifax that same year, a plan that started as a joke the night Trump was elected.

But she has since moved back to her home state of Arkansas.

"America is my home," she said. "Yes, America is currently a dumpster fire, but it's my dumpster fire and I love it."

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Vargas lived in Halifax for a year and a half.

Rob Calabrese would consider Vargas one of the lucky few.

The radio announcer started the website Cape Breton if Trump Wins in early 2016 as a way to attract Americans to rural areas of Nova Scotia.

During Trump's campaign and his eventual election, Calabrese had thousands of inquiries from Americans wanting to move to Atlantic Canada.

But only a handful of people followed through.

"People who contacted me about moving to Canada, who had means or professions that likely made them a good candidate for immigration, found that our countries are alike, but there is a culture shock even for Canada and the United States," he said. 

"So I found that people would rarely make that move even if they were able."

Rob Calabrese started the website 'Cape Breton if Trump Wins' in 2016 as a way to attract Americans to the rural area. (CBC)

And if that was the case, Calabrese discovered immigrating to Canada isn't as easy as it seems.

David Nurse, an immigration lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Bridgewater, N.S., has witnessed this first-hand.

Nurse said he immediately started receiving calls from people who were interested in immigrating to Canada "largely or entirely because of Trump's election" in 2016.

"What I saw in practice, though, was that not all of these individuals would have a pathway to Canada," he said.

David Nurse is an immigration lawyer with McInnes Cooper in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. (CBC)

To immigrate to Canada, individuals must be supported through specific programs offered through the federal government, which are designed to attract the young and educated who are skilled in in-demand occupations.

"A lot of people, I guess I would say, were somewhat exploring the opportunity," Nurse said. 

"They never obviously considered emigrating from the United States before and once they found out what was involved in terms of the effort, the cost and the time, many of them backed away."

Vargas said she doesn't regret her decision to move to Canada, despite it being a brief stay.

"Overall, it was an amazing experience. I'm very, very thankful that I moved to Canada," she said.

However, she said she won't be leaving the U.S. again.

"I want to stay, and I want to try to fight for everything that I can to make America the best country that I know it can be."

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With files from Shaina Luck

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