Donald Trump presidency has some Americans looking north

Canadian immigration lawyers say they've seen a spike in interest from Americans seeking to move across the border following Tuesday's stunning election of Donald Trump.

Americans pondering move to Canada crashed immigration website on election night

President-elect Donald Trump speaks during an election night rally, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, in New York. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Within hours of Donald Trump's victory in the U.S. presidential election, Ottawa immigration lawyer Julie Taub found herself fielding a flurry of calls from Americans seeking to move to Canada.

"I knew there was going to be an emotional reaction," said Taub, who received six calls from residents in Upstate New York in a span of two hours.

Taub said she expected a spike in interest after noticing the Canadian government's immigration website had crashed during election night. The department confirmed Thursday a torrent of U.S. visitors on election night contributed to the crash.
More than 200,000 users tried to log onto the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada website around 11 p.m. on election night.

Nicholas Serio of Ogdensburg, N.Y., was one of the many Americans who logged onto the site late Tuesday to research immigrating to Canada.

"U.S. politics is driven by a variety of factors that's not in the interests of the American public." Serio said. "I like the progressiveness of the Canadian people and their friendliness."

Eligible for work permits under NAFTA

Although it's difficult for someone from another country to get enough points to be granted express immigration status, Taub said the odds of getting permanent residency in Canada increases for applicants under 40, those who are university educated and those fluent in English or French.
Ogdensburg, N.Y. resident Nicholas Serio said he's considering moving to Canada following Trump's election. (CBC)

Americans have an advantage in that they can obtain work permits under the North American Free Trade Agreement.

NAFTA lists more than 60 categories of professions in which Americans and Mexicans can find employment in Canada, all requiring a post-secondary degree. 

Between 2011 and 2015, 38,764 Americans applied for permanent residency in Canada. 31,761 of those applications, or 82 per cent, were approved.

The United States ranks seventh on the list of countries from which Canada draws its immigrants.

Chance to reverse brain drain

Warren Creates, another Ottawa-based immigration lawyer, said the Canadian government should take advantage of the current political anxiety in the U.S. to attract more skilled workers, and to attempt to reverse the brain drain by appealing to talented Canadians who went south for work.
Ottawa immigration lawyer Warren Creates says Canada should actively promote the idea of immigration to Americans. (CBC News)

"We've come to a sobering point of reality. The market is reacting, currency is reacting and people are reacting," said Creates. "It's an opportunity for Canada we should use."

In the past year, several celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Lena Dunham and Stephen King have publicly mused about moving to the land of the maple leaf.

There is polarization in the United States ... I think some people will vote with their feet.- Warren Creates, immigration lawyer

Creates said the spike in interest among Americans parallels Trump's ascendancy from unlikely Republican candidate to nominee to president-elect.

"There is a polarization in the United States. A lot of people are disenfranchised after the election and they're not going to identify with the new political leader. They may not even identify with their colleagues and neighbours. I think some people will vote with their feet."

Some opting to stay

Those could include some Americans already here who may seek permanent residency. 

On election night, instead of raising a celebratory toast in honour of Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Baker and her husband drowned their sorrows in stiff drinks at a downtown Ottawa bar.

They watched aghast as their home state of Ohio, which has an uncanny record of predicting  U.S. presidents, voted for Donald Trump.

"My concern is that I can literally never live in the United States or raise my kids there among people who would vote for Trump," Baker said.

The couple arrived in Ottawa in June on a NAFTA work permit from a local technology company, and will be eligible to apply for permanent residency in a year.