Moving to Canada after the election? Good luck!

Posted at 4:45 AM, May 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-01 14:16:36-04

If ___________ becomes president, I’m moving to ___________!

The refrain comes up every four years, no matter who’s running.

The threats aren’t limited to Donald Trump-haters. The pro-Bernie Sanders Facebook page "If Hillary Clinton wins, I’m moving to Costa Rica" has about 200 likes. Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly said if Sanders wins, he’s moving to Ireland. Back in 2012, some supporters of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said they would move to Australia if Barack Obama won re-election. Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh said he would leave for Costa Rica if the Affordable Care Act passed. (It did. He’s still here.)

Text analytics company Luminoso examined in September where Twitter users said they would move if Trump won. Perhaps in response to Trump’s anti-Mexico rhetoric, 69 percent said Mexico. Seventeen percent said Canada. Also making the list were England, Australia, France, Jamaica, Ireland, Sweden, Brazil and, curiously, Alaska and Hawaii.

But the cliche destination-of-choice for left-leaning individuals (and occasionally some Republicans) has, for the past few election cycles, been our neighbor to the north. Canada has universal health care, stricter gun laws and other policies liberals tend to support.

More people searched the phrase "move to Canada" on March 2, the day after the Super Tuesday primary election, than ever in Google history. The last spike was in 2004, when George W. Bush won re-election.

Priorities USA Action, a pro-Clinton super PAC, this week launched the website, urging Americans to stay, vote for Clinton and "save America" instead. 

However, it seems unlikely that a significant number of people make good on their threat to leave the country every four years. We don’t know for sure, though. The American government doesn’t track how many people leave in a given year.

Using Canadian government statistics, we found that there was a dramatic increase in the number of U.S. citizens granted permanent resident status in Canada in the years immediately following Bush’s re-election. It nearly doubled from about 5,000 grantees in 2002 to 10,000 in 2008.

Because the Canadian government doesn’t track why people are moving, we don’t know the reason behind the surge.

While noting that most Americans who move to Canada go for work, not for politics, it’s possible the surge was a lagging effect of Bush’s re-election, said Jeffrey Reitz, director of ethnic, immigration and pluralism studies at the University of Toronto.

It’s hard to up and move to another country, Canada or otherwise.

Like the United States, other countries limit the number and types of immigrants they will accept each year, and it’s a time-consuming process. A  hopeful émigré has to have a reason to leave besides not liking the new American president.

To immigrate to Canada, a reason could be having close family living there or a Canadian spouse willing to sponsor an immigration visa. The Canadian government also evaluates the potential economic contribution of permanent resident applicants, like whether there is a job opportunity awaiting them in Canada. The government also considers education level and language skills.  

"The good news, then, is that a Trump victory in November will distress his critics less severely and more briefly than they imagine," said New York University psychology professor Adam Alter. "And most of them will go on, like thousands of disappointed voters do every four years, living the same lives in the same country they inhabited before Nov. 8, 2016."