Emigration from Canada to the U.S. hits a 10-year high as tens of thousands head south

Tens of thousands of Canadians are emigrating from Canada to the United States and the number of people packing up and moving south has hit a level not seen in 10 years or more, according to data compiled by CBC News.

There’s nothing new about Canadians moving south of the 49th parallel for love, work or warmer weather, but the latest figures from the American Community Survey (ACS) suggest it’s now happening at a much higher rate than the historical average.

The ACS, which is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, says the number of people moving from Canada to the U.S. hit 126,340 in 2022. That’s an increase of nearly 70 per cent over the 75,752 people who made the move in 2012.

Of the 126,340 who emigrated from Canada to the U.S. that year, 53,311 were born in Canada, 42,595 were Americans who left here for their native land, and 30,434 were foreign-born immigrants to Canada who decided to move to the U.S. instead.

That Canadian-born figure is notably higher now than it has been in the past. It’s up roughly 50 per cent over the average number of Canadians born in Canada who left for the U.S. in the pre-COVID period.

United Nations data compiled by Statistics Canada and shared with CBC News shows the U.S. is by far the most common destination for Canadian emigrants.

There were about 800,000 Canadians living in the U.S. as of 2020, eight times more than the 100,000 who live in the U.K., according to the latest UN figures.

A number of Facebook groups have popped up to help Canadians make the move. Recent arrivals use them to share tips on how to secure a visa or green card, where to live and what to do about health insurance.

One group called “Canadians Moving to Florida & USA” has more than 55,000 members and is adding dozens of new members every week.

The real estate agents and immigration lawyers who help Canadians make the move say the surge is being driven partly by a desire for a more affordable life.

But there are also people who say they have lost faith in Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s leadership and want to pursue the American dream instead, these agents and lawyers said.

Marco Terminesi is a former professional soccer player who grew up in Woodbridge, Ont. and now works as a real estate agent in Florida’s Palm Beach County with a busy practice that caters to Canadian expats.

‘I hate the politics here’

Terminesi said his phone has been ringing off the hook for the last 18 months with calls from Canadians wanting to move to sunny Florida.

“‘With Trudeau, I have to get out of here,’ that’s what people tell me. They say to me, ‘Marco, who do I have to talk to to get out of here?'” Terminesi told CBC News.

“There’s a lot of hatred, a lot of pissed-off calls. It was really shocking for me to hear all of this.

“And I’m not sure all of these people are moving for the right reason. People are saying, ‘I hate the politics here, I’m uprooting my whole family and moving down,’ and I say, ‘Well, that problem could be solved in a year or two.'”

Marco Terminesi grew up in Woodbridge, Ont. but now lives in South Florida and sells real estate mostly to Canadians in Palm Beach County. He says a lot of prospective buyers are motivated to leave Canada because of politics.
Marco Terminesi grew up in Woodbridge, Ont. but now lives in South Florida and sells real estate — mostly to Canadians — in Palm Beach County. He says a lot of prospective buyers are motivated to leave Canada because of politics. (Submitted by Marco Terminesi)

Terminesi said he doesn’t follow Canadian politics closely so he’s not sure what’s motivating the ill will among some prospective Florida buyers.

“This last year, I got fifty times more calls than in the past decade. And most, almost all of those callers are saying politics is why they want to leave,” he said. “I don’t pry, I just respond, ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. I hope it gets better.'”

While the U.S., like Canada, has grappled with inflation, the cost of living can be cheaper in some states.

The average U.S. home price is lower than it is here — $580,700 Cdn in the U.S., compared to $703,500 in Canada. That’s 20 per cent lower after adjusting for exchange rates. The price gap is even more stark in some states.

  • Have you recently moved to the U.S.? Are you thinking about making the move south? J.P. wants to hear your story. Email him at jp.tasker@cbc.ca

‘Canada is not what it used to be’

Monica Abramov lives in Innisfil, Ont., north of Toronto, but is moving to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. with her American husband and three sons in the next few months.

She said she will miss her family and friends and what she calls the beautiful summer weather in southern Ontario, but she’s looking forward to buying a more affordable home and cheaper groceries.

Her sons, die-hard hockey fans, will cheer for the Florida Panthers.

While they’ve been considering a move for the last 15 years, Abramov said she wants to move now because she feels Canada, and the Greater Toronto Area in particular, are going downhill.

Abramov said the health care system is a constant disappointment, with long ER wait times and lacklustre access to family doctors. She said taxes are creeping up and crime is an ongoing concern.

“There’s a reason why so many people are making the move. It’s a call for Canada to wake up and try to keep its residents,” Abramov told CBC News.

“I’ve never known so many people who are making the move or have already moved, especially to Florida.

“I definitely think we’re sadly going in the wrong direction — crime rates, carjackings. The health care system has been declining rapidly, year over year. Canada is just not what it used to be.”

Monica Abramov and her husband are moving from Innisfil, Ont. to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in the next months.
Monica Abramov, left, and her husband are moving from Innisfil, Ont. to Fort Lauderdale, Fla. in the next few months. She says Canada is headed in the wrong direction. (Submitted by Monica Abramov)

Mithra Saunders moved to Polk County in Florida with his wife and daughter in October 2021 after being laid off from his job in Toronto during the pandemic.

Saunders qualified for an E-2 treaty investor visa because his wife owns a business selling water valves.

They do most of their work remotely and split their time between Toronto and Florida. The visa gives them the flexibility to come and go as they please.

“I’m not some person trying to run away from Canada at all. People are definitely pissed off with the politics. But I’m not a political refugee who says, ‘I hate Trudeau,'” Saunders said.

“We just got down there and said, ‘It’s really warm down here. We’re going to stay.’ And so we did.

“We can sit on our laptops and look at the beautiful surroundings, or go hit the beach. Why wouldn’t you want that? It’s hard for Canadian winters to compete.”

Mithra Saunders, pictured at an outlet mall in Tampa, Fla., and his family split their time between Toronto and Florida. He was drawn to the state because of its warm weather and lower cost of living.
Mithra Saunders — pictured here at an outlet mall in Tampa, Fla. — and his family split their time between Toronto and Florida. He says he was drawn to the state because of its warm weather and lower cost of living. (Submitted by Mithra Saunders)

Wages are often a lot higher in the U.S. for in-demand professions in fields like information technology and health care.

The tax burden is less onerous in many states. There’s no state income tax in Florida.

In Arizona, a popular destination for western Canadian emigrants, there’s a flat state tax rate of 2.5 per cent.

Some daily staples are also a lot more affordable south of the border, with lower so-called “sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco in some states.

“I’m a red-blooded Canadian man who loves beer,” Saunders said. “And I can tell you it’s a fraction of the price.”

As of Jan. 1, 2020, Ontario has scrapped all out-of-country insurance for medical emergencies, with an exception for dialysis services.
Canadian snowbirds in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Marsha Halper/The Miami Herald/The Associated Press)

The recent surge in home insurance rates and higher property taxes in some U.S. jurisdictions could offset some of those savings.

And Canadians moving to the U.S. also have major health care costs to consider.

About 54.5 per cent of the U.S. population has health insurance through their workplace. Another 18.8 per cent of Americans rely on income-tested Medicaid, while 18.7 per cent depend on age-related Medicare coverage, according to U.S. federal government data.

Roughly 10 per cent of Americans buy directly from an insurer and the premiums can be quite onerous.

A 55-year old single man living in Naples, Fla. without a workplace plan can expect to pay about $10,000 a year, according to a review of available options on that state’s health-care exchange.

There are also other costs with private health insurance, like co-pays and deductibles.

‘I see a huge influx of Canadians moving to the U.S.’

Len Saunders (no relation to Mithra) is a Canadian-born immigration lawyer living in Blaine, Wash., just over the border from the Lower Mainland in B.C.

He said he hasn’t heard as much anti-Trudeau rhetoric from his clients on the West Coast — most of them just want to move across the border to buy a cheaper house or pay less in taxes.

Saunders said there’s been a surge in interest from Americans living in Canada who want to bring their Canadian spouses to live in the U.S. That accounts for about 80 per cent of his firm’s business, he said.

“Oh, I get dozens of calls a week and I’m just one lawyer in little old Blaine,” he said.

“People grumble about Trudeau and they’re not happy with him, but it’s not a driving factor for my clients. I see a huge influx of Canadians moving to the U.S. and the main thing is just the cost of housing. It’s a lot of young couples.”

It’s a relatively straightforward process for wealthy Canadian investors and people with American spouses to get a green card.

It’s much more difficult for the average middle-class person to get the necessary paperwork without a job lined up with a U.S. employer or a profession that qualifies for a NAFTA or E-2 treaty visa.

“Canadian couples — people without someone to petition for them — a lot of those people are out of luck. It’s sad. They’re stuck,” Saunders said.


Posted in CBC