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Americans looking to move to Canada as COVID-19 numbers spike in the U.S.

Last Updated Jul 20, 2020 at 12:37 pm PDT

FILE - In this photo taken May 17, 2020, people walk back and forth across the border between the U.S. and Canada in Peace Arch Park in Blaine, Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Elaine Thompson

More Americans are looking to make the move north and make it permanent: immigration lawyers

One lawyer says he's getting more calls and requests than normal from people looking to put down roots in Canada

Cross-border couples are getting married sooner than planned for permanent resident status, says lawyer

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With a continued rise in coronavirus cases south of the line, it appears more Americans are looking to make the move north and make it permanent.

There are more than 3.8 million cases in the U.S. and, so far, more than 140,000 deaths.

The numbers have only risen in recent weeks as some states re-opened and as many flouted recommendations to wear a mask and keep a reasonable physical distance from others.

Mark Belanger is an immigration lawyer in Vancouver and he says he’s been really busy lately.

“Lately [inquiries] have been around issues like the border closure, how Americans can stay in Canada, what are the quarantine requirements [and] is the border ban in effect for all travellers?”

He says he’s getting way more calls and requests than normal from people looking to put down roots here.

“There’s definitely been an uptick in Americans contacting me wanting to come into Canada for sure,” he explains. “They’re very keen to come to Canada, if they’re not already here and if they are already here, like they were here before the border closure, they are really keen on finding ways to stay here.”

Every case is different so that process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a year.

“In some circumstances, it would be work-related. They may have been up here for a business visit and they’d like to extend it into a work permit of some kind so they can reside here temporarily. In other instances, it would be they were visiting their significant other and now they’re perhaps looking at marriage and having the Canadian citizen sponsor them for permanent resident status.”

Belanger says the cases he’s seeing aren’t people trying to sidestep the rules and getting married just to move here.

“From what I can tell, they’re in legitimate relationships, like they were previously visiting their Canadian significant other. It would appear to me these are legitimate relationships that because of the border closure, they’ve decided to take the next step perhaps a little bit earlier than they otherwise would have.”

Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer based in Blaine, Washington, says he’s seeing something similar.


“A lot of these people, in order to get immediate status, what they’re doing is they’re getting married at Peace Arch Park. Because if you’re a partner or a fiancé(e) of a Canadian, it doesn’t give you the ability to use the immediate family loophole to come in as an immediate relative of a Canadian,” he said.

“I was at the Peace Arch Park this weekend and I saw cars from all over the country on the American side from Mississippi, from New Jersey, from California, from Texas, and a lot of them are using the park for a very quick wedding ceremony. They’re going down to Bellingham in Whatcom County to get their marriage license registered which can be done immediately and then they’re turning around and heading to Canada. You’re seeing these, almost, shotgun weddings of Americans so they can enter Canada as immediate relatives of Canadians.”

Both lawyers don’t foresee the border re-opening to non-essential travel at all this year.

NEWS 1130 reached out to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada asking for statistics on how many US citizens are looking to immigrate since the border was closed in March and if the department can handle any potential onslaught on applications.

A response from the federal body said it may “take a few days,” to compile those numbers.

The Canada-US border closure has been extended to Aug. 21 when it’s widely expected it will be extended again.