- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

From combined dispatches

OTTAWA — The number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada’s main immigration Web site has shot up sixfold as Americans flirt with the idea of abandoning their homeland after President Bush’s re-election last week.

“When we looked at the first day after the election, Nov. 3, our Web site hit a new high, almost double the previous record high,” Immigration Ministry spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said Friday, Reuters news agency reported.

On an average day, about 20,000 people in the United States log on to the Web site, www.cic.gc.ca — a figure that rocketed to 115,016 on Wednesday. The number of U.S. visits settled down to 65,803 on Thursday, still well above the norm.

Mr. Bush’s victory sparked speculation that disconsolate Democrats and others might decide to start a new life in Canada.

Would-be immigrants to Canada can apply to become permanent residents, a process that often takes a year. The other main way to move north on a long-term basis is to find a job, which requires a work permit.

But please, no sob stories.

Asked whether an applicant would be looked upon more sympathetically being a sad Democrat seeking to escape four more years of Mr. Bush, Miss Iadinardi replied: “There would be no weight given to statements of feelings.”

Canada is one of the few major nations with a large-scale immigration policy. Ottawa seeks to attract between 220,000 and 240,000 newcomers next year.

“Let’s face it, we have a population of a little over 32 million, and we definitely need permanent residents to come to Canada,” Miss Iadinardi said. “If we could meet [the 2005] target and go above it, the more the merrier.”

It is too early to say whether the increased interest will result in more applications.

“There is no unusual activity occurring at our visa missions [in the United States]. Having someone who intends to come to Canada is not the same as someone actually putting in an application,” Miss Iadinardi said.

“We’ll only find out whether there has been an increase in applications in six months.”

The waiting time to become a citizen is shorter for people married to Canadians, which prompted the birth of a satirical Web site, www.marryanamerican.ca.

The idea of increased immigration by unhappy Americans is triggering some amusement in Canada.

Newspaper columnist Thane Burnett of the Ottawa Sun newspaper wrote a tongue-in-cheek guide for would-be new citizens on Friday.

“As Canadians, you’ll have to learn to embrace and use all the products and culture of Americans, while bad-mouthing their way of life,” he said.

On a more serious note, though, Canada’s Immigration Ministry said last week that Americans trying to escape four more years of Mr. Bush by fleeing to Canada will have to wait in line, just like immigrants from any other country, the Associated Press reports.

Over the years, Canada’s social climate has shifted to the left of the United States, with relatively higher taxes supporting programs such as public health care. That and the promise of legalized homosexual “marriage” and lenient marijuana laws might be a draw to some Democrats despondent over Mr. Bush’s victory.

The U.S. Consulate in Toronto estimates there might be 1 million Americans living in Canada — most don’t register — about a quarter of them in Ontario.

But Americans who want to join the expatriate ranks across what is called the world’s longest undefended border won’t get special treatment just because their brother is married to a Canadian or they like cheap weekends in French-speaking Montreal.

“The immigration program is universal — it applies to everyone the same,” France Bureau, spokeswoman for Immigration and Citizenship Minister Judy Sgro, told AP.

“People must apply at a visa mission abroad, and all applicants must meet the requirements,” she added.

All immigrants need a work permit. A government department must approve any offer of local employment before a permit is issued.

Those without a job offer can apply in the skilled-worker category to become a permanent resident, which takes about a year to process. Applicants must have enough money to support themselves in the meantime. Citizenship applications take an additional three years or so.

Skilled-worker applicants must posses a minimum number of points in required areas such as education and language proficiency.

Immigrants wanting to live and invest in Canada must have a net worth of $662,000 and be ready to put up at least $331,000. Those wishing to start a business must have a net worth of $248,000.

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