Canada's immigration website crashing Tuesday night as Donald Trump closed in on the American presidency was only one sign alarmed Americans are eyeing a move to Canada with serious inquiries.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Alex Stojicevic recalls receiving a deluge of emails and a spike in traffic to his corporate website as the U.S. election count brought Trump steadily closer to the White House. "Surprisingly, they all came from Colorado. There's a lot of people throwing up their hands in despair," he told The Hollywood Reporter.
But Stojicevic said disgruntled Americans following celebrities like Barbra Streisand, Bryan Cranston and Keegan-Michael Key to consider making their own run for the border won't find it easy. "The people who are, 'I hate it in America, I need a fresh start, I can't see myself living in this open-carry lunacy of Texas, or Arizona,' those people are making the enquiries, but few are acting on it," he said.
Windsor immigration lawyer Eddie Kadri said his smartphone started buzzing with immigration enquiries at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, just as the votes rolling Trump's way began to steamroll. "I started taking text messages and emails when it looked like Donald Trump was well on his way to a victory, with people telling me, 'Okay, what do I need to do?'" he said.
"People were just in shock. I literally got messages from prominent American businessmen and women that said 'I'm sick to my stomach. I didn't think this would happen,'" Kadri added. But becoming a permanent resident in Canada, absent a firm job offer or a sought-after skill or profession, is an uphill battle, lawyers caution.
"A lot of people can use the NAFTA agreement, ironically, to invest and buy a business in Canada and use that as a way to come," Stojicevic said, referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement that anti-free trader Trump repeatedly called a "disaster" during his presidential run and said he wanted to renegotiate.
It also helps if you have a connection to Canada, typically family, like Canadians who have chosen to live in Los Angeles with their American spouses and U.S.-born children, and now want to bring their entire family back to Canada.
"They're debating whether they want to stay in San Francisco and Denver or move to Vancouver and Toronto. That's been happening quite a bit," Stojicevic explained. Hollywood directors, actors and screenwriters married to Canadians essentially have a far easier and less time-consuming path to permanent Canadian residency.
"Coming to Canada and already being a breadwinner on day one, they can and they do take those steps," Stojicevic said. In all, the Canadian government intends to accept around 300,000 new immigrants in 2017. Around 40,000 of those emigrants will be refugees, considered "vulnerable people trapped in often unsafe or violent situations in their home country."
Seeking political asylum from a Trump administration is not likely to get you very far. But the Canadian dollar, compared to the American greenback, and generous film tax credits on offer north of the border are spurring emigration by prized Hollywood talent.
"You see it with directors married to writers, or people in the film industry who are dual citizens. They're in demand in Canada. They count right now towards the Canadian tax credit," Stojicevic explained.
Canada has around 120 foreign film and TV projects shooting locally, with close to half of them in and around Vancouver. And the West Coast Canadian city has around 50 animation studios humming, many of which are foreign transplant offices.
"That's because crews and talent are cheaper than [in Los Angeles], plus the tax credits," Stojicevic added. But while Americans have been keen buyers of hot Canadian real estate these days, Ryan Roberts, a Toronto realtor with Bosley Real Estate, said the rules around foreigners buying property there are not tied to citizenship.
"It's one thing to buy a home here in Toronto. It's a whole other issue to immigrate to Canada and it's not a quick process," he said. The challenges in packing up the car and moving to Canada haven't stopped enquiries, however.
Valerie Sampson, a real estate agent with Remax in Cape Breton, on Canada's Atlantic coast, said the local immigration website Cape Breton If Trump Wins, which first drew international attention in March, has spurred actual property buys by Americans afraid to live under a Trump administration.
"There has been an increase in both inquiries and actual purchases from people in the U.S. wanting to move to Cape Breton from California, Florida, Tennessee and Boston," she said. Others caution immigration enquiries by Americans are cyclical, stretching back to the Vietnam War and the election and re-election of George W. Bush and even to Libertarians seeking to escape the reach of the U.S. taxman and believing Canada has a more favorable rule of law.
Vancouver immigration lawyer Zool Suleman cautioned that anxious Americans also have to keep in mind what keeps them at home, not just what may push them to Canada. "America has a great deal to offer to Americans, so it's a difficult choice they have to make," he said.