Homesteading: Crossing the Canadian Border

Crossing the Canadian border: a guide to emigrating to Canada to start a new life and homestead.

Quebec Canadian border

Let's say your situation is the worst possible: You're young, flat broke, know no one in Canada and you would like to become a landed immigrant as soon as possible. How will you do it?


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OK, gang. Here it is. In answer to many requests for information about crossing the Canadian border and immigrating to and homesteading in Canada, we've put together the following twenty-one pages.  

By the way, we're becoming convinced that abandoned back-tax land in Canada is probably more attractive than raw unsettled Crown Land. There's less red tape involved, actually less out-of-pocket expense in some cases and always the chance of picking up an old house, farm buildings, a well and—maybe—easy access to power lines in the bargain. Check it out and see what you think.  

The first thing you've got to realize is that the immigrant business is pretty good in Canada these days. In addition to a steady flow of new faces from England, other parts of the old British Commonwealth and Europe, 22,785 independent souls from the United States (double the number of 1961) emigrated to the Maple Leaf Country in 1969 . . . and the first quarter of 1970 ran about one-third ahead of the corresponding quarter last year.

Now these are not all young and impecunious draft dodgers either. One quarter of the folks making the big move in 1969 were doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers (especially teachers!) and other professional people. And the U.S. immigrants (in our fine old tradition of "biggest and bestest"), took more money into Canada with them than all other immigrants combined.

What this means, of course, is that the competition is getting heavier. Or—to put it another way—with greater numbers of better qualified applicants wanting in, the Canadian Immigrations Offices can afford to become progressively more selective . . . and they have. I guess a third way of describing the situation is to say that you now need money and an established career to buy a new start in life.

We're advised that, until about three years ago, a U.S. citizen applying for Canadian landed immigrant status was viewed as just that: A U.S. citizen. Acceptance was almost automatic. Nowadays, however, distinctions are made and each applicant from the U.S. is graded on a super-secret point system.

The new evaluation scale is SO secret, by the way, that—researching this issue—we were given no straight answers by any of the official Canadian Government spokesmen we contacted. Luckily, though, MOTHER EARTH NEWS has an unexpected friend (who must remain nameless) within the very government of our neighbor to the north and that friend tells us:

Canada's immigration laws operate on a point system. The applicant gets points for having a job to go to (or a skill that is highly in demand in Canada); for having sound financial resources; for having an education. Thus, if you are a professional man with about $10,000 and a job waiting (which, by the way, is an approximate profile of the majority of immigrants from the United States in recent years) you can make the points in a walk.  

Two important warnings:  

  • If you apply for landed immigrant status from inside Canada, you lose points. Application should be made to an immigration office at a Consulate – General or at a border crossing point.  
  • Although military status and political attitudes are not official considerations in determining eligibility, there is always a highly subjective element in the decision of an immigration officer. That's a bureaucratic way of saying, "Comb your hair so your ears show." In fact, why not cut it? It keeps on growing, right?  

A piece in the July 17, 1970 issue of LIFE followed one emigrating family north from this country and, in a few words on page 44, reinforced the above statement:

To become "landed", an applicant needs a minimum of 50 out of a possible 100 points based on such things as education, job training, special skills, and on motivation, initiative and other intangibles generally summed up as "character".  

So, it would seem that your best bet lies in NOT drawing across the border with $100 in your pocket as a "tourist," and applying for Canadian citizenship later. If you want in and expect to stay, go about it the other way around.

Let's say your situation is the worst possible: You're young, flat broke, know no one in Canada and you would like to become a landed immigrant as soon as possible. How will you do it?

  • Get the best-paying job – any job – RIGHT NOW that you can. Better yet, get two of them. It doesn't matter if you like them or not. You won't be doing them long. The money you can make in a short period is your primary consideration at this point. If you're a couple, you can both moonlight and hold down four jobs between you. Save every penny you can. Within six months you can have anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 in the bank. I've done it and you can too.
  • Write to the largest newspapers that serve the area or areas of Canada that interest you most. Get the addresses from a library. Send each paper a dollar and request AIRMAIL the LOCAL edition of the next Sunday paper. Out of town editions of large Sunday papers quite often do not contain the classified ad section, and that's what you want. As soon as you get the newspapers, fire off an AIR MAIL SPECIAL DELIVERY letter of application for every job for which you might qualify. Request, by mail, application forms from each employment agency that advertises in the papers. Fill out the forms and send them back, putting special emphasis on any skills you may have that the employers in that area seem to want. Now, don't really expect too much at this stage but, you never know: Lightning may strike and—suddenly—you'll have a job waiting for you in Canada. Even if nothing clicks, you'll have some contacts—someone who "knows" you—when you apply for landed immigrant status.
  • Get the forms for landed immigrant application, study them, hone and rehone your answers, fill out the forms NEATLY and submit them as you enter Canada or BEFORE. Remember, you'll lose points if you do it after you're in the country.
  • Write to the private land dealers and government land agencies that service "your" area (if you're going back to the land) well before you are ready to make your big move. Get all appropriate reports and maps. Study them. You'll want to speak with authority if anyone questions you closely about your future plans. You may even find, on examination of this material, that your first choice for locating in Canada isn't so appealing after all.
  • If regulations really tighten up, there are ways of appearing more financially stable than you actually are when you cross the border: Borrow all you can from friends, relatives and even banks or loan companies just long enough to get you past the line. You can always magically double—in the eyes of others—what you SEEM to be worth by depositing the money you do have in a bank savings account and returning in a few weeks to say you've lost your account book. The bank will give you a card to fill out and, in a week or so, you'll be issued another. When you withdraw the money you'll keep the original book and your cash-in-hand plus the phantom account may put you across the border when the cash alone would not. Devious? Yes. But then, so is the bureaucratic red tape you're fighting. Besides, the "motivation" and "initiative" involved here should be exactly what Canada's evaluation system is supposed to value. I wouldn't make a point of mentioning that to the immigration officer, however.
  • There's another angle on jobs that you might be able to work if you know anyone at all in Canada. I'm sure the job "waiting" for you—if you have one—must be genuine but I see no reason why a friend already in that country couldn't obtain some land (homestead, homestead sales, back tax, private sale or whatever) and then "hire" you as, say, an organic gardening expert to manage the farm, market produce, etc.

This could probably be taken even one step further. The friend might purchase the land with your money in the first place (assuming you had it and he didn't) and—once you're officially in Canada—sign the deed over to you.

What I'm saying is, if you're young, without money and connections but determined to emigrate to Canada and build a new life for yourself, there are ways to do it in spite of the restrictions and red tape. YOU CAN DO IT IF YOU TRY.