Homesteading: Crossing the Canadian Border

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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?

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

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

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.