Polling indicates record numbers of Americans want to leave the United States, with the most recent poll I could find placing it at 16%.

However, data shows that few Americans are actually leaving. This is despite countries Americans want to move to including Canada having higher rates of immigration.

Let's look at Canada specifically because many Americans want to move to Canada, more than any other country. More Canadians moved to the United States than the other way around even in 2019 the last year before the COVID pandemic. In 2019 only 10,800 US individuals moved to Canada to get lawful residence. 11,388 Canadians moved to the United States that year.

Compare that 10,800 figure to the total of over 340,000. Why does it seem Canada is prioritizing other nationalities over the United States? In the US Mexicans are the largest immigrant group and Mexicans apparently have an easier time moving to the US than their American immigrant counterparts hailing from other countries. This is despite a language barrier as well.

  • 5
    What's the basis of saying Mexicans have an easier time migrating to America than Americans to Canada? Is it just the percentage of Canada's migration intake who are American and vice versa? That, on the face of it, has very little to do with how "easy" it is for an American to migrate. Your logic would imply that if Canada accepted only 10 migrants total but they were 100% American you would think it was much easier for an American to migrate to Canada.
    – Ben
    Jan 16, 2023 at 13:33
  • 22
    I think the number you're after is the percentage of Americans who migrate to Canada out of the number of Americans who are making a serious effort to migrate to Canada. That's very different from merely thinking "it'd be great to move overseas" and answering so on a poll. Hypothetically, if only 11,000 Americans are really trying to move right now and 10,800 get in, then they must find it very easy. But if it's 10 million trying and 10,800 succeed then it's very hard. It's totally independent of how many Mexicans also migrate; that comparison is irrelevant.
    – Ben
    Jan 16, 2023 at 13:59
  • 8
    For someone who regularly asks about polls this is an extremely naive Q, wrt statistics. There were plenty of American celebrities tweeting "I'll move out if Trump wins" in 2016. Few did. Confusing communicated "feelings to move" with actually trying to move anywhere, let alone with then being rejected by Immigration Canada for some reason, is comparing apples and bacon. The one thing Canada has that can be problematic is non-sensical issues wrt recognition of professional qualifications in regulated professions like nursing, making emigration unduly annoying. Jan 16, 2023 at 17:00
  • 5
    I’m voting to close this question because the basic premise it is based on has not been demonstrated. Jan 16, 2023 at 17:00
  • 11
    In 2019, Canada processed 17,128 applications for temporary residence visa from the US and approved 14,716 of them (~14% refusal rate). Your allegation of Canada prioritizing other nationalities appears to be untrue. As does your allegation that Mexicans have an easier time moving to the US (where 26.66% of applications were refused).
    – xyldke
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:03

2 Answers 2


As a comment from xyldke notes:

In 2019, Canada processed 17,128 applications for temporary residence visa from the US and approved 14,716 of them (~14% refusal rate).

This strongly implies that nothing that Canada is doing is doing much to keep out Americans.

Instead, the revealed preferences of Americans are that not many of them want to move to Canada, which is at odds with their stated preferences. Revealed preferences are routinely very different from stated preferences in a variety of contexts.

Another factor is that the status quo may be in equilibrium, or close to it, after many decades or more or less free migration between the two neighboring countries. There is no pent up demand from prior years of Americans who want to move to Canada and visa versa.

In contrast, immigration to the U.S. from countries like Mexico and the Philippines has a backlog of many years because quotas for entry to the U.S. from those countries is exceeded almost every year and so the backlog gets greater and greater over time.

There are also probably more Americans who enter Canada on tourist visas and simply stay, than most nationalities, so the official statistics may understate the actual magnitude of migration to Canada from the U.S. There are few other jurisdictions from which this can be done so invisibly.

Why does it seem Canada is prioritizing other nationalities over the United States?

Canada isn't prioritizing other nationalities over the United States.

Many other countries, including Mexico and India, have significantly higher rejection rates than immigrants to Canada from the U.S. The only reason that Americans make up a small share of the total number of migrants to Canada is because not many Americans apply to immigrate to Canada.

  • 1
    @Mark When a Canadian enters the U.S. on a passport or driver's license it is called a "tourist visa". I am using parallel terminology although it may not be exactly the same thing.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 17, 2023 at 1:20
  • 1
    @AzorAhai-him- I'd also suggest that there are plenty of Americans working remotely, living off investment income, and/or working under the table or in undocumented self-employment in Canada notwithstanding lacking visa authorization to do so.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 17, 2023 at 1:20
  • 2
    @AzorAhai-him- it’s actually completely legal to work remotely in Canada for a foreign employer without a work visa. It’s one of the few countries where it’s explicitly allowed. Jan 17, 2023 at 16:02
  • 1
    @JonathanReez Oh dope. When I had trouble, it was trying to work for a Canadian employer. Jan 17, 2023 at 17:57
  • 1
    This goes along with a point I've been making for awhile now, people just aren't as mobile as armchair economists want to pretend. People are attached to family, friends, house, jobs etc where they are now. They will quite frequently say they are going to move, particularly if it's a protest against some policy or behavior their government made, but they almost never do it. Moving is hard and most would rather just stick with the status quo, even if that means enduring a policy change they don't like, then do something about it
    – dsollen
    Jan 18, 2023 at 21:48

Frame challenge: it's not that Canada doesn't want to take in more Americans. It's that Americans generally don't want to move to Canada, regardless of what immigration policies Canada might have. Let's look at the top reasons for moving abroad:

Better jobs/more money

The United States has the highest median disposable income of any country in the world, so this cannot be a motivating factor for Americans to move to Canada, except for a few specialized jobs that are only available in Canada. This is also true if we look at disposable household income per deciles (as of 2010):

Country Canada United States
1st decile 13205 11238
2nd decile 17226 16272
3rd decile 21200 20522
4th decile 24999 25124
5th decile 28874 30067
7th decile 37956 42325
6th decile 32926 35779
8th decile 44784 51021
9th decile 55319 66054

Note: Adjusted for household size, inflation and price differences between countries and expressed in 2011 international dollars. 1st decile is the cutoff income that separate the poorest 10% from the richest 90% etc. The 5th decile is the median.

Americans have more disposable income starting from the 4th decile and the lowest three deciles are not significantly more poor than their Canadian counterparts. Additionally, Canada runs a skill-based immigration procedure, along with admitting refugees. Americans who are very poor are unlikely to meet the skill-based criteria; and they will typically not qualify as refugees either.

Personal safety

The US has a murder rate of 6.5 per 100k people, while Canada has a rate of 2.0 per 100k people. However, not all counties in the United States are equally dangerous, so it is easier for Americans to move to a safer county rather than leaving the country.


The Canadian census bureau estimates that at least 900k Canadian citizens lived in the US as of 2017. All of these citizens could have a strong reason to return to Canada, but since they are citizens of Canada, they will not be counted in official immigration numbers. Some number of US citizens have close family members in Canada without being a dual citizen, however it's likely to be a relatively small number given that only 10k Americans end up moving to Canada in any given year.

Policy preferences

The top two reasons I've heard for why living in Canada is better are universal health insurance and restrictive gun laws, however these are unlikely to be sufficiently motivating factors for people to actually move. Only 9% of Americans lack health insurance and 82% report being happy with the quality of healthcare they receive.

  • 7
    For #1: In order to understand the motivation of individual migrants, you would not just have to look at the average but at how it is distributed among different strata of the population. When some people have a lot of disposable income and some have very little, then those with very little income will be unhappy regardless how good the average looks on paper.
    – Philipp
    Jan 16, 2023 at 15:44
  • 1
    This doesn't explain why more people aren't able to move Jan 16, 2023 at 16:33
  • 2
    @NumberFile it's not that they aren't able to move. They just don't want to move. Jan 16, 2023 at 16:59
  • 1
    This answer is great and very informative. The problem is, it doesn't answer the question. The question isn't "why aren't more Americans moving to Canada?"; the question is "why isn't Canada accepting more Americans?". A better answer would include statements or policies from Canadian immigration on numbers of Americans accepted, information on how many immigrants Canada accepts from various countries and why, etc (not that I'm saying all this information is readily/easily available, but that's what OP is asking for).
    – Ertai87
    Jan 16, 2023 at 17:21
  • 2
    @Ertai87 - The question of what "truly universal" is tends to be tricky. Brazil, for instance, legally has to provide any type of healthcare almost on demand for anyone in Brazil, citizen or foreigner (subject to availability, of course). Most countries fall well short of this, even those that have government-provided healthcare systems.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 16, 2023 at 19:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .