A Brief Guide to Immigration for Americans Looking for a Post-Election Escape

It's that time of the year, when Americans start looking at how to leave the U.S.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
October 30, 2020, 12:48pm
Joe Biden and Donald Trump
Google searches about moving out of the U.S. shot up after the 2016 election. Photos by JIM WATSON and SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty 

In the week following the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Google experienced major surges in Americans searching how to move to countries like Canada, Mexico, and England. Now, a similar pattern is starting to emerge, with similar searches starting to creep up: Americans are seemingly considering contingency plans ahead of this year’s election, which is only a few days away.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Despite being the world’s richest country and a global superpower, the U.S. has confirmed nearly 9 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 230,000 deaths on Thursday—the highest tallies in the world, according to Johns Hopkins data. And this election will largely influence whether and how the country will manage urgent issues like abortion, healthcare access, police brutality, and climate change. The stakes are high and voters have already come out in record-breaking numbers to cast early ballots, with 66-million submitted as of Tuesday, despite ongoing voter suppression efforts across the country

Like the Romans before us, the U.S. empire is in decline, and VICE News dug to see how easy it is for Americans to escape the imminent collapse. 

Canada

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A Canadian immigration consultant, John Matkowsky, told VICE News that one American client of his already reached out and asked if there’s a way to secure a spot in Canada before November 3.

Matkowsky said people in the U.S. are seemingly concerned about their country’s future and are looking for pathways to escape. 

“Part of it is how bad coronavirus is in the U.S., but the other part seems to be uncertainty with elections and not entirely knowing what’ll happen next,” Matkowsky said, adding that President Donald Trump has inspired some people to ditch their American homes and hop across the border.

A large group of those trying to leave the U.S. for Canada aren’t actually American citizens, but people with student or work visas who no longer feel welcome in the country, he said. CIC News documents immigration trends in Canada and found that growing unease among immigrants, likely because of Trump, has inspired immigrants to come to Canada.

Matkowsky said people who are under 32, have a graduate degree, and speak one of Canada’s officials languages fluently—or those married to a citizen—may have a reasonable shot at getting accepted. Securing a job in Canada also improves a person’s chances, but that might be difficult at a time when the pandemic has cut thousands of jobs. 

Alas, Canadians don’t really want American visitors right now. 

Mexico

Americans struggling to get into Canada might have an easier time settling south. Last year, The Washington Post reported how more Americans may be flowing into Mexico than the other way around, despite the Trump administration’s fixation with Mexican migrants. 

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In the Mexican city of San Miguel de Allende, about 10 percent of its 100,000 residents are American, according to estimates. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City also said it believes about 1.5 million Americans live in the country, the Post reported, and Excelsior, a Mexico City newspaper, reported that most Americans living in Mexico are undocumented—and the country isn’t cracking down on them.

“Despite the fact that Donald Trump insults my country every day, here we receive the entire international community, beginning with Americans, with open arms and hearts,” San Miguel Mayor Luis Alberto Villarreal told the Post.

Like Canada, Mexico favours newcomers who are educated, accomplished, and can speak the national language. But the country also offers temporary visas, including a four-year one that is, coincidently, the exact length of a second (potential) Trump term. Applicants have a few avenues to get a visa, including marriage, a job, or proof that they enjoy a lucrative retirement, among others. 

United Kingdom

When considering options, the U.K. seems like a decent one, mostly because Brits speak the same language as Americans. But unless you have a retiree, work, student, or visitor visa, have lived in the area legally for a decade, served for the British Armed Forces, have settled in the UK before, or have British family members or a spouse, you’re probably not eligible to move. 

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Americans could travel to the U.K. without a visa for up to six months and wait out civil unrest that may or may not follow next week’s election

EU

Honestly, Europe doesn’t really want Canadians or Americans right now. 

Russia

Russia just granted permanent residency to infamous American whistleblower, Edward Snowden, so that’s one idea.

You could stay

If immigration isn’t a viable option—which it probably isn’t if you’re not relatively privileged—you’ll likely have to stay in the U.S. But you won’t be alone. 

New York-based immigration lawyer, Jeffrey Slatus, said the “issue isn’t black and white”; there are still many people trying to immigrate to the U.S. because they like Trump.

“They’ll come from countries like those in Eastern Europe and will say they don’t want socialism after what they’ve lived through,” Sletus told VICE News. “These are people who like the Republicans and want to live in a more conservative country.” 

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