Anti-Trump Americans may find moving to Canada more difficult than they thought
There’s a reason anti-Trump celebrities such as Miley Cyrus and Lena Dunham aren’t keeping their promises to leave the country: It’s hard. Really hard.
That’s where Nuri Katz comes in. As founder and president of Apex Capital Partners Corp., Mr. Katz specializes in assisting Americans and others who want to escape their home countries and settle elsewhere, a trend that was on the upswing even before Donald Trump was elected Nov. 8. to be the next U.S. president.
With Mr. Trump now measuring the drapes at the White House, Mr. Katz said, more U.S. citizens than ever are contacting him to discuss their options as would-be expatriates.
“We’ve gone from what was really just a trickle of Americans, a handful of Americans calling every once in a while, to getting a bunch every day,” Mr. Katz said. “People are calling and saying, ‘Listen, we’re just interested,’ just sort of starting the process.”
It can be done, but Mr. Katz warns that it takes time and often hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain residency or second citizenship in other countries, even those with relatively friendly policies toward newcomers such as Canada and the Caribbean nations.
Canadians on Cape Breton Island put out the welcome mat this year with a website called “Cape Breton if Trump wins,” and Americans responded by crashing the Canadian immigration website shortly after Mr. Trump’s victory was declared.
Realistically, however, obtaining dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship is an option available almost exclusively for millionaires.
“I’m sure you’ve read about people like Rosie O’Donnell and Whoopi Goldberg talking about moving to Canada — well, moving to Canada or moving to any other country is a difficult thing,” Mr. Katz said. “If you’re wealthy and you have the kind of money that Whoopi Goldberg or Rosie O’Donnell has, it makes everything a lot smoother.”
Those hoping to move to Canada must show that they have a job or invest in the country by purchasing, for example, property or government bonds. Not everyone who applies gets in. Canada accepts a percentage equivalent to only about 1 percent of the population, which was about 35 million in 2013.
“And they hit that goal very easily,” said Mr. Katz, a member of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council. “And so the fact that Trump won the election isn’t going to make the Canadian immigration authorities up that goal, up that quota. There’s huge competition.”
For the average American, it’s almost impossible. “People have to get to work at 9 a.m. and are living from paycheck to paycheck would have a really hard time taking the time to find a job in Canada. Just logistically, it’s really hard,” he said.
Mr. Katz, 49, knows from personal experience: He is a U.S. citizen who left when he was 5 for Canada. The holder of six passports, he makes his home on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
While the U.S. makes it relatively easy to gain a second or third citizenship, there is a catch: Americans living abroad must still pay income tax, list their bank accounts and report their businesses each year to the Internal Revenue Service.
“Every year, I have to report my income to the United States, and I have to pay taxes in the United States, and what’s actually even more of a burden, I have to report every bank account that I have abroad, and all my bank accounts are abroad,” Mr. Katz said. “There’s only one other country that does that, and that’s Eritrea.”
That may be why 4,279 Americans renounced their citizenship in 2015, a 20 percent increase from the previous year, which set a record for the third year in a row.
“The American passport allows citizens the opportunity to travel visa-free to a whole lot of countries, so they don’t [renounce their citizenship] for those reasons. They do it for political reasons,” he said. “And many of those are living in other countries and they don’t want to be burdened by this unique American practice of taxation by citizenship, not by residence.”
Caribbean islands such as St. Kitts & Nevis, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, and Dominica have attracted wealthy international immigrants in recent years with their Citizenship by Investment programs, which boil down the application process to little more than a financial transaction.
“The easiest places are the Caribbean countries, but you need to invest upwards of $100,000 up to millions of dollars,” Mr. Katz said. “You have to have a pretty high net worth to do that.”
About two dozen American celebrities vowed to pack their bags if Mr. Trump was elected, but the only one who seems intent on keeping his word is comedian George Lopez, who indicated to TMZ that he was buying a house outside the country, although he didn’t say where.
Despite the hurdles, Mr. Katz said he expects to see more well-to-do Americans pursue dual citizenship in response to the political divide.
“Everybody knows that the country is really divided and there’s a lot of strong emotions on both sides,” he said. “So I think people will make phone calls, find information, look around and get frustrated, but I expect that starting next year and the next bunch of years, there are going to be more and more and more people who are going to want to just get out.”