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Canada: U.S. immigrants must seek visas

Canada: U.S. immigrants must seek visas

Gay and straight Americans attempting to escape four more years of President Bush by fleeing to Canada will have to wait in line just like immigrants from any other country, Canada's Immigration Ministry said Wednesday. Over the years Canada's social climate has shifted to the left of the United States, with relatively higher taxes supporting programs such as public health care. That and the promise of legalized same-sex marriage and lenient marijuana laws might be a draw to some Democrats despondent over the Bush victory and the promise of continued conservatism from his administration. The U.S. consulate in Toronto estimates there already may be a million Americans living in Canada--most don't register--about a quarter of them in Ontario. But Americans who want to join the expatriate ranks across what is called the world's longest undefended border won't get special treatment just because their brother is married to a Canadian or they like cheap weekends in French-speaking Montreal. "The immigration program is universal--it applies to everyone the same," France Bureau, spokeswoman for Immigration and Citizenship minister Judy Sgro, said. All immigrants need a work permit, according to a government Web site. A government department must approve any offer of local employment before a permit is issued. Those without a job offer can apply in the skilled worker category to become a permanent resident, which takes about a year to process. Applicants must have enough funds to support themselves in the meantime. Citizenship applications take an additional three years or so. Skilled-worker applicants must posses a minimum of points in required areas such as education and language proficiency. Immigrants without a work visa wanting to live and invest in Canada must have a net worth of $662,000 and be ready to put up at least $331,000. Those wishing to start a business must have a net worth of $248,000.

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