How To Retire In The United States From Canada: 5 Steps to A New Life (2024)

Tired of Canada’s cold weather? Want to be closer to friends and family living in the United States?

If so, you’re in the right place. Canada’s retirement community is quickly growing, and many are seeking to escape the cold and retire somewhere more pleasant.

Below, I’ll share a step-by-step guide on how to retire in the United States from Canada. The process involves the following steps:

  1. Applying For A Visa
  2. Planning Your Retirement Income
  3. Choose A City Or Town In The US
  4. Apply For US Healthcare
  5. Complete Your Move To The US

Let’s dive in!

Full-Time Retirement In The US vs “Snowbird” Retirement

Before I begin, it’s worth noting that the United States doesn’t offer a traditional “retirement Visa” like many other countries.

If you retire in Thailand, for example, retirees over 50 can apply for an O-A retirement Visa (which can be renewed indefinitely) that allows them to live in the country, providing they meet minimum income requirements, purchase private healthcare, and have a permanent residence.

Applying for permanent residence with a green card in the US can be a lengthy process and may require you to have family living in the US.

The other alternative is to apply for an investor Visa (E2 Visa), which grants temporary residency to foreigners who invest in or start a business in the US.

However, all Canadians are entitled to reside in the US for up to six months out of each year without having to apply for a Visa or residency.

Because of this, many Canadians who want to retire in the US simply plan to spend half of the year in Canada and the other half of the year in the US. Non-residents can also purchase homes in the US, which ensures that you’ll have a home in the US to come back. This is often referred to as “snowbird retirement.”

How To Retire In The US From Canada: Step-By-Step

Now, here’s a quick overview of everything you’ll need to do if you want to retire in the United States from Canada.

Step 1: Visa Requirements And Qualifications

Following the “snowbird retirement” plan that I outlined above is, by far, the quickest and easiest way to retire in the US from Canada, as it doesn’t require you to apply for a Visa. As long as your Canadian passport is up to date, you can live in the US for six months a year without all of the extra paperwork.

Becoming a full-time US resident and receiving your green card is more difficult, but it will allow you to live in the US full-time without returning to Canada.

Here’s a quick outline of the paths to achieve a green card in the US:

Green Card PathDescription
Family-based sponsorshipIf you have a spouse or family member with a green card or US residency, they can “sponsor” you and help you apply for your green card.
Employer-based sponsorshipIf you have an employer in the US, they can “sponsor” you to obtain a work-based Green Card. This is not a common option for retirees, though.
Diversity LotteryA small percentage of green card applicants with a historically low rate of immigration may be given a residency Visa.
Investment green cardIf you invest in a US-based business (with an ownership percentage) or start a business in the US that meets certain employment requirements, you may be issued a green card. This type of green card requires a significant capital investment of at least $1.8 million USD.
Asylum or refugee green cardIf you’re seeking political asylum or are a refugee, you may be issued a green card. This doesn’t apply to most Canadian retirees, though.

If you want to obtain full-time residency, the easiest path is to apply for a family-based green card. Many Canadian retirees have children who’ve attended university in the US and went on to pursue their green card or US citizenship.

These children would be able to help their Canadian parents apply for a US green card.

If money isn’t an issue, an investment green card is another straightforward path. You’ll need to invest at least $1.8 million USD and purchase a controlling percentage of an existing US company or start a new company with a business plan outlining how it will create full-time jobs.

Step 2: Financial Planning And Retirement Income

RRSP: Registered Retirement Savings Plan

Once you determine how you plan on retiring in the US, you’ll need to begin financial planning. If you’ve lived in Canada for at least 20 years, then you should be eligible to receive the maximum eligible payment amount for the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Old Age Security (OAS), even if you’re living abroad.

Assuming that you’ve contributed to an RRSP account throughout your career, you’ll also be able to convert your RRSP into an RRIF and begin withdrawing money, which will be subject to standard income taxes.

Other sources of retirement income could include:

  • Dividends from stocks
  • A business that you own or have invested in
  • TFSA savings and investment income

The cost of living in the United States is similar to Canada and can vary significantly depending on where you live. For example, living in a major city like New York City, Miami, or San Francisco is far more expensive than living in a smaller city.

Make sure that your retirement income can pay for the cost of living in the United States and any travelling you plan on doing outside of the US.

Step 3: Plan Your Living Situation

Old Age Security

If you’re following the “snowbird” retirement path, then you’ll need to figure out a living plan for both countries. There are several ways to go about this:

  • Rent out your home in Canada while you’re renting a home/apartment in the US for six months
  • Purchase a house in the US and rent it out for six months of the year while you’re in Canada
  • Own no property in either country and rent your residence in both countries

Renting out your residence while you’re out of the country is the best way to manage your finances.

On the other hand, if you plan on obtaining a green card and retiring to the US full-time, you’ll need to plan on selling your Canadian home (or ending your rental agreement) and purchasing/renting a residence in the United States.

Most foreign retirees in the US start by renting a residence since purchasing a home can be a lengthy process.

Step 4: Apply For Private Healthcare In The US

If you’re travelling as a snowbird to the US, your provincial healthcare may cover some medical expenses (this varies by province).

However, if you plan on living in the US full-time, you’ll need to apply for private healthcare, as the US doesn’t offer public healthcare outside of low-income Medicare/Medicaid programs.

Step 5: Pack And Move

Once you’ve planned your finances, arranged your living situation, and have a healthcare plan, you should be ready to move! One of the advantages of retiring in the US is that you’ll always be able to return to Canada as long as your passport is current.

Flights from the US to Canada are generally affordable, which means you’ll be able to come back and visit family and friends and take care of other affairs when necessary.

Conclusion – The Easiest Way To Retire In The US From Canada

If you’re not 100% sure about retiring in the United States, I recommend starting with a six-month stay in the US. You can rent a few short-term rentals in a few of your favourite cities or towns, which will give you a chance to discover the area you enjoy the most.

If you want to pursue full-time retirement in the US after this, you can apply for a green card through the US Customs and Immigration (USCIS) with a family sponsorship or by making an investment of over $1.8 million into a US-based business.

Florida has become a very popular retirement destination for Canadians, thanks to its warm weather, low taxes, and low cost of living. Keep on reading to see my guide to retiring in Florida from Canada!

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Author Bio - Christopher Liew is a CFA Charterholder with 11 years of finance experience and the creator of Read about how he quit his 6-figure salary career to travel the world here.

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