The recent announcement that Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, plan to step back from their royal duties and spend at least part of their time in Canada has dominated the news.
This has prompted a question: How can the couple gain the financial independence they seek, in a country where it appears neither has the right to live and work?
Curious to understand the immigration implications, we looked into it further.
As Canada is a member of the Commonwealth, the Queen and other members of the royal family can visit the country based on their special status as royals. However, for Harry and Meghan, who have stepped down from their royal roles, will be treated as “commoners” and will need to apply for a visa through Cananda’s normal immigration progresses.
“In order to become legal permanent residents of Canada, they would need to apply through our normal immigration processes,” said Béatrice Fénelon, a spokeswoman for Canada’s immigration agency. “However, members of the royal family are not required to seek authorization to come and stay in Canada as visitors.”
Harry is a British citizen, and Meghan is a US citizen. Therefore, if they were to travel to Canada as tourists they could stay in Canada for up to six months before having to depart the country. As tourist visa holders, they would be unable to engage in work. Unless they were to apply for a work permit — which in Canada generally requires a job offer — they may have difficulty earning a living.
Alternatively, if Meghan obtained permanent residency based on her previous employment in Toronto where she worked as an actor in legal drama “Suits.” If not, she could potentially qualify for permanent residency under a visa program for people with experience in an artistic, athletic or cultural field.
If she has permanent residency, Meghan could sponsor Harry through family sponsorship. If not, she could add Harry as a dependent onto a visa application which she makes in Canada based on her artistic skills or employment.
Another option would be to apply through an express entry program for skilled workers. That program is based on a points system, similar to Australia, which takes into consideration factors such as work experience, education, age and English language ability. Applicants begin losing points after their 30th birthdays, so Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, may find their chances of securing a points-tested visa decline over time and should lodge an application as soon as possible.
However, there may be a challenge for the prince in applying for a points-tested visa; he went straight from high school to officer training at the Royal Military Academy, so he doesn’t earn higher-education points.
Some other more obscure options might be for them to apply under Canada’s humanitarian visa program on compassionate grounds, or for the couple to apply through the business visa program if they intend to set up a new foundation or a startup business in Canada.
The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed on 13 January 2020 that the government would play a role if Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, move to Canada. However, if remains to be seen whether the Government will provide any special assistance to obtain permanent residency status.
Whilst the Queen is the Head of State of Canada, the right to grant citizenship is conferred to the Immigration Minister under Canada’s constitution. So it would not be possible for Harry and Meghan to gain Canadian citizenship through their royal ties.
And a final issue for Meghan could be that moving to Canada would jeopardize her chances of getting British citizenship, as she may not have spent a sufficient amount of time in Britain to meet the residency requirements. When Meghan and Harry announced their engagement in 2017, it was confirmed that Meghan intended to become a UK citizen which would require Meghan to have lived in the country for three years before becoming eligible. Even through she is married to a prince, it appears that the Queen and the UK immigration authorities have not taken steps to fast-track a citizenship application for her.
Source: Washington Post “Prince Harry is British royalty, but Canada’s immigration system is likely to treat him as a commoner” 15 January 2020
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: We are not Canadian immigration lawyers and this information is of a general nature and should not be relied upon as immigration advice, in any shape or form. If you have questions about Canadian immigration law, let us know and we can put you in touch with someone qualified to give this advice.