Fri November 05, 2004 01:30 PM ET
By David Ljunggren
OTTAWA (Reuters) - The number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration Web site has shot up six-fold as Americans flirt with the idea of abandoning their homeland after President George W. Bush's election win this week.
"When we looked at the first day after the election, November 3, our Web site hit a new high, almost double the previous record high," immigration ministry spokeswoman Maria Iadinardi said on Friday.
On an average day some 20,000 people in the United States log onto the Web site, www.cic.gc.ca -- a figure which rocketed to 115,016 on Wednesday. The number of U.S. visits settled down to 65,803 on Thursday, still well above the norm.
Bush's victory sparked speculation that disconsolate Democrats and others might decide to start a new life in Canada, a land that tilts more to the left than the United States.
Would-be immigrants to Canada can apply to become permanent resident, a process that often takes a year. The other main way to move north on a long-term basis is to find a job, which requires a work permit.
But please spare the sob stories.
Asked whether an applicant would be looked upon more sympathetically if they claimed to be a sad Democrat seeking to escape four more years of Bush, Iadinardi replied: "There would be no weight given to statements of feelings."
Canada is one of the few major nations with an large-scale immigration policy. Ottawa is seeking to attract between 220,000 and 240,000 newcomers next year.
"Let's face it, we have a population of a little over 32 million and we definitely need permanent residents to come to Canada," said Iadinardi. "If we could meet (the 2005) target and go above it, the more the merrier."
But right now it is too early to say whether the increased interest will result in more applications.
"There is no unusual activity occurring at our visa missions (in the United States). Having someone who intends to come to Canada is not the same as someone actually putting in an application," said Iadinardi.
"We'll only find out whether there has been an increase in applications in six months."
The waiting time to become a citizen is shorter for people married to Canadians, which prompted the birth of a satirical Web site called www.marryanamerican.ca.
The idea of increased immigration by unhappy Americans is triggering some amusement in Canada. Commentator Thane Burnett of the Ottawa Sun newspaper wrote a tongue-in-cheek guide to would-be new citizens on Friday.
"As Canadians, you'll have to learn to embrace and use all the products and culture of Americans, while bad-mouthing their way of life," he said.