“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.”
She did not respond to questions on whether Harry and Meghan could stay indefinitely as “visitors.”
As tourists traveling on British (Harry) or American (Meghan) passports, they could stay in Canada for up to six months, but then they’d be expected to leave. And without work permits — which can be complicated to get without job offers — they would have difficulty earning a living.
Much could depend on Meghan. She might already have permanent residency after working seven years in Toronto as an actor in the USA Network legal drama “Suits.” If not, she could 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 on her visa application.
Another option would be to apply through an express entry program for skilled workers.
That program is based on a points system, which considers work experience, education, age and language ability. Applicants begin losing points after their 30th birthdays, so Meghan, 38, and Harry, 35, would do well to get their application in as soon as possible.
A problem for the prince: He went straight from Eton College to officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, so he doesn’t earn higher-education points.
Audrey Macklin, a law professor at the University of Toronto, has “no doubt” the couple could secure permanent residency if they planned to live in Canada over the long term. They could even request it on humanitarian or compassionate grounds — a route available to foreigners working on temporary permits or asylum seekers who have maintained solid work records in Canada.
But Harjit Grewal, an immigration consultant with Sterling Immigration in London, warned that a humanitarian claim by the wealthy royals could be greeted with hostility.
The option is typically “a last resort for somebody in dire circumstances, such as fleeing a war or a natural catastrophe,” he said. “So I don’t think it would work.”
Philippe Lagassé, an associate professor of international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, agreed it would be a “pretty sensitive political decision,” and the “cons are pretty heavy.”
And to be granted citizenship, he said, they would “have to demonstrate exceptional service and value to Canada.”
“Is being a member of the royal family up there?” he pondered. “You could always do it, but it might raise the ire of certain people.”
Granting permanent residency, he said, might be “less controversial, but then again, it is still a form of favoritism.”
The queen herself isn’t a citizen, he noted. But she does have a status here: She’s “the personification of the Canadian state.”
Still, she can’t grant Harry and Meghan citizenship, Lagassé said, because she remains bound by Canadian law, which “is very clear that discretion belongs with the [immigration] minister.”
Depending on their plans, Grewal said, the couple have the option of applying through a business immigration program.
The Canadian government offers a start-up visa program for applicants whose business ideas have been backed by a venture capital fund, angel investor group or business incubator. Ontario and British Columbia — two provinces where the couple could establish their part-time abode — have their own programs for business immigrants.
“Both programs have strict requirements,” Grewal said. “Only 5 percent [of applications] get accepted.”
Meanwhile, a concern perhaps more pressing to Canadians has emerged: Who will pay for the couple’s security here?
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has provided security for members of the royal family when they’ve visited Canada on royal tours because they’re considered “internationally protected persons.” It’s unclear whether Harry and Meghan will lose that status as they step back from their royal duties.
On their website, Harry and Meghan note that “the provision of armed security by The Metropolitan Police is mandated by the Home Office.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday that the question of whether taxpayers would be on the hook for their protection had yet to be decided.
“They don’t play a direct constitutional role, and, again, support for the monarchy is not that strong in Canada,” said Daniel Béland, the director of the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.
There might be one additional wrinkle: Moving to Canada could jeopardize Meghan’s chances of getting British citizenship. She will need to have spent a certain amount of time in Britain to qualify.
“Even though she’s married to a prince,” Grewal said, “it doesn’t seem like the queen or the immigration authorities here have tried to fast-track her application in any way.”
Tamara Woroby, a professor of Canadian studies at Johns Hopkins University and Towson University in Maryland, said many Canadians have taken the fact that the couple “could basically go to any country in the world and they’ve chosen Canada” as a compliment.
But “in the end,” she said, “it’s money that’s going to determine . . . how people feel about them.”