Breaking Down Your Options for Immigrating to Canada
When Immigrating to Canada, there are several avenues you can take, however, the easiest and most common ways are to immigrate as a spouse, a student, or as a foreign worker.
However, that’s not to say that the immigration process itself is easy. When coming to any new country, figuring out the proper channels and immigration processes can be complicated and confusing.
To help you better navigate Canada’s immigration system, we’ve outlined the various avenues for immigrating to Canada via these channels along with the Visa and eligibility requirements and other relevant information you may find useful.
Coming to Canada as The Spouse of a Canadian Citizen
Getting Sponsored by Your Spouse to Become a Permanent Resident
If you have recently married a Canadian citizen but are from another country and wish to live in Canada with your new spouse, the first step is to apply for spousal sponsorship.
There are two ways to obtain spousal sponsorship in Canada.
If you are already living in Canada and have obtained a visa such as a work permit or study permit when you married your Canadian spouse, you will still have to apply for spousal sponsorship, but can remain in Canada as your sponsorship application is being processed. This is called inland spousal sponsorship.
If you are not living in Canada at the time of your marriage, you will have to apply for outland spousal sponsorship. This means you will apply for sponsorship while outside of the country and will not be able to move to Canada until your application has been approved and you have obtained a permanent residency visa.
In order to act as a sponsor, the Canadian spouse must be over the age of 18 and be able to prove they are financially secure and can support their partner for 3 years from when they become a permanent resident.
Both partners must also prove the validity of their marriage and provide evidence of a relationship beyond just a marriage certificate.
- Filling out a relationship questionnaire
- Wedding invitations and photos
- Proof of joint assets
- Proof of marriage registration
- Other information that provides evidence of a relationship
Avenues for Coming to Canada as a Skilled Worker
If you have work experience and skills that you developed in your country of origin that you feel can translate well in the Canadian job market, immigrating to Canada as a skilled worker is an avenue you can explore. However, there are several different ways to go about it.
Federal Skilled Worker Program
The Federal Skilled Worker Program is a fast-track path towards immigration run by the federal government that uses the Express Entry system.
In order to pursue permanent residence in Canada as a skilled worker, you will need to make an expression of interest by creating an online Express Entry profile.
Based on the information that you have provided in your profile, you will be given a score that will determine how you rank among a group of other eligible candidates.
The highest-ranked candidates will be issued an Invitation To Apply (ITA) that allows you to apply for a permanent resident visa.
The minimum requirements for applying under the Federal Skilled Worker program include:
- At least one year of continuous full-time or equivalent paid work experience throughout the past 10 years in a skilled occupation
- Language skills in English or French (reading, writing, listening, and speaking)
- A Canadian educational credential (certificate, diploma, or degree) or foreign credential and Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) report.
Quebec Skilled Worker Program
This is the province of Quebec’s version of the Federal Skilled Worker Program and is the avenue you would take if you wish to live and work in Quebec.
Because Quebec has a unique agreement with the federal government, the province has been able to develop its own rules for choosing immigrants it feels will adapt well to living and working in Quebec.
Here’s how the process works:
- Apply to the Government of Quebec for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ).
- After your application is submitted, the Province of Quebec will assess your eligibility using its own set of rules and criteria.
- If accepted, you will receive a certificate showing that the Province of Quebec has accepted you as an immigrant.
- Once you receive a CSQ, you must apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for permanent residence.
Provincial Nominee Program
The Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individual immigrants for permanent residence who are interested in settling in a particular province.
Under these programs, provinces typically nominate applicants with experience in occupations that are in high demand, or who will otherwise make economic contributions to the province.
Each Canadian province and territory (except for Nunavut and Quebec) has its own Provincial Nominee Program.
In order to immigrate to Canada under a PNP, you must first apply for a Provincial Nomination Certificate from the provincial government where you would like to live. After receiving a certificate, you can then apply for a permanent resident visa.
Canada’s business immigration program allows newcomers to obtain visas based on their ability to invest in or start their own business in Canada.
There are two categories under the Business Immigration program, each with its own requirements:
- Start-Up Visa Program
- Self-Employed Persons Program
To be eligible for the Start-Up Visa Program, you must:
- Obtain a commitment of support from a designated Canadian venture capital fund, business incubator, or angel investor group
- Be able to communicate in either French or English
- Have enough money to cover your cost of living before you start earning an income
To qualify for the Self-Employed Persons Program, you must have at least one of the following:
- Work experience that will allow you to make a significant contribution to cultural or athletic life in Canada
- Experience in farm management and the intent to purchase and manage a farm in Canada.
Canadian Experience Class
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is a permanent resident visa category for skilled workers who already have experience working in Canada and want to become permanent residents.
You may also be able to apply under the CEC if you have graduated from a Canadian post-secondary institution where you were a full-time student for at least two academic years.
To be considered eligible under the CEC, you must:
- Have at least 1 year of full-time (or equivalent) work experience in Canada
- Apply within 3 years after you began working in Canada
- Have had legal status while working, or studying, in Canada
- Meet the minimum English or French language requirements
- Plan to live outside the province of Quebec
It’s also important to note that your work experience in Canada must be paid, full-time, or the equivalent hours part-time (at least 30 hours a week).
Temporary Foreign Worker Permit
If you are not yet a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you will need to obtain a work permit in order to legally work in Canada.
This needs to be done before coming to Canada.
In order to obtain a work permit:
- You need to receive a job offer from a Canadian employer before applying
- The employer must also apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
- ESDC will determine whether the employer is able to hire a foreign worker to fill the job vacancy
Temporary foreign workers can later apply for permanent residence under the Canadian Experience Class or Provincial Nominee Program.
Coming to Canada as a Student
If you are planning on studying in Canada and taking a program that lasts longer than six months, you must obtain a study permit from the Government of Canada.
Process for Obtaining a Study Permit
Before applying for a study permit, you first need to have already received a letter of acceptance from the school you are looking to study at. A valid passport or other travel document is also required.
When it comes time to apply for your study permit, there are two ways of doing so— Online or by going to a visa application centre in your country. Processing times vary depending on your country of origin.
In order to be accepted for a Canadian study permit, you will need:
- A letter of acceptance from a designated learning institution (DLI)
- A valid passport or travel document
- Evidence that you will be able support yourself financially while you are in Canada along with any family members who come with you
What You Can and Cannot Do with a Study Permit
When studying in Canada with a study permit, you will be able to work part time (20 hours or less per week) without having to obtain a work permit.
However, if you have taken an authorized leave from your study program, you will not be able to continue working on or off campus, even if your study permit says you’re allowed to work in Canada.
There are also a number of conditions you will need to meet in order to maintain your student status. By not meeting these conditions, you risk losing your study permit and may be asked to leave Canada.
These conditions include:
- Be enrolled at a designated learning institution (DLI)
- Show you’re actively pursuing your studies
- Notify the government should you transfer to a different post-secondary school
Once you complete your studies and your study permit expires, you must leave Canada, unless you have obtained a Post-Graduation Work Permit.
Canada is often defined by its willingness to welcome newcomers from all over the world, making it a great place for immigrants to settle and start a new chapter in their lives. However, the journey to get here can be difficult without the right information.
But with the proper knowledge and guidance from an immigration lawyer, you can focus on the journey ahead and start settling into your new life in Canada.