Welcome to my new series, “How to immigrate to Canada“!
I recently received quite a lot of emails, asking me questions about the immigration process. So I decided to explain the whole process in 10 posts, which will be published every Saturday.
I also encourage you to ask any question you may have. I’m not an immigration consultant, but from experience, I may be able to point you to the right direction!
In the series, we will see the different options you have to come to Canada, as well as your rights and duties as a Permanent Resident, what happens after you arrive etc.
So, you received the great news: “decision made”, you have just obtained the permanent residence in Canada! What’s next now?
Before you arrive
If your permanent resident application is approved, you will be asked to submit your passport to the Canadian visa office where you applied in order to receive your permanent resident visa.
You will get two important documents:
- The confirmation of permanent residence (with identification information, photograph…)
- An entry visa
The confirmation of permanent residence has an expiry date by which you must arrive in Canada. This doesn’t mean you have to settle in Canada by that date, but it does mean you must travel to Canada and become a landed immigrant before the confirmation of permanent residence expiry date. After that, you may come back to your home country and prepare your actual arrival if you wish.
You must have your Confirmation of Permanent Residence and your visa with you when you arrive in Canada.
When landing in Canada
When you arrive in Canada with the permanent residence, you become a landed immigrant. This is a very important step.
Note that there are two cases here:
- If you received your permanent residence abroad: no problem here, most people will fly to Canada and land in an airport. The busiest the airport, the more likely it is that officers will be familiar with immigration papers, that there will be interpreters available if needed etc. In the East, Montreal and Toronto are good choices.
- If you received your permanent residence while you were already in Canada: this is a bit weird, but you have to exit Canada and re-enter (even if it’s five minutes later!) in order to become a landed immigrant. The French have an expression for it: “faire le tour du poteau” (to go around the flagpole). Most people will go to the U.S.A and re-enter Canada immediately walking or driving (or biking apparently in the case of Priyank, the author of Final Transit!). Officers on both sides of the border are used to it and you shouldn’t have any problem. I did it in 2005 to become a landed immigrant (The Prescott Shuffle Story).
Whether your arrive by air or by land, you will first meet an officer from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
The officer will ask to see:
- Your passport
- Your valid permanent resident visa
- Your confirmation of permanent residence
- If you immigrate through a category that requires you to prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself (for example, the skilled worker category), the officer will need to see the supporting documents, such as a recent bank statement.
There are a few routines questions to establish your identity and to make sure you gave correct information that match your application, but this usually only take a few minutes. Make sure you have all your documents with you and everything will be fine!
Be aware that you will be asked to declare items you bring in Canada. Take a moment to check out what you can and cannot bring in Canada, and what you must declare. You may want to check “How to I bring my belongings with me?” as well.
After that, the officer will authorize you to enter Canada as a permanent resident. He will also confirm your Canadian mailing address. Your permanent resident card will be mailed to you at this address.
The permanent resident card
A permanent resident card is a small wallet-sized card and a very valuable document, which allows you to prove your status in Canada or when traveling in and out of the country.
Permanent resident’s cards are not issued on the spot when you arrive in Canada. They are mailed to your Canadian address within a few weeks. If you do not have a Canadian address at the time when you land in Canada, you must supply one to CIC within 180 days (plenty of time!). There is not fee for the permanent resident card applied for at the time of the landing process. It usually takes about 30 days to receive the permanent card after you land in Canada, but it varies (you can check the current processing time here).
The permanent residence card is normally issued for 5 years. It can be renewed if you wish to remain a permanent resident, or you may not need it anymore if you apply for Canadian citizenship after three years of residency!
…And then what?
After landing in Canada, some people decide to go back to their home country for a little while to finalize their move and settle their affairs. Some have houses to sell, some have to finish their work etc. This is perfectly acceptable. Once you become a landed immigrant, you are free to travel in and out of Canada!
However, if you leave Canada before you receive your permanent resident card, you may need to apply for a single-use permanent resident travel document to return to Canada. If you hold a passport from a country that does not need a visitor visa to come to Canada (such as with an American or a U.E passport), you should be able to enter Canada without your permanent resident card. See the list of countries which require visa to visit Canada or read the article I need to leave Canada but I do not have my PR card yet for more information.
Be aware that to keep your status as a permanent resident in Canada, you must meet the residency requirement. This means that you must live in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period. If you don’t, your will lose your permanent residence status (and yes, it does happen a lot).
If you stay in Canada right away after becoming a landed immigrant, you can start applying for Canadian IDs (such as your SIN card), looking for a job, a place to live etc.
About being a permanent resident
As a permanent resident in Canada, you have both responsibilities. You can:
- Live, work or study anywhere in Canada
- Receive most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive, such as health coverage
- Be protected under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Your responsibilities now include paying taxes. Obviously, whatever tax software you were using originally will not be up-to-par with Canadian tax laws. Luckily though, there are several free tax software programs available for Canadian residents to use. Aside from that, you should already know that you will have to respect and abide by Canadian laws.
Note that as permanent resident, you cannot vote or hold certain jobs that have a high security clearance.
You may lose your permanent status if you don’t meet the residency requirements or if you are convicted of a serious crime.
After three years in Canada as a permanent resident, you may choose to apply for Canadian citizenship if you meet the requirements.