How To Immigrate to Canada (1/10)

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How To... Canada! Welcome to my new “How To… Canada” series! In this series, I’ll try to put my knowledge to good use and shed some light on my new country: Canada. You will learn how some immigration tips and tricks, how to improve your proficiency in both official languages, how to find a job, how to settle in Canada etc. I’ll publish a new “How To… Canada” post every Saturday.

Interested in immigrating to Canada? Just want to know more about your options? You came to the right place. To start the “How To… Canada” series, I’ll present you with different immigration options.

Immigrating to Canada means to become a landed immigrant, and to obtain permanent residence. As a permanent resident, you can live, work and study anywhere and in Canada, you can receive social benefits (including health care), and after a certain period of time, you can apply to become a Canadian citizen. However, you can not vote and you must meet some residency requirements (being in Canada at least two years in a five years period).

Canada is an open country, with a transparent immigration policy. Even though immigrating is challenging for many reasons, it is usually doable.

First of all, let’s tackle some misconceptions about the immigration process:

  • Marrying a Canadian citizen doesn’t make you a Canadian citizen yourself: it only allows you apply for immigration… like everybody else.
  • Hiring an immigration lawyer/ lying about some facts/ being a citizen of X country speeds up the immigration process: honestly, the only thing that can speed it up is filling up the forms properly. And it’s challenging enough.
  • I might win the immigration lottery: not you won’t. There is no immigration lottery for Canada. The USA do have a Diversity Visa Program (which is free by the way, please don’t get scammed), basically a visa lottery held every year. Not Canada.
  • Canada is heaven on earth: maybe, but it’s bloody cold.

Now, because there are so many scams associated with the immigration process, you main reference website should always be the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Also keep in mind that immigration policies change quite often, so always get the latest informations.

There are basically six immigration categories:

The most common categories are the skilled-workers and the sponsorship ones, so let’s have a look at how it works.

How to apply in the skilled worker category?

Basically, you need to have at least one year paid work experience, and this experience must be on the on the Canadian National Occupational Classification. Factors, such as your language proficiency (English or French), your age (ideally between 25 and 35…) and your adaptability help a lot. All these factors will be add up to a mark. The current pass mark is 67 (it changes often…). You can take a self-assessment test to see if you would qualify: Skilled workers and professionals self-assessment test.

What’s the difference between the skilled worker category and the skilled workers selected by the province of Quebec?

Quebec is a province of Canada, but it has the power to select its immigrants. You will still have to have some work experience etc. and pass the Quebec skilled-worker assessment. In addition to the federal requirements, a step will be added in your immigration, since you will have to obtain a CSQ (Certificat de Sélection du Québec). You can evaluate your chances to be selected by Quebec through this self-assessment test. If you’re selected by the province of Quebec and follow up the immigration process, you will be a permanent resident in Canada, so you can live and work wherever you want. However, when you’re selected by Quebec, you will sign a moral agreement that you will settle in Quebec.

Whether you immigrate to Quebec or apply directly on the federal level for the other provinces, you will have to:

  • Take a full medical exam (you will receive instruction on where to take the exam)
  • Show that you have the funds required to settle in Canada. This is to prove you will be able to support yourself when you arrive to Canada. As of July 2008, it’s $10,168 for one person, $12,659 for a couple etc. For Quebec, it’s much less: about $5,000 for a coupe. Note that you should have much more funds than that because your first few months in Canada are always tough!

And how about sponsorship?

Sponsorship is the best category for you is your spouse is Canadian. Your main goal here will be to show that your relationship is genuine: how long do you know each other, where did you meet etc. Interviews are quite common to make sure it’s not a marriage in name only…

You don’t have to be married to be sponsor: common-law partners can be sponsored as well. However, note that you will have to prove you lived together for at least one year continuously before you apply for permanent residence. If you were not able to live together for a valid reason (visa denied, work commitment etc.) you can apply as conjugal partners. You will then have to build a very strong application to show that you are indeed in a love relationship.

As an applicant, you will have to pass a medical exam.

You can also sponsor family members: see the list of eligible relatives.

How much does it cost?

  • Processing fees: $550 per person for the skilled-workers, for the sponsorship category it’s $75 + 475$
  • Right of permanent resident fee: $490 per person
  • Third party fees: don’t forget the medical exam, documents translation if needed, language test if requested etc.

This is just to give you an idea, as there are lower fees for dependant children, other categories etc.

How long does it take?

Big question! The CIC has an official application processing time page. That said, it’s not always accurate. Some things can speed up your application:

  • Make sure that all your forms are filled up and that you provide current information
  • Make sure you include all the documents required (police certificate etc.)
  • Make sure you justify and explain anything out of the ordinary (applications never have enough room for more explanation, just attach another sheet of paper!)

On the other side, some factors can slow down your application:

  • Forms missing informations
  • Police clearance required from various countries
  • Previous denied applications

Expect a minimum of 6-12 months to several years for your application to be processed.

Applying from inside Canada vs. from outside Canada has long been debated. It seems that applications take longer if you’re already in Canada, but you might qualify for a temporary work visa meanwhile. Both ways have their pros and cons.

Final advices…

The immigration process is a journey. It is very draining to gather all the paperwork needed and to fill up the form (it took me several months!) but this is necessary to ensure you provide all the infos needed. Waiting for your application to be processed can be long too… use this time to research about settling in Canada, to improve your French or your English, to apply for jobs and eventually… eventually you will get it.

I’m not an expert of course, but drop me a line if you have any question!


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Is it true that my wife and I must have all of our bills and/or debt paid off in full on top of the $10-$13000 needed to immigrate? I can understand and appreciate the need for “seed money” being a new immigrant and not having any family, but couldn’t we just pay the same bills we have here in the US when we live in Toronto? Or must we have them all paid off in full in order to move to Toronto? Surely people must relocate to Canada all the time who still have US bills or debt to pay? As long as we tell the creditors where we’re moving and continue to pay our bills it shouldn’t break any rules or laws, right?

    Also, what if I telecommute for a company in Toronto, even if it’s only part-time? Doesn’t that make me already employed there?

    • I have no idea. I have never heard of such a requirement and as far as I know, some people keep on paying the mortgage of a house back home, so I guess that can be considered a debt.

      You should check with CIC.

  2. Hi my name is manu ..I am living in usa on temporary green card but soon i will get my permanent green parents and my brother are in India.My father is in police department and my brother is in army .Their education is high school.My question is can they apply for canada permanent residence if yes then in what category..

    Thanks in Advance

    • They should do the free test on the government website to see if they qualify for the skilled worker category. Whether they are resident of the USA or India doesn’t matter.

  3. Hi ,I am a PhD student in Japan ( I am not Japanese) , can I apply for immigrant in Canada directly without connection to any university of getting job offer from Canada? I mean usually the process is like applying to a university for a postdoctoral position and then after being accepted we can get visa go to Canada and after that apply for permanent resistant. So my question is if it is possible to get the permanent resistant first and after being settled in Canada start job hunting or finding a position in a university?

    • You should have a look at for all the basic immigration info. Most people apply for permanent residence in the skilled worker category, it’s a point-based system. If you qualify, you do not need a job offer. It would be very difficult to find a job in Canada before being a legal resident anyway. I’m not familiar with postdoc though.

  4. jainesh patel on

    hi zhu,

    i am from India.

    I am qualified chartered accountant from india. i have done internship of 3.5yrs.
    i am aged 26yrs.

    i want to immigrate to canada. please can you let me know the procedure that i can do without hiring the visa consultant and what would the procedure cost in total to reach there ad obtain PR?


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