How To Immigrate to Canada (1/10)


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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