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10 Common Immigration Questions

The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa
The Canadian Parliament In Ottawa

Welcome to the “How to immigrate to Canada” series, ten articles covering the basics—immigration categories, rights and duties as a permanent resident, first steps as a newcomer and more.

Browse these articles for more info on immigrating to Canada.

(Last updated No. 2020)

Here are the answers to the ten most common immigration questions.

Help me, I’ll do anything to come to Canada!

I often get emails from people desperate to leave their country and settle in Canada for a better life. I can certainly sympathize with the situation, which ranges from “I’ve been living in a war zone for ten years” to “I think my current head of state is an idiot”.  

You can always see if you’re eligible in one of the immigration categories.

However, you may not be able to qualify under the refugees category.

The Canadian refugee system has two main parts:

  • the Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people who need protection from outside Canada and
  • the In-Canada Asylum Program for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada

You may want to see the Refugee claims statistics to see claims that are typically accepted. Hint—98 applications were sent from Americans in 2020 and only 1 was accepted.

I don’t have enough points for the skilled worker category, what can I do?

The skilled worker category used a point-based system and you need to score at least 67 points to be eligible to apply. So first, you should check your eligibility to apply as a Federal Skilled Worker.

Don’t submit your application if you score lower than 67 points. Instead, find areas where you can score higher to improve your chances of being selected.

You can’t change your age but you may get more points in selection factors such as education, language abilities, experience, arranged employment or adaptability. Take French or English language classes, network to find a potential employer in Canada or get more work experience in your field.

Am I too old to immigrate to Canada?

This is a touchy question. Skilled workers get the most point from 18-35 years old. At 45, you only get 2 points and from 47, zero. This is because Canada needs immigrants who will work a long career, pay taxes, have children and won’t retire too early. Studies probably shown as well that younger immigrants are more adaptable overall.

Cynical? Well, skilled workers are supposed to fill a labour gap in Canada.

If you’re 45 and over you could still be eligible under other immigration categories but it’s going to be difficult to qualify as a skilled worker.

What’s fastest way to immigrate to Canada?

It takes time to get permanent residence status in Canada. Depending on the category—economic immigration or family sponsorship—and current backlog, you can expect to wait from six months, a year, sometimes several years.

You can check current and average processing times for each immigration category for a better idea.

Hiring an immigration lawyer or consultant will not speed up the process. Submitting a complete and accurate application can help, though.  

Will I get permanent residence faster if I apply to live in Quebec?

Many French-speakers think their application will be accepted more easily or processed faster if they go through the Quebec selection process.

It might have bee true decades ago but nowadays, it often means an extra (long) step since applicants must get a Certificat de Sélection du Québec and there’s quite a backlog, plus immigration quotas are lower than they used to be.

If you plan to settle in Quebec, go through the Quebec immigration process. If you plan to settle anywhere in Canada, don’t bother with this so-called “shortcut” and submit your application directly at the federal level.

Do I get a Canadian passport when I marry a Canadian citizen?

Nope. This is a common immigration myth.

First of all, it takes at least three years of permanent residence in Canada to be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.

Second, your relationship with a Canadian citizen doesn’t give you any special right except being able to apply for permanent residence under the sponsorship category.

I was told to come for an interview, is it normal?

It’s fairly common to be required to meet with a Government of Canada officer as part of the immigration process.

During the interview, the officer will typically check your credentials, test your language abilities and evaluate your chances to establish yourself successfully in Canada. This may be a chance for you to present a strong immigration project, as the officer may possess wide discretionary authority to accept you even if you lack a few points to qualify.

If you applied in the family class (i.e. sponsored by a spouse or partner), the officer will focus on evaluating whether the union is genuine or is a marriage or convenience. Questions will be about your relationship with your spouse—where you met, how the relationship developed, etc.

How do I apply for Canadian citizenship?

You have to be a permanent resident living in Canada for at least three years (or more exactly 1095 days) before being eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship.

The citizenship process is relatively straightforward compared to the permanent residence process. However, it does involve paperwork and fees and requires some patience.

My application was refused, what do I do now?

If your application in an economic immigration category is denied, you will be given a reason—not enough points because of a lack of work experience, work experience not on the Canadian National Occupational Classification, insufficient language skills, etc. Basically, you will be given something to work on in most cases.

In the spouse category, applicants are typically denied permanent residence status when officials believe the relationship isn’t genuine.  

You could also be found inadmissible to Canada for a number of reasons, including security, financial or medical reasons. This is the only time where I’d recommend seeking legal help if you want to fight the decision.

You can file an immigration appeal in some situation. You can also improve your chance of being selected (such as getting more work experience) and submit a new application later.

Will my life be better in Canada?

I don’t know. Regardless of your background, you’re taking a chance and hoping for the best but it’s impossible to predict how positive your experience will be and whether you’ll get the life you wanted.

I’ve been living in Canada for almost twenty years. Most of my immigrant friends have been here for years as well, yet once in a while, we still wonder whether we made the right choice. Some years are tougher than others and you will never erase your past life “back home.”

You should be aware of basic challenges most immigrants face before considering applying for permanent residence. Will you be able to find a job easily in your field? Will you need Canadian credentials? Have you been to Canada before? Is the entire family okay with the idea to move? What are your goals? Do you know anyone in Canada?

Making friends, fitting in, raising a child in a foreign culture and adapting to a new way of life isn’t as easy as you think. But it’s also a fun and rewarding challenge if you don’t mind cultural differences and keep an open mind.

Good luck!

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