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. Hi Zhu,

    I have friends who emigrated to Canada 5 years ago and were officially citizens just a couple of months back. Whenever I get to talk to them over the phone or in a chat room, their stories sound very much like the one’s you write.:-)

    Cold is an understatement, according to them, and long processing time they say should be changed to forever processing time. But they have stayed and they work and they do love the country. One of them has a brother who couldn’t wait and proceeded to the United States 3 years ago, now he wants to return to Canada. Life in the US is difficult, he says, and it’s not a good place to raise children, according to his brother’s opinion.

    This is certainly helpful, and should you decide to put up a service for those intending to migrate to Canada, I would certainly give you a strong recommendation. LOL! 🙂 –Durano, done!

    durano lawayans last great read…Freedom From Fantasy

  2. Hmmm… skilled worker I? Only if Canada considers being a smart-ass a skill. I may have a better chance as a refugee, eh?

    John J Savos last great read…The Whole Shebang

  3. I’m guessing it’s just a little colder than Rochester, counting in the biting 24/7 winds that make walking seem tougher than pushing an armored tank out of a pit. Needless to say, nobody dares open up an umbrella 😛

    I just spoke to a duck and it said it hadn’t filled out the forms. Then again, it must be a lazy migrator if it’s here in the Summer.

    Ulquiorras last great read…Random Memory #001 – Chemistry Conundrum

  4. Something’s wrong: I don’t have a job lined up in Canada, never lived there, but I still score 90 out of a max 100. WHAT????

  5. I scored a 63 on the self test, so I’ll have to lie to get in or study my French. Je desire parle francaise, sil vous plait. I see that as a basic language skill, but I could tick the intermediate button on the questionaire. I would pass the test, until someone asked me to actually speak French aloud.
    It might be easier to petition California’s entry into the Commonwealth instead… Um… Canada IS a commonwealth, isn’t it? But would all Canadians then move to California for the weather improvement?

    Seraphines last great read…The Mandibular Nerve Pinch

  6. Interesting read Zhu and as far as I can tell, your immigration policy is a bit industrial driven (e.g. judged by the categories). Most of the immigrant in Norway is in the category refugees. Then it is to remember that we are an associate member of the European Union, so every can come free in the other categories.

    RennyBAs last great read…Happy 4th of July from Norway

  7. @Aiglee – I guess I thought it was behind me when I first started to blog… then I realized my experience could be useful!

    @durano lawayan – Immigrating is such a tough decision, especially for people with a family. It was easier for me. The cold isn’t too bad, it’s just the length of the winters which is tough.

    @John J Savo – We like smart-ass people but you will have to start making jokes about weather to be truly Canadian!

    @Ulquiorra – I can see the weather is similar. But come over there, less people and free health care 😉

    @Feng – It was easier than it seems: once you go through the immigration process, you never forget it!

    @Shantanu – It’s challenging, but interesting too!

    @Chen – There is a huge Asian (and Chinese) community in Vancouver I’ve been told. Better weather I guess, and closer to Asia.

    @itelli – We want you NOW 😆

    @Seraphine – Just pretend you can speak French, unless you immigrate in Quebec, chances are the immigration officer won’t speak it any better than you 😆

    @RennyBA – Canada welcomes quite a bit of refugees was well, I just didn’t highlighted here because it’s not the main immigration category for most people. But yeah, Canada needs skilled workers.

    @Scarlet – You’re always welcome!







  9. @YAMILE URCELAY – You do not need a job in Canada in order to apply for permanent residence. Very few people can get a job in Canada when living abroad because as you say, it’s a vicious circle!

    You should calculate if you have enough points to apply in the skilled worker category. You can apply from Mexico, it’s quite easy as long as you have work experience and are qualified.

    It’s better to apply directly for permanent residence than to apply for a temporary work visa… this one is hard to get.

  10. Hi, Zhu!
    Asking about immigrating and stuff I would like to know about the schooling system. See I’ve got a son, he is 13 and I concern about his future study. What do we do first in this regard? Any tips?
    thank you very much!

  11. romielyn a. saladaga on

    hello. i’m a bank employee. i have an uncle and aunt in canada ,is there any possibility that i could get a landed immigrant visa in canada? what are the requirements? any tips? thank you very much.

  12. @Alex – The schooling system is a provincial matter, so it really depends on where you settle. I don’t have kids myself, so I only know a little bit about the Ontario system. Good luck!

    @romielyn a. saladaga – No, sponsoring is only for immediate relatives (parents/ dependent children) and spouse/ partner.

  13. My friend is a dependent applicant for permanent resident in canada. Her husband is the principal applicant. There documents were already submitted in the visa office manila but she realized that there’s a mistake of the information of her previous work experience. There’s no problem with the husband’s application because it was done well. can it affect of their application?

  14. hi there,

    i have soo many questions,

    what if someone has overstayed their visa due to pregnancy, can they still get sponsored? and i heard that Immigration people send out letters saying that your time is done or whatsoever is that true and is it true that if they have sent you a letter stating that you have overstayed your stay and maybe need to leave the country, will it affect your application for a PR or will you be required to live the country before you can come bac?

    secondly, if you have a bad credit, like there are bills that you did not pay and was sent to collections will that affect the application too?

    last but not least, what if the sponsor has fallen behind on child support payments for a months or 2, will that slow the process or what?

    thank you

    • Keep in my that I’m not a professional immigration lawyer…

      1) Overstaying does affect your PR application. Immigration doesn’t send you letters saying your time is done unless they catch you overstaying your visa, and then you are supposed to be deported. You are supposed to know when you must leave the country.

      2) Bad credit, it depends to which extend.

      3) Yes, to the best of my knowledge, it will since the sponsor won’t be able to act as a sponsor until he/ she solves the situation.

      If this describes your situation, I strongly advise you to get some legal help as I don’t see a straightforward process.

  15. Hi Zhu,

    Definetely really useful your blog..I am currently in Montreal as a tourist basically (..also sending some CVs) . I am considering applying for an Skilled Worker Permit as It´s quite hard to get a job without either a working permit or a permanent resident.. I just have an small doubt…:
    1-After checking the self-assessmements tests, I could be qualified as skilled-worker in Quebec.. but It seems quite hard to be qualified as a Federal Skilled-worker( however I have more chances of getting a good job related to my degree in Ontario):

    Which are the ´real law restrictions´ to move to Ontario , once you have obtain your Permanent Visa through Quebec???.


  16. uppss..
    forget my previous post..I just found the answer in your chapter related to Quebec….:))

    Congratulations again for the blog!!

    • Glad you found your answer is another post, I was about to reply anyway (I usually reply in the comment, not by email so that the answer can be used by others in the future).

      Just to confirm, there are NO restrictions in moving to Ontario after going through the Quebec immigration process. Although some Québecers don’t appreciate it, you can do whatever you want! 😉

      Good luck with the process!

  17. Hi Zhu,

    Thanks for your mail! I was trying to reply you through ´ ´, but it couldn´t?? so I pasted it here:

    I have just checked out both applications ( Quebec vs Federal skilled-worked) but I still cannot believe how much easier is applying for Quebec Skilled-worked:

    -It does not seem the CSQ requires to enclose any certificate in ´Education´ and ´ Work Experience´:only ´Indicate´!!!! .Neither in the second stage for Quebec skilled worked applicants; the application for Federal Skilled workers of the Paris Office????. It cannot be possible…they should not ask at least a copy of your qualifications?? maybe I did not see it?????

    -Also About language certificates, also I did not see that Quebec will required any original or notarised copy.., Should I send to them the originals or just a simple photocopy????


  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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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