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Immigrating to Canada through Quebec: Still Worth It?

Canadian Coat of Arms, Ottawa, May 2012

The question may sound strange but lately, reading immigration news, I started to wonder whether immigrating to Canada through the Quebec process was still worth it.

Indeed, prospective immigrants to Canada who are planning to settle in Quebec must go through “the Quebec process”, since the province selects immigrants to achieve certain objectives. Meanwhile, the federal government of Canada is still responsible for admitting immigrants.

So if you are planning to settle in Quebec, you must go through two distinct processes:

First, being selected by the provin­cial gov­ern­ment of Que­bec and obtain a Certificat de Sélection du Québec (CSQ). At this stage, your edu­ca­tional and work back­grounds are assessed, as well as your abil­ity to inte­grate into Que­bec.

Second, being accepted by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of Canada. Per­ma­nent res­i­dence can be granted after a medical exam and a background check.

Those planning to settle in Quebec have long known that the additional step, obtaining a CSQ,incurred extra fees. For the principal applicant, it was CA$406 (before April 1, 2012) and for the spouse and each dependent child, it was CA$156. And each member of the family, including kids, needs a CSQ.

Yet prospective immigrants didn’t mind the extra cost and hassle for a lot of reasons:

  • Quebec has long favoured francophone immigrants and immigrating through the Quebec process was said to be easier than going through the federal process.
  • A lot of French speakers do want to settle in Quebec for linguistic or cultural reasons.
  • The province of Quebec heavily advertises immigrating to “la belle province” through a network of Bureaux d’Immigration du Québec (BIC) around the world that offers free information sessions.
  • The proof of funds required for Quebec-selected applicants is much lower than the proof of funds required for those immigrating to other provinces ($2,889 for one adult arriving in Quebec versus $11,115 for an adult settling anywhere else in Canada).
  • The immigration process through Quebec was said to be faster for qualified French speakers.

But lately, the Ministry of Immigration and Cultural Communities responsible for immigration matters in Quebec made a number of dramatic changes to the process.

First, on April 1, 2012, the fees levied by the Gouvernement du Québec for processing an immigration application were raised from $406 to $750—ouch! And don’t forget that the Quebec process is only half of the process, you still have the pay the permanent residence fees to the Government of Canada.

Second, to obtain the CSQ, even native French speakers (for instance, French citizens) must now take a French language test. The fees depend on where you take the test, but seem to be around €100 in France.

Third, Quebec is facing a heavy backlog of applications and obtaining a CSQ takes longer and longer. For instance, the Quebec visa office in Paris is currently processing applications it received in September 2011. For Northern Africa immigrants, processing times are much much longer: the Quebec visa office in Algeria is currently processing application received in… July 2008! You can see the processing times here for other visa offices around the world. And don’t forget that this is just one step of the process: the federal government then have to process your application!

So going through the Quebec process is now more expensive, with more hassle, and takes longer than ever—hence my initial question, “is it still worth it?”

I’m not arguing whether settling in Quebec is a good idea. I understand the province has a strong appeal for a lot of French speakers, and if you do plan to live in Quebec, you don’t have the choice, you must go through the Quebec immigration process.

But if you are hesitating between living in Quebec and living in other provinces, I’d urge you to see whether going through the federal process would be easier, faster and cheaper.

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