Immigrating to Canada: 6 Years Later, What Changed?

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Mackenzie King Bridge, Ottawa, August 2011

Six years ago, I was one of the many applicants waiting for permanent residence in Canada. Citizenship and Immigration’s website was updated weekly, so every Monday I logged in to check my application status. And every week, I sighted because the status invariably showed as “in process”.

One day, I read the magic words: “decision made”.

I immediately felt relieved. Well, really, I was still worried because I wouldn’t know the exact outcome of my application until I receive a letter at home (plus I’m a professional worrier). But I knew I was almost there. Almost. The outcome had to be good because my Working Holiday Visa was about to expire.

You know the rest of the story. I was granted permanent residence in Canada, I quickly exited the country and came back the same day to validate my landed immigrant status. I later became a Canadian citizen.

So, immigration-wise, what changed since 2005?

Immigrating to Canada is cheaper — A lot of people ask me how much does immigrating to Canada really cost. In a nutshell? Less than before. I clearly remember paying my application fees at my local bank. It was pretty much all of my savings and I had never spent that much money in a day. The breakdown was $75 for the sponsorship application, plus $475 for the principal applicant (me), plus $975 for the acquisition of permanent resident status. Total: $1525. A year later, on May 2, 2006, the Right of Permanent Residence Fee (RPRF) was reduced from $975 to $490, effective immediately. Immigrants who had no yet landed were eligible for a $485 refund. I wasn’t, since I had landed a few months earlier. So if you are immigrating to Canada now, think about it: it’s cheaper than it used to, lucky you!

Getting information is easier — Back in 2004, when I started researching how I could live in Canada permanently, there wasn’t a lot of information available. Sure, the CIC website was a great starting point. It listed all the immigration categories available and provided the necessary forms. But immigration lingo was Greek to me and these detailed tables didn’t help much. I wanted to connect with other immigrants, learn from their successes and mistakes, I wanted some dos and donts tips. In the end, I made an appointment with a local immigration lawyer who told me the basics for $50. And I worked it out alone. Nowadays, there are blogs, forums, networks, social media etc. about immigration. Prospective immigrants can get information and tips from other news citizens, and sharing your experience has never been easier.

More visas are issued — I always say there are about 250,000 new permanent residents in Canada per year because that’s the official rough estimate. The exact figures are interesting. In 2006, 253,482 visas were issued. Then, in 2007 and 2008, the numbers dropped slightly, but picked up again: in 2009, 263,676 visas were issued, and in 2010, a record 277,204.

But there is still a huge backlog to tackle — Most immigrants find the toughest part of the process is the wait. I was lucky. A lot of immigrants aren’t and end up waiting for months for their application to be processed in Canada or in one of the visa offices. And the bad news is that the backlog is bigger than it was a few years ago. In 2006, there were 848,547 applicants awaiting a decision. In 2010, there were 1,003,012 prospective immigrants awaiting a decision. Despite the 2008 Action Plan for Faster Immigration, a lot of prospective immigrants face unbelievably long processing times.

The government provides more comprehensive info — Now, prospective immigrants really have no excuse. I don’t want to read any of these “I want to come to Canada, explain me how” messages anymore. The Canadian government is constantly trying to improve communication with prospective immigrants, and there is a lot of information available online. For instance, Come to Canada, a new interactive web tool to determinate if you are eligible to immigration to Canada, complete with forms and detailed step-by-step instructions. You can even follow them on Twitter!

Did you notice other changes? Do you think there will be more changes in the future? Do you think immigrating now is easier or harder than before?


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. Zhu,

    I looked at your most recent picture (on your sidebar): did you lose weight? You look great!

    You are a professional worrier due to your European-Latin roots lol lol…they can’t help but to worry (my father is like that).

    That goes to show that there is always room for improvement in government. I am glad they are making immigrants’ life more easier.


    • 😆 I guess I’m thiner than in my first few years in Canada, but not that much! Probably the picture. I guess it was a good pick then!

      Yep, Europeans are worrier too… must be in our blood!

    • …Especially considering we are are apparently the only English-speaking bloggers about immigration around! 😆 We are a communauty of two.

  2. I think it costed more than 2K for my BF to get his PR in Quebec a few years back … it was quite a sum especially considering that he spent about 8 jobless months in Canada.

  3. Funny how we started this stuff around the same time. For me though I had to wait a lot longer and it seems I keep waiting a lot longer. Still waiting for citizenship.. Don’t want to inquire until I’m back from Vacation, although I know it’s in the local office. Don’t think I ever got my refund either. I know I paid the higher price.. oh well.

    • I’ve heard citizenship processing times in Vancouver are long… that sucks. But hey, it’s going to come eventually!

      You should ask for the refund if you are eligible, it’s probably not too late 😉

  4. Hi from south of the border,
    interesting to see such a perspective on the canadian immigration.
    let me paint less pinky your picture, if you dont mind:

    it might have been more expensive back then, but definitely much easier to immigrate to canada.
    facts: I have entered 2 times canada from the states by being waved at the border, i.e. not inspected 🙂

    The judge at my oath ceremony was DRUNK!!! or had too many …
    and many more but this isnt the place and time to disclose.

    as for the lawyers I hate those suckers and think that smb with a bit of knowledge can figure out his way easy through this process.

    Nowadays the whole immigration is under a horrible state of massive fraud, where PR requirements can be simulated and actually bought. in response this has triggered a massive RQ requests from Imm Can which has clogged the system due to limited resources. Even better the sophistication of ppl has gotten so good, in lying with a cold face in front of an immigration officer and passing successfully the bureaucracy and after getting their first passport never applying for the second one inside the country. yeah you guessed it right: those very cold canadian winters. But thats a choice afterall.and life should be starting with a choice, or are we all just cause and effect of this canadian-zation process?

    Jason (you know who) is trying to strip some of these ppl off their citizenship … well too late this move, and very shallow the hit, and they are too many… the iceberg is soooo big under the water, that he and the rest will be surprised. and this rabbit hole goes much deeper than he thinks, and is much scarier than that backlog you guys are staring at. in one thing he was right: there are so many Canadians that spent 1 month in total in canada. Once they had their maple leaf in the pocket they took the way of no return.

    so most of the people now have their second Can passport issued and there is no chance Immi can do anything for those archived cases. and yes time indeed passes faster when you dont live in canada, but somewhere warm and interesting. I am talking about late 90s early 2000 development of immi. fraud, imagine now when shit really hit the fan and Imm Can is trying to cover it with this desperate move(annulling some 1800 citizenship cases?! … which wont even be that easy in front of a court, as we will witness).
    their online system ? awww a total joke, never worked for me(always late and useless, or as you mentioned: in a solid state= IN PROGRESS …). dont blame canada though: in the process of naturalizing as a US citizen I got an email from US Immi 1 year after the decision was made. so there they have their excuse from the big brother 🙂
    Talking about information: the internet has made one thing easier, and thats exploiting the holes of the system. you will be surprised how people now have two passports one to travel and one to show at Immi Can (hence blank). how traveling and coming back through US border your absence in canada is never noticed. how electronic actions through your bank accounts under different identities, assure you the existence of that aura needed in case your application gets few words smb pays your fictive taxes and salary, while a swipe somewhere assures your presence everywhere, and smb might even help your landlord with the garbage on your behalf (Neo while listening to the Matrix agents).
    and you know why? because we are just numbers for them! and once you get them right, you might as well be john smith for what they care.

    things will get much tougher as all the sides are being more sophisticated in this race against time, in spite of being same time different places.
    The government has no resources to pursue thousands and thousands that are very badly abusing the system.

    after all the new pink is the American blue pass(and you thought it was the Canadian Blue .. that was a decade ago 🙂 )
    and dont worry about the canada population (hearing that is growing every year by quarter a million …heheheh). if the climate changes do really happen our country (let me rephrase : your country ) population will double in a month. because all the “canadians” will be back 🙂

    O canada …. Ouch Canada!

    • Thank you for your comment!

      I don’t share you opinion overall but hey, there are always different ways to see a same issue.

      Fraud does exist but I don’t think it’s as extensive as the media portrayed it. If you have some numbers to back up your claims, I’d be curious to see them.

      Same goes with the “Canadians of convenience” issue. Yes, some people will never live in Canada after they become Canadian, and that, for a number of reason. Yet they still spent time in Canada to get their citizenship. So what if they decide to leave? Not a big deal to me. Once again, I think the problem is blown up.

      There will always be people gaming the system, no matter how strict controls are. I think we should focus on the positive side 🙂

      • Thankyou on agreeing to disagree 🙂

        Your statement on fraud not to be as extensive as media paints it is wrong though! media doesnt have a clue and is just blowing a horn they dont even know what it is. being in the dark side/territories of this matter (same like being in the dark side of the moon) I can assure you, it indeed is scary. As for numbers they will never be public as otherwise it wouldnt have been the dark side would it?

        you have missed my point.these immigrants will become canadians by spending only a couple of weeks in the country at the most. thats what turns out if you add few days for landing, test and oath(plus couple of days for expedited passport). and also couple of trips inbetween to make sure firsthand that Harper is still in Ottawa. It is not a big deal you re right, until it blows. but then again being a canadian of convenience myself who am I to judge the country who issued me a passport out of charity. To me jason screaming : Canadian citizenship is not for sale! is one of the most ridiculous statements ever. it is 2011 and this item has been changing hands like that 1 $ bill with a written statement(lets say I wrote CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP on it) that has been circulating the globe as we speak.

        This is the part that I totally agree, and you know what: the fate always favors those who dare. because this is gambling!
        There is no better feeling that gaming the retarded government which we all agree that we dont deserve. And it is always good to hear that there will ALWAYS be somebody in canada to pay taxes, where I can always tap to. This is the bright side and lets try and focus there.

  5. Interesting to hear about the changes, I had no idea that ~250,000 immigrants came to Canada each year. I think it’s great that info is available online. I’ve found very little info available online about immigrating to Germany and even my German husband has found the process confusing.

    • I think most European countries don’t give a lot of information about immigration. I researched France at one point because I was interested to compare it to Canada and I found the process very confusing, with little info.

  6. well, never knew about Canadian citizens who have only spent 1 month in Canada in total!
    just wanna add that Canada has really been the country who saved my life! literally.
    i arrived as a refugee and before year 2000 i did not even know which country i belonged to.
    on paper i was citizen of a country that my parents left 30 years ago, and i had never been to and did not want to go there!
    now, i am proud to be a Canadian and i can say i am very lucky.
    i take the comments Convenient Canadians as a compliment that we are pursued by first world country citizens who want their names to be attached to Oh, Canada!

    • You are exactly the kind of Canadian I like to meet 🙂 Thank you for your comment! I’m glad Canada gave your opportunities and that you are enjoying life there. Haters are gonna hate, I’m personally pro-immigration (of course, as another immigrant ;-)) and I believe we bring a lot to this country, and we get it back as well.

      Oh Canada indeed 🙂

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