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Immigrating to Canada: 6 Years Later, What Changed?

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?

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