I WANT TO GO TO CANADA BUT WHERE DO I START?
If you’re reading this you’re probably considering Immigration to Canada for whatever reason. Mine was to provide my special needs son with therapeutic opportunities unavailable on my Caribbean homeland of Trinidad and Tobago. If it settles your nerves at all, let me confess that we haven’t regretted the decision for a minute, read here all we love about Toronto.
The first step in our process of immigration to Canada was researching which avenue we would take to apply for Canadian permanent residence. To do this I visited the Canadian citizenship and immigration website. Be wary of websites which claim to be the “official citizenship and immigration website”, soliciting unnecessary fees for services. This entire process can be done on your own, as I did, however many people employ the help of a representative or immigration lawyer. This can be expensive, though sometimes worth it. As often times they know the tricks of the trade and can ensure that you don’t make any mistakes that can cost you time, or even an approval. I found the website to be user friendly, and because I had the time to invest, I decided to go it alone. Hopefully after reading this post you may feel confident enough to do it yourself. Or, recognize that the required time investment is beyond your means and opt for a representative. Either way, you would have learnt something.
EXPRESS ENTRY: GETTING IN THE POOL
I applied for Canadian residency under the Express Entry application method. This method is open to “skilled workers” with Canadian or Foreign work experience in Management jobs, Professional jobs that usually call for a degree from a university, and Technical jobs and skilled trades that usually call for a college diploma or training as an apprentice. These three areas of work experience that qualify you for Express Entry are the Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Workers Class or Federal Skilled Trades Program . To compare the the work experience requirements across these three options click here. I applied under the Federal Skilled Workers Class, and will therefore focus on that application process. This class specifically, is based on a 100-point grid used to assess eligibility, with points being assigned for skilled work experience, language ability and education. You must meet all the minimum requirements to be eligible. If you meet all the minimum requirements, your application is then assessed based on your age, education, work experience, whether you have a valid job offer, English and/or French language skills and adaptability (how well you’re likely to settle here). (Note that I did not have a valid job offer, and that Pro Tip: I applied as the principal applicant for my family as my age gained us more points than my husband, and I had earned my university degrees at Canadian institutions. Therefore yes, it is harder qualify without a job offer, but clearly not impossible.)
The current minimum requirement is 67 points, however this figure changes from year to year. (The current point requirement can be found here.) To determine your eligibility for the Express Entry method fill out this questionnaire. The questionnaire is a first step simply to determine whether or not you could in fact qualify for Express Entry in the process of immigration to Canada. A language score is a requirement of the questionnaire, Pro Tip: I did not take the language test before I checked my Express Entry eligibility. Instead I faked a language score when I was simply satisfying my curiosity and then entered the actual information once I had set the language test and was ready to start the application process. You will need a minimum score of 8 to qualify, so be sure to enter figures over 8. If you have a spouse coming with you, you will have to do the same for your spouse. Be sure the ‘fake date’ is less than a year old as the results expire after a year.)
If this initial questionnaire assessment proves you to be eligible you will get this prompt on your screen
I QUALIFY, SO WHAT NOW?
‘Based on your answers, you appear to be eligible for Express Entry’. You now appear eligible to enter the pool of Express Entry applicants in the process of immigration to Canada and should then do two things.
1. Sign up immediately for the language test, for you and your spouse. You’ll have to find a test date, make a payment, apply and submit the required documents. In Trinidad and Tobago The IELTS is administered at the University Of the West Indies, sign up for the test here. For all other countries, the test available in your country can be found here. These tests can have long waiting lists, we took two months to get a test date. So applying as soon as you know you qualify for Express Entry is recommended. Also, don’t take this test too lightly, even for those of us for which English is a first language the test can be a bit challenging. Pro Tip: Be sure to download some practice tests and at least familiarize yourself with what’s to be expected on the day.
2. Get an Education Credential Assessment if your degree is not from a Canadian institution. An Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) is used to verify that your foreign degree, diploma, or certificate (or other proof of your credential) is valid and equal to a Canadian one. There are different types of ECAs. You need to get an ECA for immigration purposes. If you got another type of ECA, you should contact the designated organization to see if they will re-issue it. It was not necessary for me to do this as my degrees were from Canadian institutions, however we employed the services of World Education Services for my husband who earned his degree from the University of the West Indies.
Once you’ve sat the language test and have your Education Credental Assessment return to the website, fill out the Express Entry Questionnaire and hopefully you’ll receive the same message of eligibility to apply. Follow the steps on the screen to then enter the pool of applicants.
This is NOT the actual immigration to Canada application. You are now entering the pool of eligible applicants. Once you are in the applicant pool your profile will be ranked using a different system.
COMPREHENSIVE RANKING SYSTEM
The Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) is the points-based system used to assess and score your profile and rank you in the Express Entry pool.
- See the full Comprehensive Ranking System criteria.
The points you get from the CRS include a core set of points up to 600 and a set of additional points of up to 600. Your total score will be out of 1,200.
Core: Up to 600 points
- Skills and experience factors
- Spouse or common-law partner factors, such as their language skills and education
- Skills transferability, including education and work experience
Additional: Up to 600 points
- Canadian degrees, diplomas or certificates
- a valid job offer
- a nomination from a province or territory
- a brother or sister living in Canada who is a citizen or permanent resident
- strong French language skills
Core points + Additional points = your total score
If you’d like to see what your score would be if you filled out a profile, use the Comprehensive Ranking System tool. The applicants with the top scores are invited to apply first. Depending on your scores this invitation could come as early as two weeks, or it may take longer. If your points aren’t high enough to put you in the top pool of applicants within a year, your entry will expire and you will have to start over.
RECEIVING THE INVITATION TO APPLY
If and when you receive the invitation to apply, which came for us two weeks after I submitted my online profile, you’ll have 60 days to submit your application for permanent residence. You should now start getting additional documents together. There will be lots of information to be submitted through the online portal, such as, work and travel history for you and your partner, personal information, etc. However the website is very user friendly and will guide you step by step. I will therefore just share with you the documentation required that may be beneficial for you to gather in advance. The documents required are all listed here. These include
- a police certificate, please note you will need a certificate for any country you have lived in for 6 months or more non-consecutively. I visited the US on a few occasions with my son for therapy, at one point in time we went for six month, another for two and so on. Although we never went for a period of 6 months or more at a time, when added together it was well over 6 months. As a result I had to submit a police certificate for the US. My husband also worked in the Cayman Islands for a few years and had to submit a police certificate for the Cayman Islands. You can find the process for applying for a US police certificate , should you travel often and need one, here. Pro Tip: The process took longer than the speed of the Canadian Immigration to process my application. They therefore alerted me that they were waiting on my US police certificate to complete my application. Don’t fear if you find yourself in this situation. Citizenship and Immigration Canada allowed me an extension in waiting for this documentation once I provided proof of having requested it from the relevant US authorities.
- You and all of your accompanying family members must have a Medical Exam. The results of your medical exam must be valid at the time you both submit your application for permanent residence AND arrive in Canada. For this reason, consider getting the exam as close as possible to the date you submit your application for permanent residence. Pro Tip: However be sure to contact the authorized medical practitioner in advance to make an appointment for the exam. There are usually a limited number of people authorized to execute these exams and you wouldn’t want your application to expire for lack of an appointment. Note that your permanent resident application won’t be approved if your health is a danger to Canada’s public health or safety, or would cause too much demand on health and social services in Canada. Click here for a list of approved panel physicians for all countries.
- The final piece of documentation required is your Proof of Funds. Below is the minimum requirement, if you have more money, you should list the full amount in your profile or application. Pro Tip: As a family of four $23,542 was the required funds but I listed $60,000 CND in our application. You can check here for any changes in these figures.
Number of Family Members. Funds Required (In Canadian Dollars)
For each additional family member $3414
In addition to showing the money you can bring with you to Canada you will be required to show a lack of debt in your country. As such I solicited a letter from all of my banks showing that I can no debts against them including, loans, mortgages or credit card debt.
For proof, you must get official letters from any banks or financial institutions where you’re keeping money.
- be printed on the financial institution’s letterhead
- include their contact information (address, telephone number and email address)
- include your name
- list outstanding debts such as credit card debts and loans
- include, for each current bank and investment account, the
- account numbers
- date each account was opened
- current balance of each account
- average balance for the past 6 months
A FEW OTHER PRO TIPS
If married, or in a common law marriage, the principal applicant will be required to provide documentation which proves the relationship. A full list of documents is listed in the application process, however further to this a friend of mine, also applying, was advised by her representative to submit pictures of the couple from early years in the marriage to present day. Although this was not stated on the website I did the same in the hopes it would give more credit to my notarized document of common-law marriage. As such I scanned images of my partner and I through the years and with our children from birth to present day.
One of the optional submissions was proof of family living in Canada. I included my uncle, my father’s brother. Proving that he was my father’s brother was as easy as submitting copies of both of their birth certificates with the application. If you have a relationship like this to prove, these may be documents you want to gather in advance as the 60 days can run out on you quite easily. Particularly when you are depending on other people to provide information.
Using the process described in this post I received a letter offering us Canadian permanent residence just four months after we submitted our completed application. Don’t be shy to accompany submitted documents with written explanations for anything you believe may be unclear. I submitted 50% of my documents with typed explanations.
I hope this post has been helpful, if there are any other specific questions please add them below and I will try my best to address them. Additionally look out for another post on preparing for life in Canada, this will include the process for bringing your pets over with you.