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A Guide to Canadian Immigration

A Canadian Customs and Immigration service signImage via WikipediaBy David Cohen
Canada Immigration Expert

This guide is aimed to help you understand the process in place for you to live and work in Canada.

There are two main paths to Canada. One way is to obtain a permanent residence visa. The other way is to come to Canada on a temporary work permit.

What does it mean to be a Canadian Permanent Resident? Once you are issued a Canada Immigration Visa for permanent residency, you have most of the same rights and obligations as Canadian citizens. As the name suggests, you may hold this status indefinitely, so long as you accumulate 2 years of residency days in each 5 year period. After 3 years of Canadian residency, you may apply for Canadian citizenship. Canada recognizes dual citizenships, so you do not have to give up your current passport.

There are a few differences in practice between permanent residency and citizenship in Canada. The first is that as a permanent resident you may not vote in elections. The second is that while citizenship is a right that may not be taken away, as a permanent resident you may be deported if you commit a serious crime.

There are 6 main categories of Canadian Immigration. The categories are Federal Skilled Worker, Quebec Skilled Worker, Provincial Nominee Program, Family Sponsorship, Business Immigrant and Canadian Experience Class. Each category caters to a slightly different group of immigrants, and comes with its own set of requirements. You can also come to Canada under the Asylum category or the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. Read below to find out about which category applies to you.

Federal Skilled Worker

The requirements of the skilled worker category are intended to assess applicants, who are likely to become economically established in Canada after arrival.
To be eligible, applicants must either:

  • Have at least one year of continuous full-time or equivalent paid work experience in the past 10 years in one of the 38 qualifying occupations; or

  • Have been living in Canada with legal status as a Temporary Foreign Worker or an international student for at least one year; or

  • Qualify for Arranged Employment with a full-time permanent job offer from a Canadian employer.

In addition to that, there are three other characteristics an individual must possess in order to be eligible to immigrate under the skilled worker category. The first is a minimum level of work experience. A skilled worker must have at least one year of continuous full-time employment (or the equivalent in part-time). This work experience must be of a skilled nature, satisfying either Skill Type 0 or Skill Level A or B in Canada’s National Occupation Classification (NOC) system. This work experience must have come within the 10 year period prior to applying.

The second element of the skilled worker category is one of financial resources. This is a straightforward requirement – an applicant must demonstrate that they have sufficient financial resources to support themselves and their dependents for 6 months after arrival in Canada. If you have an approved job offer, this requirement is waived.

The third element of the skilled worker category is a points-based assessment. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) uses a points-based system to measure an applicant’s potential for establishing themselves in Canada. Applicants are awarded points based on six different selection factors. An individual must reach 67 points on this assessment to qualify for immigration to Canada. A satisfactory score on this evaluation does not however guarantee approval, as Canadian Immigration Visa Officers may use their discretion to approve or refuse an application based on a substituted evaluation.

The selection factors that make up the assessment are:

Education (maximum 25 points)
  • Ranges from 5 points for completing high school to 25 points for completing a master’s or Ph.D.
  • The system also gives credit for trade certificates or apprenticeship programs.
Language Skills (maximum 24 points)
  • Canada uses both English and French as official languages, and you may receive credit for proficiency in either one, or both.
  • Marks are awarded separately for abilities to listen, speak, read, and write each official language.
Experience (maximum 21 points)
  • Full points for four or more years of experience at an appropriate level.
Age (maximum 10 points)
  • Full points for being between the ages of 21-49.
Arranged Employment (maximum 10 points)
  • If you hold a permanent job offer from a Canadian employer, or are applying from within Canada and hold a temporary work permit you may receive credit for your Canadian employment.
Adaptability (maximum 10 points)
  • This category brings in a number of factors related to an applicant’s ability to adapt to living in Canada, including previous experience working or studying in Canada, or having family in Canada.

Altogether these three elements, along with other requirements such as security clearances and medical examinations, make up the bulk of the requirements to come to Canada under the Skilled Worker category. If you are applying to live or work in Montreal, or elsewhere in Quebec however, you must meet the selection criteria of the Province of Quebec, outlined below.


Quebec Skilled Worker

According to an agreement between the Province of Quebec and the Government of Canada, the Province of Quebec has its own selection process for the skilled worker category of immigration. If you intend to live in Quebec upon arrival in Canada you will be assessed based on the Quebec Selection criteria and not the evaluation used by CIC. The application process for immigration to Quebec uses a similar points-based system but with slightly different criteria.

Like the federal system, Quebec uses a points-based system to assess potential immigrants. To qualify for a Quebec Selection Certificate, single applicants must score at least 60 points from the ten selection criteria, while an applicant with a spouse or common-law partner must score a minimum of 68 points.

The selection factors for immigration to Quebec as a skilled worker are:

Training (maximum 29 points):
  • Points are awarded separately for both education and job-related training.
  • Additional points are awarded for having more than one area of specialty.
Validated Employment Offer (maximum 10 points)
  • Points are awarded for having a job offer from an employer in Quebec, with greater points awarded for a job outside of the area of Montreal.
Experience (maximum 9 points)
  • Full points are awarded for four or more years of experience at the appropriate skill level according to the NOC.
Age (maximum 18 points)
  • Full points are awarded for being between the ages of 18-35.
Language Proficiency (maximum 22 points)
  • French is the official language of the Province of Quebec. The Quebec selection criteria place value on oral language abilities rather than written comprehension. Up to 16 points are available for oral interaction in French, with an additional 6 available for oral interaction in English.
Stay and Family in Quebec (maximum 9 points)
  • Having previously spent time living, working, or studying in Quebec, as well as having family in the province will help a prospective immigrant establish themselves more easily. Points are awarded for both of these areas.
Spouse’s Characteristics (maximum 18 points)
  • If an applicant is accompanied by a spouse or common-law partner, points may be awarded for the spouse’s education, training, work experience, age and language.
Children (maximum 8 points)
  • Up to the maximum, 4 points are awarded for each child under 12 years of age, and 2 points for each child between 13 and 21.
Financial Self-Sufficiency (1 point)
  • One point is awarded for having sufficient funds for financial self-sufficiency upon arrival. However without satisfying this requirement the application is automatically refused.
Adaptability (maximum 8 points)
  • This category uses an overall assessment of the applicant’s ability to adapt to life in Quebec.
Satisfying these requirements will lead to the issue of a Quebec Selection Certificate, which is recognized by CIC for immigration to Quebec. The applicant must still pass a security clearance and medical examination.

Provincial Nomination Program

One way to speed up the process of immigration to Canada is through the Provincial Nomination Program (PNP). The PNP consists of partnerships between the Government of Canada and provincial governments to select individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and settle in that particular province. Most provinces in Canada have agreements in place to participate in this program. Under the terms of these agreements, provinces may nominate applicants who are in occupations in high demand, or who will otherwise make important contributions to the province.

To immigrate to Canada under the PNP, an individual must first apply for a Provincial Nomination Certificate to the provincial government where they would like to reside. Each province has different requirements based on their particular needs. To learn more about each province’s requirements, click here. After receiving the Provincial Nomination Certificate, an individual then must apply for a Canadian Permanent Resident Visa. Provincial nominees receive priority processing for their permanent residency applications.

The following provinces currently participate in the Provincial Nomination Program:
  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Nova Scotia
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
  • Saskatchewan
  • Yukon
Provincial nominees are not assessed on the six selection criteria of the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

Family Class Sponsorship
The Family Class Sponsorship program allows Canadian citizens or permanent residents who are at least 18 years of age to sponsor close family members, who wish to immigrate to Canada. To sponsor a relative for Family Class immigration to Canada, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident must sign a contract promising to support the family member who wishes to immigrate for a period of three to ten years after their arrival. The length of the agreement depends on the age of the family member being sponsored, and the nature of the relationship. To apply for Family Class immigration, the sponsored relative must also sign a contract promising to make every effort to be self-sufficient.

To be eligible to sponsor a relative, a Canadian citizen or permanent resident must demonstrate financial ability to provide for the essential needs of the sponsored relative, should that be necessary. As a general rule, the sponsor must also be physically residing in Canada in order to sponsor. An exception is made for Canadian citizens, who wish to sponsor a spouse, common-law partner or children if the sponsor can demonstrate an intention to reside in Canada by the time the sponsored relative lands in Canada.

Family members eligible for sponsorship are:
  • Spouses or common-law partners.
  • Parents or grandparents.
  • Dependent children (must be under 22 years of age unless substantially dependent for financial support because they are a full-time student, or because of disability).
  • Children under 18 whom you plan to adopt Orphaned brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews whom are under 18 and unmarried.
  • A relative of any age if you do not have any of the family members listed above.
The Province of Quebec, according to its agreement with the Government of Canada on immigration, has a role in determining the eligibility of sponsorship applicants for residents of Quebec. This role however takes effect only after CIC has completed its initial assessment of the sponsorship application.

Business Immigration

The Business Immigration Program is designed to seek out individuals who are in a position to contribute to Canada’s economic development through their investment and managerial skills. Individuals who apply under this category have financial resources that will strengthen the Canadian economy and help create more jobs. Individuals with business experience and relatively high net worth may apply under one of three categories of the Business Immigration Program. Each of these categories targets a different contribution to the Canadian economy, and has its own requirements.
  • Immigrant Investor Program:  This program seeks to attract experienced businesspeople willing to make substantial investments in the Canadian economy. Applicants under this program must establish a net worth of at least CAD$1600,000, and demonstrate that this wealth was legally obtained. In addition, Immigrant Investors must make an investment of CAD$800,000, which the government of Canada will return to them at the end of five years, with no interest. To qualify as an Immigrant Investor the applicant must also have managed a qualifying business, as defined by Canadian Immigration authorities. Applicants destined to province of Quebec may qualify under a similar Investor Program administered by that province.
  • Entrepreneur Program:  The Entrepreneur Program is geared towards business immigrants who plan to have a hands-on role in their contributions to the Canadian economy. The net worth requirements for the Entrepreneur Program are lower than for Immigrant Investors (CAD$300,000 rather than CAD$800,000). Applicants under this category of the Business Immigrant Program must commit to both managing and owning at least one third of a Canadian business, which will create or maintain employment, within three years of landing in Canada. Applicants destined to province of Quebec may qualify under a similar Entrepreneur Program administered by that province.
  • Self-Employed Persons Program:  The Self-Employed Persons Program is in place for individuals with relevant experience and skills in business, culture, athletics or farming who are able willing to support themselves and their dependents through self-employed income. To apply under this program an individual may need to demonstrate experience, net worth and/or artistic qualifications depending on the criteria under which they are applying. Applicants destined to province of Quebec may qualify under a Self-Employed Program administered by that province.

Canadian Experience Class
The Canadian Experience Class caters specifically to Temporary foreign workers and international students who wish to become Canadian Permanent Residents. Having obtained a Canadian education and/or Canadian work experience, these individuals have already settled into Canadian society and have established important networks in their communities and their careers.

The Canadian Experience Class requirements are based on a pass or fail model. There are separate minimum requirements for the two types of applicants:

International Graduates with Canadian Work Experience

Applicants must have:
  • Successfully completed a program of study of at least two academic years at a Canadian post-secondary educational institution;
  • Obtained at least one year of skilled, professional or technical work experience within 24 months of the application date; and
  • Moderate or basic language skills, depending on the skill level of their occupation.
Temporary Foreign Workers
Applicants must have:
  • Obtained at least two years of skilled, professional or technical work experience within 36 months of the application date; and
  • Moderate or basic language skills, depending on the skill level of their occupation.
An applicant who has met the minimum requirements and is still in Canada on either a Post-Graduate Work Permit or a Temporary Work Permit may apply from within Canada. For individuals no longer in Canada, the applications must be submitted within one year of leaving their job in Canada.


Asylum
As a world leader and champion of human rights issues, Canada also recognizes a responsibility to grant asylum to refugees who face danger, persecution and violations of their human rights in their country of nationality or habitual residence. Canada’s refugee system offers protection to thousands of such individuals each year. Refugees may be government-assisted or may be privately sponsored by individuals or organizations in Canada.

There are two main components to this program:
  • Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program:  This program is aimed at refugees currently outside of Canada who seek resettlement. CIC selects refugees seeking resettlement, determining first if they may be safe to remain where they are currently located or to return to their country of nationality. Selection depends heavily on recommendations from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but also requires security and medical screening.
  • Asylum in Canada:  This program offers protection to individuals currently in Canada who fear returning to their home country. These cases are assessed by Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program

For individuals who wish to come work in Canada, they may apply for a temporary work permit through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. As a general rule these work permits require a valid job offer from a Canadian employer, though there are exceptions. In most cases it is possible to extend work permits from within Canada, but some work permits have a maximum duration.

In many cases work permits require that the employer obtain Labour Market Opinion from Human Resources and Social Development Canada which confirms that the employment will not adversely affect Canadian workers. There are a number of exemptions to this rule.

Spouses and common-law partners of individuals who hold a Canadian work permit may accompany the work permit holder to Canada. In many cases spouses are eligible to apply for an open work permit, which allows the holder to work for any employer in Canada.

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