Applying for a Canadian visa when considering emigrating to Canada can be both time consuming and stressful to say the least…. While Brits love living in Canada, the immigration process can be slow, frustrating and confusing.
Canada has deliberately set out to improve its economy by attracting immigrants in recent years, and the country has one of the highest per capita rates of immigration in the world, attracting a quarter of a million residents and 160, 000 new citizens a year. They don’t want just anyone, though; Canadian visas are handed out on the basis of a points system.
Immigrants to Canada fall under four categories:
1: Family class. These are people whose close relatives already live in Canada.
2: Economic immigrants. These are people moving to Canada to work – skilled workers and investors.
3: Other. These people are accepted for compassionate reasons or on humanitarian grounds.
4: Refugees. These are people fleeing torture, persecution or cruel and unusual punishment.
From these four categories, Canada constructs a group of federal and province-level (a Canadian province is like an American state) immigration programs. Getting in means getting on a program: there are skilled worker programs at the federal and province levels, for instance, and a Canadian experience program for people who have already resided in Canada in the past.
Some Canadian provinces have their own specific visa systems and some skills are highly in demand in certain provinces. The Canadian government’s immigration website has a list of links that let you check on labour shortages in each state, so even if you’re not eligible for a federal program you might be able to get in this way.
Under the points system, you need 67 points to qualify. Rather than have you figure your points out yourself, the Canadian government has an online checker that will help you find out if you’re eligible to immigrate under a federal program.
You should start the process of obtaining your Canadian visa by figuring out which visa you qualify for best. The key issues in qualifying for a Canadian visa boil down to either being an advantage to the Canadian economy or having close Canadian relatives who are prepared to sponsor your application.
Offer of Employment
If you’re moving to a job, you can go with empty pockets. Having a written offer of employment from a Canadian employer also improves your chances of getting onto a work-based immigration program, so if you have an offer, get it in writing.
If you’re moving first and looking for a job afterwards, you’ll need to show that you have enough money to support yourself when you move. To the Canadian immigration authorities, that means CAN$11,115 (about £6,000) for a single person, ranging up to CAN$29,414 for seven family members or more. You’ll also need to pass a medical exam. Controversially, several families have been denied visas recently because one of their members had an autistic spectrum disorder and Citizenship and Immigration Canada felt that the potential costs of their care might outweigh their contribution to the Canadian economy.
You can also be disbarred from becoming a resident for a list of reasons which boil down to having a criminal record, having made false statements to the immigration authorities, or on financial grounds.
If you move to Canada as a pensioner, the UK state pension will still be payable – but the payments won’t go up with inflation, meaning you’ll gradually lose out.
Program Decision Made
Once you’ve decided which program to go for, you’ll need to check which documentation you need, assemble it and start filling in forms. If you’ve ever applied for a UK passport, you know the risk of sending in a form and having it returned to you because you didn’t fill it in exactly right. Well, CIC do that too. There’s a video on their website that shows you how to assemble your form correctly so you don’t get it returned to you.
Assuming that you’re moving on the federal skilled worker program, the first thing you need to know is that it’s been capped at 25, 500 applicants a year – and of that, only 500 can be PhD students. There are also caps of 1000 applicants per category for each of the 50 job categories. The second thing you need to know is that the caps don’t apply to you if you have a valid job offer, meaning a permanent, full-time job or offer of one from certain types of employer.
And the third thing you need to know is, in January 2015, the whole thing is going to be swept away by a whole new system. Called Express Entry, the new system is designed to consolidate the entry routes offered by the old one and improve the ability of Canada to recruit for its labour shortages; a Canadian news outlet called it the government ‘playing matchmaker’ between immigrants with valuable skills and employers. The details of the new system haven’t yet become clear but what is known is that it’s going to become even more important to have a valid job offer, and that the waiting time to have citizenship applications processed is planned to be reduced to under six months.
When you submit your application, you’ll also need to fulfil the requirements of the document checklist – you’ll need extra forms about spouses and dependents, the results of your language test, details of the specific visa office you’re applying through, and letters of reference from all your employers for the past ten years, written on company letterhead and supplying specific information. The documentation required is quite far-ranging and involves material from CIC, so you need to run through it very early in the application process and start assembling the relevant documentation. Missing documents form a major reason for applications to be returned, so be on top of this or your wait could be even longer than you anticipate.
As you can see, the visa application process for Canada can be quite daunting. Even applying for a temporary residence visa can be problematic!
Having managed the visa application process, got the OK from CIC and got on the plane, what’s it actually like to live in Canada? Check out our Living In Canada article for all you need to know about your new country!