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Immigration to Canada — How to make it happen

Are you interested in immigration to Canada, but not sure how to do it? Whether you want to make Canada your temporary or permanent home, it is important to get access to the most up-to-date information.

This section will help you answer the question: How do I immigrate to Canada?

Our immigration to Canada section has three main categories of programs for you to consider:

  • Permanent Residence: Long-term immigration programs, including economic programs (inclusive of Express Entry) and family sponsorship.
  • Work Permits: Programs which allow you to work in Canada for a limited period.
  • Study Permits: Permission to study at approved institutions, with the possibility to work during and after your studies and options to transition to permanent residence.

Student question related to collage selection

From the options below, click on the most applicable situation to find out which option(s) for moving to Canada may be available to you and your family, if applicable. If more than one of the situations listed above applies to you, we encourage you to begin your research with whichever situation is listed first. However, make sure to review the other potential option(s) as well.

If none of the situations listed apply to you, don’t lose heart – you may still be eligible for immigration to Canada. Check through the range of options outlined below to find out which pathway may be right for you, and use the government of Canada’s Come to Canada Wizard to check your eligibility.

Who is it for?

Express Entry immigration to Canada is open to skilled foreign workers, tradespersons, and graduates with ability in English and/or French. Individuals of any age may become a candidate, but preference is given to younger workers seeking immigration to Canada.

How does it work?

Since January 2015, eligible individuals can express their interest in becoming a permanent resident of Canada. Eligibility may be through the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Canadian Experience Class, or the Federal Skilled Trades Class.

Candidates are assigned a score (out of 1,200 points) based on their education, career history, and other personal details, and will be ranked against other candidates under what is called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

When draws from the Express Entry pool occur, the top-ranking candidates are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. While in the pool, candidates can strive to increase their CRS points total, and thus their ranking, by proving better human capital factors, for example by re-taking a language test or completing additional work experience.

Moreover, a candidate may obtain a qualifying job offer or a provincial nomination through one of the many Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams. A provincial nomination is particularly valuable, as it results in 600 additional CRS points being awarded to the candidate, who will then be invited to apply in a subsequent draw from the pool.

What’s the advantage?

Express Entry has proven to be a quick route for immigration to Canada, with more than 80 percent of applications processed within six months. The process is entirely online, and it is easy to track the status of the application.

Furthermore, Express Entry is a system that rewards proactive individuals who can prove to the government that they are likely to be economically successful upon settlement in Canada.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

Hiring representation (i.e. a regulated lawyer or consultant) would entail additional fees, but this is a price that many candidates feel is worth the outlay. Moving2Canada has partnered with a number of experienced representatives who can help candidates with their Canadian immigration goals.

How long does it take?

About 4–6 months from when you submit the application. In advance of this, additional time may be required to complete any relevant tests and obtain documents.

Other considerations

Success in this system is not guaranteed, as the government invites only a portion of candidates from the pool when it conducts one of its draws. However, the government has stated that the Express Entry pool is now the main source of economic immigration to Canada, and over time the CRS cut-off threshold has decreased substantially.

Where can I learn more?

The Express Entry system invites candidates to apply through four different programs. These are:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC)for those who have more than one year of skilled work experience.
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC)suitable for foreign workers, who gained legal work experience in Canada (for example, through the IEC program) and who are now seeking permanent residency.
  • Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC)designed for those with a qualification in a skilled trade.
  • Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)Canadian provinces and territories can nominate individuals in the pool who are interested in living and working in a particular province or territory.

The criteria for each program is different, and it is possible to be eligible for more than one. For example, if you have a mix of foreign and Canadian work experience, you may be eligible for both the FSWC and the CEC.

Who is it for?

Professionals and skilled workers around the world who want to immigrate to Canada permanently.

How does it work?

Interested individuals are assessed according to the FSWC points system and must score at least 67 points on this grid (out of 100) in order to be eligible. Points are awarded for age, language ability, level of education, work experience, whether or not the candidate has a job offer, and certain adaptability factors.

Eligible candidates must create an Express Entry profile and be invited to apply before submitting an application through Express Entry (see above for details).

What’s the advantage?

As this is Canada’s flagship immigration program, tens of thousands of newcomers are admitted as permanent residents annually. This provides a unique opportunity for individuals and families around the world to make the move to Canada, even if they don’t have previous ties to Canada.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

How long does it take?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to process applications within six months.

Other considerations

Eligibility for the program does not guarantee that an invitation to apply for immigration to Canada will be issued or that permanent residence will be granted.

Who’s it for?

Qualified, experienced tradespersons from around the world who want to immigrate to Canada.

How does it work?

Eligible candidates must create an Express Entry profile and be invited to apply before submitting an application through Express Entry (see above for details).

What’s the advantage?

IRCC has previously conducted program-specific draws for federal skilled trades candidates only, with a CRS cut-off threshold far below what other candidates have needed in order to be invited to apply.

One way of being eligible as a tradesperson is to get a job offer in your trade from a Canadian employer. As well as helping you to become eligible, you may then also receive additional CRS points for the job offer. This will increase your chances of being invited to apply.
The language ability criteria to enter the Express Entry pool is set lower for federal skilled trades candidates than it is for FSWC and CEC candidates.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

How long does it take?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to process applications within six months.

Other considerations

Eligibility for the program does not guarantee that an invitation to apply for immigration to Canada will be issued or that permanent residence will be granted.

Who is it for?

Individuals who intend to reside in a specific province and who can prove their ability to settle into the provincial economy. PNP streams often favour individuals with prior connections to the province, either through work experience, study, or family connections, though in some cases some individuals without a prior connection to the province may be eligible to apply or invited to apply, as the case may be.

How does it work?

PNPs offer a two-step pathway to permanent residence. Eligible individuals must first apply to the province for a provincial nomination certificate. Upon obtaining this certificate, applicants may then apply to the federal government for permanent residence; the federal government reviews an applicant’s criminal and medical admissibility to Canada.

Some PNP streams are aligned with the Express Entry system, outlined above. These are known as enhanced streams. A nomination certificate obtained through an enhanced PNP stream results in an Express Entry candidate being awarded 600 additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, effectively guaranteeing that an invitation to apply (ITA) for immigration to Canada will be issued in a subsequent draw from the Express Entry pool. The application for permanent residence will be receive priority processing by the federal government, with a processing time target of six months or less.

PNP streams that are not aligned with Express Entry are known as base streams. A nomination certificate obtained through a base PNP stream does not alter a candidate’s Express Entry CRS score. Indeed, eligible individuals may apply to a base PNP stream without ever having an Express Entry profile, and base PNP streams may offer a pathway to permanent residence for individuals who are not eligible to enter the Express Entry pool.

What’s the advantage?

There is a lot to be said for the fact that permanent residents admitted through a PNP have been personally selected by their destination province – they can settle into their life in Canada knowing that they are truly wanted at a local level.

Beyond this more emotionally subjective advantage, there are some more immediately practical advantages. For Express Entry candidates who have not yet met the CRS cut-off threshold set in Express Entry draws, enhanced PNP streams offer the opportunity to obtain 600 additional CRS points, resulting in the issuance of an ITA. For individuals not eligible for Express Entry, base PNP streams leave the door open for economic immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

That depends on the province and the stream. Some provinces allow individuals to make an expression of interest in immigrating to their province free of charge, with fees to be paid if or when an invitation to apply to the PNP is issued and a subsequent application submitted. Other PNP streams operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and consequently a processing fee would be demanded up front.

How long does it take?

As this is a two-step process, application processing times include a provincial processing stage and a federal processing stage, and both stages should be taken into account when considering the overall time it may take from start to finish.

Provincial stage: Some provinces publish updated processing times. Click any of the links below to find out more.

Ontario | Alberta | BC

Federal stage: For enhanced PNP streams, the federal processing time is usually under six months. For base PNP streams, average processing times at the federal stage are 15 to 19 months (as of February, 2019).

Other considerations

Applicants should have the intention to live in the province they are applying to. Once Canadian permanent residence has been granted, permanent residents have the right to live and work in any Canadian province or territory.

Where can I learn more?

Provincial Nominee Programs overview
PNP Live Tracker – get the latest updates as they happen

Study in Canada

Canada has more than 500,000 international students currently enrolled in study programs across the country. Not only can people who choose to study in Canada benefit from a world-class education — students and graduates are also set on a path that may lead to incredible career opportunities and permanent settlement in Canada.

The study pathway to settlement in Canada can be summed up in three words:

Learn. Earn. Stay.

Many international students are choosing to study in Canada over other potential destinations — such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and France — because Canada offers certain advantages that may not be available elsewhere.

 

  • International students in Canada can work for up to 20 hours per week during semester, and on a full-time basis during school breaks.
  • The tuition fees and other study in Canada costs, even for international students, are usually lower than in other countries.
  • The spouse or common-law partner of an international student may accompany the student in Canada. Not only that, spouses and partners may obtain an open work permit, allowing them to work any hours they wish and for any employer.
  • International students in Canada can bring their children to Canada, and the kids can attend one of Canada’s public elementary or secondary schools without needing their own study permit.
  • Canada’s largest cities are ranked among the best student cities by the QS World University Rankings, with Montreal ranked the best student city in the world and Vancouver and Toronto not far behind.
  • Graduates can first study and then work in Canada for up to three years on an open post-graduation work permit (see below under ‘Earn’).
  • Rather than closing the door on graduates who complete their studies in Canada or making things incredibly difficult, as some countries may do, Canada actively sets out to provide permanent residence pathways to students and graduates (see below under ‘Stay’).
  • Canada’s liberal citizenship naturalization process allows international students to count time spent on a study permit towards citizenship residency days

 

 

Canada’s economy is diverse and growing. As a graduate who chose to study Canada, you could be a part of it.

As mentioned above, international students can actually enter the Canadian workforce before graduating. This allows them to gain an income, build up valuable Canadian work experience, and create professional connections than can lead to opportunities at a later stage.

The big earning opportunity, however — in monetary and networking terms — comes with the post-graduation work permit.

A post-graduation work permit is an open work permit that allows graduates to work for employers anywhere in Canada for up to three years. It represents a unique opportunity to build a long-term life in Canada.

In announcing Canada’s ambitious multi-year immigration levels plan in November, 2017, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen noted that international students and graduates are “excellent candidates for permanent residency because they have already formed an attachment to Canada. They know our country well. They speak one, if not both, of our official languages, and generally have work experience. So we have confidence that they will integrate well.”

But how does this integration work in practice? Under many of Canada’s economic immigration systems and programs, international students and graduates have a clear advantage.
Express Entry

The main driver of economic immigration is the Express Entry system, through which IRCC manages the selection of new permanent residents on a priority basis. There are three ways to enter the Express Entry pool of candidates:

Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

This is a fast-track immigration program for individuals with recent work experience in Canada in a skilled occupation. Graduates are prime candidates, given that they can obtain an open work permit for up to three years — plenty of time to build up the required experience for the CEC.

Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC)

Candidates need 67 points in order to be eligible. There are points available for previous study in Canada and for work experience in Canada. The FSWC points grid also favours younger people with language skills, giving most students and graduates an advantage.

Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC)

This program for qualified tradespersons requires candidates to have a full-time offer of employment in a skilled trade from up to two Canadian employers or a certificate of qualification from a Canadian provincial or territorial authority. Towards this end, trades students and graduates have a great opportunity to build connections in Canada.

In November, 2016 IRCC made significant changes to how candidates are ranked in the pool under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS). Under the tweaked system, students who graduate in Canada receive up to 30 bonus CRS points in addition to the points received for the level of education in its own right. This initiative has led to a significant upswing in the share of graduates obtaining an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence.
Immigration to Quebec

There are also pathways to permanent residence through the provinces. Let’s begin with Quebec, which operates a distinct immigration system.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Canada’s provinces are able to nominate people for permanent residence through their Provincial Nominee Program (PNP). The eligibility requirements set by the provinces for these programs is generally favourable to people who choose to study in Canada, as these highly-educated immigrants-to-be also have strong language skills and experience living in a local community.

The provinces that prove most popular with students — Ontario, British Columbia — have dedicated PNP streams for students and graduates who wish to transition to permanent residence, as do many of the other provinces.

Sometimes, these PNP streams may provide a pathway to permanent residence for students or graduates who may not be eligible under Express Entry or, if they are eligible to enter the pool, struggle to reach the CRS cut-off threshold in Express Entry draws.

Certain PNP streams have interesting aspects that may prove appealing. For example:

Under the BC PNP, graduates of institutions across Canada may apply, even if they didn’t study in BC.
Masters and PhD graduates in Ontario may apply to the OINP without a job offer.
Nova Scotia has an International Graduate Entrepreneur stream, dedicated to helping graduate entrepreneurs settle in the province