We get a lot of questions about immigrating to Canada. How to do? Who to contact? Where to start? In this article, I summarize the main stages of an immigration project (even if, of course, each course is unique) and give you some advice.
First step: find out about the different immigration programs
Immigrating to Canada can be a dream. But is it really possible? If you are under 30 (for Belgians) or 35 (for French people), it’s easier: the Working Holidays program (PVT) has been created for you. With this program, it is possible to reside in Canada for 12 months (or 24 if you are French) while having the possibility of working there.
For others (like me), you will have to find another way to obtain a work and/or residence permit. For this, there is a reference site, that of the Government of Canada, and more specifically its Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) service. It is on this site that you will apply for visas and permits and that you will find all the necessary information.
Various programs exist, some at the federal level, such as Express Entry and its Skilled Worker Program (if you have a post-secondary degree and a few years of work experience in a skilled trade, chances are you will be able to access this program ), others at the provincial level, such as the Provincial Nominee Program. Provincial nominee programs are often more accessible, but require you to choose a province for your installation and stay there for a certain period of time.
To find out if you are eligible for an immigration program in Canada, take the test! For my part, I went through the skilled worker program, in Express Entry, to obtain my permanent residence.
Immigrating to Canada: useful resources
Some websites are real gold mines for preparing an immigration project in Canada:
Pvtistes.net (which contrary to what its name indicates, does not deal only with PVT);
Immigrar.com, whose forums really helped us;
Just for Canada and its comprehensive guides.
The fairs organized by Destination Canada are also excellent opportunities to obtain information on immigration to Canada.
Second step: choose your destination
Canada is a huge country. The West and East coasts of the country are separated by some 8000 kilometers! The climate, the culture, the landscapes, the mentalities, the cost of living, etc. are very different in Montreal (in the East, where French is spoken and where it is -30° in winter), in Vancouver (in the West, where English is spoken and where it almost never snows) or in Winnipeg.
To help you choose the province to which you wish to immigrate, I recommend the Destination Canada guide. You will also find a lot of useful information there on the different immigration programs. I also advise you to read the series of articles we wrote in 2020 with a group of seven French-speaking bloggers, all based in Canada.
For our part, we first chose Vancouver, for its temperate climate, its dynamism and its geographical location. But we didn’t stay there. We then lived in Whitehorse for a year before settling in Moncton.
Be careful, if you choose to move to Quebec : immigration procedures are much longer there than elsewhere (often more than two years).
Do I need to hire an immigration consultant? Or Can I submit my application alone?
You can apply alone. It takes planning and patience, but it’s totally possible . I did it.
Warning: immigration fraud and scams are very numerous on the Internet. Any advice ? Run away from organizations that contact you by phone to sell you overpriced services. Take the time to educate yourself. Ask your questions on the forums. If you still want to go through an agent, follow the advice of the Canadian government.
Third step: gather all the useful documents
If you go through a PVT, it should be pretty straightforward. If you want to apply for permanent residence, however, it will take longer. You will need to have your diplomas assessed by an international organization ( WES , for example), take language tests ( TEF for French, IELTS in English), but also obtain extracts from your criminal record, birth certificates, marriage, divorce if applicable, certificates of residence, proof of sufficient funds, proof of cohabitation if necessary. In short, a lot of paperwork! This work of collecting the mandatory documents will take you at least a few weeks, or even several months. A word of advice: be organised! Scan and classify each document, so that you can find it quickly later.
Once all your documents have been gathered, all you have to do is submit your application. And to wait! For example, the deadlines announced for applications for permanent residence via Express Entry are six months.
Last step: prepare for the big departure
Immigrating to Canada means planning your arrival but also your departure: selling or finding a tenant for your apartment/house (or giving your name to the owner), submitting your resignation, terminating all your contracts, sorting out in his business, inform the administration of his departure, close his bank accounts if necessary, etc.