Tl;dr version: I’m making a blog series on How to immigrate to Canada from the US. Scroll down to the bottom to see the steps and links to more detailed blogs about an individual topic.
Have you ever been one of those people that’s said “I’m just going to move to Canada” after being ashamed of a new US Policy you don’t agree with? Pretty much half the people I know have said that at least once. Most of them are joking, but sometimes I’ve come across people that seem like they might actually mean it. Then they do a bit of research and find something that makes it sound hard and give up on it.
I get it. I almost did the same thing myself when I kept hitting walls and found out that there were only a couple of schools in BC that took international students for Nursing, and they ain’t cheap.
Flash forward a few months when I decide I should actually see how long it takes to not be considered an international student. In a lot of countries, it’s a long, arduous process to become a citizen or permanent resident–A status that allows an individual to live and remain in a country indefinitely and access social services–and I’ve known people in the US who have been here for over a decade on a Work Visa.
It turns out in Canada, it’s a little different.
In 2015, Canada rolled out the Express Entry Program. This is a fast-track to becoming a Permanent Resident and ranks candidates based on age, education, work history, and so on. After filling out an application for Express Entry, you’re given a score. What’s good about this system is that you can bring a spouse with you and they’ll ALSO get Permanent Resident status; however, your overall score will be lower with a spouse unless they go through the steps for education and language testing, and even then they tend to be lower than an individual alone.
Once or twice a month, Canada takes the top couple of thousand people and invites them to apply for residency. If you’re one of them, you have 90 days to apply with all the proper documents.
Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. You need to have your education evaluated as well as take a language test to make sure you can read and speak English. This applies to everyone, even if you’ve spoken English your whole life and have a degree in it–like me.
All of that can get a bit intimidating, which is why I’m making this blog series. I couldn’t find anywhere that consolidated all of the steps into one place, so I’m going to make it. And while this seems like it may apply to people around the world, I don’t know for sure if there are different restrictions for different countries, so these steps MAY only apply for citizens of the United States.
As I go through the steps myself, I’ll write a blog about it and link to it from the title of the step below:
1. Get your Passport
Do you know how long it takes to get your passport? What documents you need? How much it costs? Where to get it? All of those questions and more are answered here!
2. Research and Visit Canada
Sure, Canada may seem like a better place than the US to you on paper, but it’s still a really good idea to visit to make sure that’s true for you. Most places are cold and rural and the cost of living in cities is high. We settled on Vancouver Island because it has a more temperate climate and a suburban type of living, so I can only speak from my experience there.
3. Have your education evaluated
If you don’t have a Bachelor’s degree, you have almost no chance of success through Express Entry; unless you have a family member in Canada or a good job offer. To make sure your degree is equivalent to a Canadian Degree, you need to have it evaluated by an agency so that you can make sure your qualification counts in Canada. I used WES for mine.
4. Take an English Language Test
EVERYONE has to take an English Language Test for Express Entry–no exceptions. And trust me, I looked for them. The IELTS is the primary one and has testing centers in most major metropolitan areas. You can also take the CELPIP, but I don’t know how that one works and there aren’t as many places to take it.
5. Fill out a Candidate Profile in Express Entry
Only after you’ve done steps 3 and 4 can you fill out your Express Entry profile. Here you input all of your information and then someone from Canadian Immigration will evaluate it and give you a CRS score.
6. Receive your ITA (Invitation to Apply)
In these monthly or bi-monthly drawings, candidates with the highest CRS score are given an invitation to apply. Unfortunately, this makes it a little bit random what the required minimum score is to get an ITA. For 2017, the lowest was in May and was for 413 points, and the highest was in January at 468. It all depends on how many other people with high scores have applied.
Once your documents and information are verified, you’ll be sent a Permanent Resident Card (PR Card) within 6 months. The PR Card allows you to access social services and have most the same rights as residents except for the right to vote or have high-clearance government jobs.