Since Rom moved here to Canada, we are often asked about the immigration experience. He has been asked by his UK friends, “How can I get into Canada?” Since going through the process, we’ve learned a lot about immigration, and about what people think it should be like.
Governments and everyday folks obviously view things differently. A typical immigrant, from the government point of view, is a skilled worker who comes to Canada to fill a labour shortage, and perhaps applies to bring his family to Canada later. The system is set up for people like this, who are treated as “economic units.” In real life, a more typical aspiring immigrant is someone who has visited Canada as a tourist, as a student, or as a temporary worker, has developed friendships or a love interest, and has “bonded” with Canada! She realizes she would be happy to start over in Canada, and only later finds out about admissibility.
A lot of dreams end there because she can’t find a stream under which she can apply. Maybe she is unable to address a serious issue such as a long-ago criminal conviction, or a significant health condition. Either of those will stop an application.
After long and sometimes bitter discussions with others who have immigrated (or attempted to), I find there are three common perceptions:
- I’m a good citizen and a good worker. Why does Canada make it so hard to move here?
- I have a relative or a boyfriend/girlfriend in Canada. Why can’t they sponsor me?
- I’m in Canada now with a temporary visa. I should be able to stay.
If only we lived in a world in which countries opened their borders to anyone who is Demonstrably Nice and Means Well; then we would have true freedom 🙂
Here are most of the ways you can get permanent residency in Canada:
- Be sponsored as a refugee because you have a fear of persecution in your home country
- Be sponsored by a spouse, partner, parent, child or grandchild (spouse/partner and minor child sponsorships are fast-tracked; the number of applications for parents and grandparents is limited each year)
- Intend to begin a start-up (business) with guaranteed funding from a Canadian investor
- Get a job offer and have a work permit issued to you
- Be skilled in a profession for which there is a shortage of workers in Canada or one of its provinces, and get fast-tracked
- Be a world class athlete or performer, or a self-employed farmer (!)
- Have worked in Canada as a home caregiver of children or persons with high medical needs (live-in or live-out) for 24 months or more
There are other ways of working in Canada that don’t usually lead to residency, such as:
- Being able to work when you are an international student in Canada
- Coming in as a business person under a trade agreement such as NAFTA or GATS
- Temporary visas for exotic dancers, escorts and erotic massage workers have been phased out
The catch is, if someone comes to Canada as a tourist or a student or to visit a friend, she may not have the specific skills needed to apply for a work permit, and may not be in a relationship with a Canadian that will lead to sponsorship. A man in good health is likely to get a job offer; a woman is more likely to seek out a relationship or accept work as a home caregiver.
You can see from the list that some of these streams are for applicants who are in Canada now (temporarily) while others require you to apply from outside the country. This is a massive cost issue. If you are waiting to move to another country, you can’t maintain your roots in your home country, and feel settled, and work there – or at least not for long. You will be travelling back and forth to Canada at great expense to check out your options for places to live and employment. But you can’t just show up in Canada and stay until you get permanent residency – you have to meet the criteria and get some sort of temporary visa (visitor, work, etc.) – which will then expire and make you go back “home” while you are still awaiting the outcome. Furthermore, you or your sponsor have to prove you can afford all the application fees, and to support yourself or your partner. Meanwhile, you are not eligible for any social safety nets. So embarking on this process is a Really Big Deal! (Not to even mention that you are leaving your home country and your loved ones, in some cases forever).
If anyone reading this is actually thinking of coming to Canada, please visit the real Canadian government immigration website and read it thoroughly. There are hundreds of look-alike websites which look semi-official. Most of them are trying to sell the services of immigration lawyers, which are rarely needed. The whole process can be completed without professional help if you have good communication skills in English or French.
Talking with immigrants to Canada and asking for their advice has its pros and cons. The law and procedures change often, and you can easily be led astray by outdated information. But, their encouragement might be just what is needed!
You can probably guess I am pro-immigration. Canada is sparsely populated and not able to respond quickly to changes in labour market demand. When we realize there is a shortage of workers in an area, it takes years to direct students to that career path. Such is the case now for auditors and physiotherapists! Meanwhile, there are professionals elsewhere who are willing to work in Canada. Sadly, there are jobs in Canada that no one wants, like picking crops. Hard work and low pay – which others are happy to do. Exploitation?
Did you know that the vast majority of immigrants to Canada are from the US and the UK?
Rom’s story in brief: He visited Canada for the first time in 2008 order to meet me, after we developed an online friendship. Three months later, I visited him in the UK. We decided we wanted to be together as a couple, and that it would make more sense for us if Rom were to live in Canada. It was difficult at that time to establish that we were partners without living together, and it would have been possible to live together only 6 months in Canada with a visitor visa, which would not have allowed Rom to work. At that time the waiting list for a skilled worker permit was up to 8 years; now there is an express program for desirable professions. Rom could have attempted to get a series of 6-month visitor visas, but besides the no-work issue, he would have had to go back to the UK each time to reapply. These situations are also tricky in terms of health insurance, etc. (Recently the system has changed to allow partners waiting in Canada to get open work permits.) All things considered, we decided that marriage was a reasonable option! So we visited each other 4 more times that year, trying to limit our separations to two months at a time. Immediately after our wedding in Canada, Rom returned to the UK and I applied to sponsor him. It was a simple process (relatively speaking) and he received his new status in 4 months. The time from our first meeting until the time he landed in Canada as a permanent resident was 18 months. (Rom is an IT worker, and if he were applying now, he probably would have qualified for Express Entry).
I realize it is not for everyone to “land” a spouse or partner to immigrate, but sometimes it works out that way 🙂
Finally, there are those heart-wrenching stories in the news about lovely, deserving people being turfed out of Canada. Everyone has an opinion. In theory, so many people are waiting for their applications to be processed that no one should be allowed to jump the queue. In real life, humanitarian reasons are ever so compelling.
Let’s look at 3 high-profile cases I’ve read about:
Sanja Pecelj came to Nova Scotia in 2000, on a temporary work visa, and was employed at a peacekeeping training centre. She feared returning to Kosovo because, with her new work experience, she would be considered a political dissident. She applied for refugee status. Her fear of persecution was not deemed legitimate. She claimed sanctuary in a church, where the clergy and members supported her for 441 days of appeals and waiting.
Sergio Rojas (from Mexico) and his partner Linda Martinez (from Nicaragua) moved to Canada with their son, now 7. While here, they had another son, now 3, with serious medical issues. The parents and older son are not eligible to remain in Canada. The younger is a Canadian citizen and is entitled to medical care. The whole family wants to stay.
An American couple, Kurt Andresen and Leaf Kraft, have lived in Nova Scotia for 6 years and have received seasonal work permits for the past 5 years. Kurt was a former international student in Canada. Their employer says they are indispensable but can’t offer them full-time, year-round work. The employer has not agreed to cover the cost of the required labour market impact study and will not pay their health care premiums. The couple and their employer wants them to stay; the government will not repeatedly renew seasonal work permits and the couple was forced to leave.
I would love to hear your stories, and I can probably answer a pretty wide range of questions about the Canadian immigration process. Does it sound similar to your country’s?
Of course you know that I am only a blogger and cannot provide any legitimate legal advice!
P.S. Rom says: If you are in Canada as a permanent resident, why not go on to get your citizenship?!
NOTE: I am currently unable to comment on any Blogger sites. Blogger writers, I am still reading your posts!