Originally published in January 2016
Welcome to A Place in the Sun's in-depth guide to emigrating to Canada, it has been written to help you decide whether moving across the Atlantic is right for you.
Below are listed the main areas that we have covered within the guide in order that they are likely to be considered - if you wish to skip to a particular section, simply click on subject of interest.
– Skilled migrant visas
– Federal Skilled Worker Program
– Federal Skilled Trades Program
Express Entry – English tests
– Credentials assessment
–Express Entry process
Inadmissibility, Medical Tests, Job Bank
Other visas – start up, self-employed, immigrant investors, family sponsorship
Canada has wolverines, rattle snakes, wolves, cougars, bears and bad-tempered moose, while New Zealand’s most threatening creature is a slightly poisonous spider. Does that make Canada better? Not necessarily, but it does make a country walk more exciting.
Its climate is wild too, with hot summers and very cold winters. In Toronto winter days normally stay below freezing while in summer they are frequently above 30ºC. That range has all sorts of implications for the countryside and what you can do with it – not just skiing in winter and horse trekking in summer, but also white water rafting, ice-fishing and canyoning.
You only need look at a map to see how well placed Canada is for the 21st century. Its coast face the markets of the north Atlantic and Pacific as well as the USA next door. Its huge prairies are ready to feed the world’s growing population and it has no worries over climate change or water.
Canada has grown rich on its natural resources which include huge oil and gas reserves, plus timber and agricultural products. Canada’s 35 million people generate the 11th biggest economy in the world, but with less than the usual disparity between the richest and the poorest.
When it comes to sport, Canadians are happier going for a healthy hike than sitting in a freezing stadium. They usually underperform in global sport, coming well below the US and UK unless there’s a Winter Olympics that year. However, in terms of health outcomes, Canada is second out of 36 OECD nations, with women’s life expectancy 84 years. They report being happier than the people in most OECD nations too.
5. Not so far from Mum
Flight time between Toronto and London is seven to eight hours. That’s a third of the flight time to New Zealand and around a third of the price too. Even Vancouver to London is only around nine hours.
As well as being a relatively short distance to the UK, Canada offers the chance to explore the USA. Nine in ten Canadians live within 100 miles of the US border, making weekend trips to New York City or San Francisco perfectly feasible. Unlike some emigration destinations that can feel a little isolated.
6. Quality of life
Canada has three cities in Mercer’s Top 20 most liveable cities, Vancouver (5), Toronto (15) and Ottawa (16). Montreal and Calgary also easily beat the UK’s highest city, London. Of the USA’s cities, only San Francisco comes even close to Canadian cities for quality of life.
New Canadian homes have doubled in size in the past 40 years to 1,950 square feet. In the UK new homes average just 925 square feet. In the OECD Better Life Index Canada scores well generally, but particularly in the quality and affordability of its housing, where it was second only to the USA of the top 36 industrialised nations.
The average price of a home across Canada in 2015 was $433,000. In British Columbia it was more expensive, at $600,000, in Ontario $460,000 and in Alberta £380,000. Other provinces averaged below C$300,000.
Immigration to Canada is organised by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) whose website is cic.gc.ca.
Although British citizens don’t need a visa to travel to Canada for a visit, from March 2016 they do need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). You fill out the eTA online in a few minutes, requiring your passport, travel documents and a credit card. It costs $7 and lasts for five years.
You can normally visit Canada for six months without getting a visa. Occasionally the questioning can seem over the top as the immigration authorities try to weed out those who might be trying to immigrate illegally. Expect to provide evidence of ties to your home country that indicate you will be returning.
You may have to provide evidence that you have enough money to stay without working; how much money will depend on how long you are staying and whether you are paying for accommodation.
Federal Skilled Worker Program
To apply under this program you will need the following minimum standards:
Work experience: at least one year full-time or 1,560 hours part-time, in paid employment (not volunteering or internships) in the same job, within the past ten years, at a skill level of at least diploma or apprenticeship level (NOC level A, B or 0).
Good English or French.
Educational qualifications equivalent to Canada’s secondary certificate
If you have all that, your application will next be judged on:
whether you have a job offer
your “adaptability”. This is based on ties to Canada, such as relatives already there.
Next, unless you have a job offer already, you must prove you have the funds to support yourself and your family. As of 2016 this was $12,164 for one family member, rising in around $3,000 increments for each family member.
Federal Skilled Trades Program
To apply under this program you will need the following minimum standards:
You must have worked full time (30+ hours per week) for two years in that profession in the past five years
Meet the language requirements
Meet the job requirements set out in the National Occupation Classification (NOC, see below).
Have either a job offer or a certificate of qualification.
Canada has identified several trades as being particularly needed. These include many industrial, electrical or construction trades, manufacturing, credit control, chefs, butchers and bakers.
Each region and province also has specific trades it wishes to attract.
This is a new selection system to speed up the process of bringing skilled workers into Canada under one of Federal Skilled Worker/Trades programs. Before applying you need to take the English test, have your qualifications assessed against Canada’s equivalent, and know which NOC class your occupation falls into.
The first step is to take an English test. Canada requires you to take an English or French test even if these are your first language. Indeed you cannot even test your eligibility without an English score. If you are applying from outside Canada you need to take a test with the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
IELTS has 65 testing centres in the UK with two tests each week on Thursdays and Saturdays. It tests your speaking, listening, reading and writing and takes most of one day to complete. IELTS stress that since the results are quite detailed, with each of the four skills given a score, even native English speakers should prepare for the test, which costs £160. The other option is a CELPIP test, but this is only available for those in Canada already and costs $265 plus tax.
Your test is valid for two years, and your Expression of interest could be in the pool for a year so ensure you have at least a year’s validity left.
If your French is better than English, you can take a French test, much the same as the English, via TEF (Test d’Evaluation de Francais) who also have test centres in London, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh. This will be especially useful if you are applying to work in Quebec, where French is the only official language.
If you are moving to Canada under most of the work programmes you will need to have your qualifications assessed. You won’t if you have at least one year of recent work experience in Canada in a skilled trade, i.e. skilled manual work.
For everyone else, it’s a good idea to have this done at an early stage in the process in case your qualifications are deemed to be less rigorous than those in your profession in Canada and your application is refused.
For the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSW) you will need an Educational Credential assessment (ECA) of your degree or diploma. This may be in addition to any requirement for your skills to be assessed in a particular job.
1. Take a look at Job Bank (jobbank.gc.ca) for general information about that career in Canada.
2. Go to the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials (Cicic.ca) for more detailed information. It covers 500 occupations.
3. Check your qualifications will be accepted. Remember too, that different provinces may have different requirements.
4. Apply to the relevant regulatory body or apprenticeship authority.
National Occupation Classification (NOC)
Canada divides occupations into levels, known as a NOC. It grades jobs both by responsibility/skill and also by the type of job.
Skill Type 0 (zero) – management. E.g. restaurant manager, mine managers, fishing vessel captain
Skill Level A — professional, requiring a degree. E.g. doctor, dentist, architect
Skill Level B — technical and skilled trades, requiring college diploma or apprenticeship. E.g. chef, electrician, plumber
Skill Level C — intermediate. High school and/or job-specific training. E.g. long-haul truck driver, butcher
Skill Level D — labour jobs. E.g. cleaning staff, oil field workers, fruit pickers
For skilled migrant entry you need to be in O, A or B. People with an NOC of C or D can still apply for a two-year visa, with the possibility of converting this to permanent residency, or be nominated by a province.
The CIC website lists 500 occupations, each with a code. Look this up and note down the code and your skill level. For example, Editors are 5122 and given a skill ranking of A. Real estate agent is 6232 with a skill ranking of B.
Each person over 18 needs a police certificate from each country they have lived in for more than six months since the age of 18. This can take a long time from some countries, so if you have lived abroad it is strongly recommended to get your certificate before applying. The CIC website gives a very helpful guide to each applying from each country.
Express Entry Process
With all this in place, Express Entry has a two-step process which you access via an account you create with MyCIC. If you have done an initial eligibility test using the online Come to Canada tool you will have an access code, but this isn’t necessary to apply.
Step one: You fill out an online Express Entry profile which questions you about your skills, experience, language and education. Those applicants that meet the minimum requirements go into a pool of candidates. If you don’t already have a job offer or are nominated by a province or territory then you must register with the Job Bank which will attempt to find you an eligible employer.
Step two: All the applications are given a score. Twice a month, usually, the CIC selects a certain number of the best scores from the pool and sends the applicants an Invitation to Apply (ITA). How many are scooped out of the pool in each intake and how many points are required varies widely.
In 2015 the number of ITAs that went out varied between 779 and 1,500 each time, and the points required varied from 450 to 886. An application will remain in the pool for a year, but if you are not invited to apply after that then you’ll need to make a new profile. If you do receive an invitation you have 60 days to apply for your permanent residence visa. The CIC will then process your application, usually within six months.
Invitation to Apply
If you receive an ITA via your MyCIC account, you have 60 days to apply for your visa, so it is best to get all your documents ready before applying in the first place. These include your language tests and police certificates.
If something changes in your circumstances between applying and receiving the ITA and you no longer reach the lowest points total for that round of invitations, rather than continuing with the application and being refused and losing your fee, simply decline the invitation and you can go back into the pool for later in the year.
Some people will not be allowed into Canada. You may become “criminally inadmissible” for relatively minor crimes such as speeding fines, but you certainly will be, permanently, for any conviction that would give you a ten year prison sentence in Canada. For more minor crimes, if the conviction was before the age of 18, or if sufficient time has elapsed, usually five years from the end of your full sentence, you may be classed as rehabilitated.
If applying for permanent residence you will need a medical certificate. This has to be conducted by an approved doctor (the CIC website gives contact details of the many approved doctors in the UK). On receiving the report the CIC will decide if any conditions are a risk to the Canadian public or likely to be an unacceptable burden on the health system.
For anyone looking for work in Canada, Job Bank (jobbank.gc.ca) is a very useful website maintained by the government. Not only does it include 80,000 situations vacant, but also a comprehensive guide to individual careers in Canada that will quickly tell you how in demand your own skills are.
For example, when we asked about careers for journalists, only two job opportunities came up. When we input Occupational Therapist, however, 273 job opportunities were shown.
It takes a little while to get the hang of the site, but when you do it’s a treasure trove on information – what the career pays on average, what you need for your own qualification to be accepted in Canada, the employment rate for this career, the average retirement age, the main employers, and much more.
As well as the national schemes below, each province has its own entrepreneurial immigrant programmes, so look at their websites.
Canada claims that this is a first internationally, a kind of Dragon’s Den where you come up with an idea for a business and look for Canadian investors to pay for it. They have a list of designated venture capital funds, angel investors and business incubators. You would need to raise at least $200,000 from a venture capital fund or $75,000 from an angel investor.
The Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program is closed at the time of writing. When it is operating you need personal net worth of $10million and be investing at least $2 million in a fund for at least 15 years. There are also all the usual language, education and admissibility rules.
This is mainly aimed at people who will enhance Canada’s cultural or sporting life, or will be buying and managing a farm. You need to prove two years of self-employed experience at a world class level in athletics or cultural activities, or two years buying and managing a farm.
A citizen or permanent resident of Canada aged over 18 can sponsor a partner, dependent children, parents and even grandparents. You will have to provide proof that you can support them financially while they are in Canada.
As of writing in January 2016 Canada was accepting no more applications for parents or grandparents, having received 14,000 in the first three days of 2016. It is committed to allowing 10,000 each year. However, there is apply a Parent or Grandparent Super Visa which allows them to visit for up to two years.
Canadian Experience Class
This is for people who have previously lived and worked in Canada. You must have worked for at least a year full-time (or the equivalent part time) in the three years before applying. You also have to pass minimum language and admissibility requirements.
Canadian visas are not expensive to apply for by international standards. For the Federal Skilled Worker Program it is $550 for the applicant, $550 for a spouse and $150 for children. Business and investor visas are usually $1,050 for the applicant, $550 for a spouse and $150 for children.
Each of the ten provinces of Canada has its particular needs in the jobs market. These are the most significant or most welcoming.
Canada’s fourth most populous state has both prairies full of wheat and mountains full of skiers, although not at the same time. Its capital city is Edmonton, but the more well-known and larger city is Calgary (population 1.2 million), which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1988. Alberta’s economy has grown hugely on the back of gas and oil discovered in the Athabasca oil sands and its residents have one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world.
Although programs open and close, as of early 2016 Alberta’s immigrant Nominee Program was open and welcoming skilled workers looking to move to Alberta permanently.
Trades specifically listed included all sorts of motor mechanics and engineers, welders, ironworkers, crane operators, electricians and plumbers, but also cooks, carpenters, landscape gardeners and hair dressers.
Nearly five million people live in BC, half of them in and around Vancouver. It has the most expensive property in Canada but a lot of well paying jobs in the service industries as well as mining and forestry. It is also a centre for the film industry, nicknamed Hollywood North.
Demographically it has a large percentage of Asian newcomers (20 per cent) but is still predominantly of British and Irish origin. Occupations listed as in particular demand include all types of health service professionals, tourism, hospitality and food processing, plus long-haul truck driving.
Manitoba is right in the middle of Canada, one of the flat, prairie provinces but with the huge Lake Winnipeg in the centre. Manitoba proudly points out on its website that 130,000 new immigrants have settled in the past decade. That’s over 10 per cent of the 1.2 million population, the vast majority of whom people live in the far south, near the US border.
Another tenth of the population are native North American and a further 6 per cent are Métis (mixed white and American Indian). The capital and largest city is Winnipeg, with 750,000 people.
Manitoba continues to welcome 15,000 people each year, from a wide range of skilled occupations as well as business people. In the last draw it was not taking any more teachers and some health occupations.
One of Canada’s smallest provinces, but with a population of 750,000 it is also one of the most densely populated. The largest city is St John, with just 70,000 people. New Brunswick is known as a maritime province and ship-building was its biggest industry until the business died off in the past decade. Tourism and culture is a bigger business now.
Newfoundland and Labrador
Just over a thousand new immigrants are nominated by Newfoundland and Labrador in its provincial nominee program each year.
If its website is anything to go by, Nova Scotia is the most welcoming little province in Canada. The population is 920,000, a third of whom claim ancestry from, unsurprisingly, Scotland, and another third from England. The capital is Halifax, which also offers 85 per cent of all the jobs, particular in the health and service sectors.
With by far the biggest population (13.5 million), Ontario includes Canada’s biggest city, Toronto, as well as Ottawa and the large cities of Hamilton, Kitchener and London. Demographically the province is largely of British origin, and in Toronto half of the population has lived in Canada for less than 15 years.
Ontario is a wealthy, industrial province, but with jobs in manufacturing such as car making and steel production were heavily hit first in the recession and now with the Chinese economic slowdown. Many expats find jobs in financial services, IT and high technology in and around Toronto.
Canada’s largest and second highest-populated province has French as its sole official language. Half its eight million people live in and around Montreal, although Quebec city is the capital.
Being able to speak and write French will certainly help your efforts to move there, but French is not essential. Quebec uses a different system from the Express Entry but the processes and requirements are very similar.
Buying a Canadian home is, usually, straightforward, inexpensive and safe. Like the USA, estate agents are only REALTORS® if they are licensed by the Canadian Real Estate Association, which ensures they are qualified and well trained. CREA also offers lots of advice and data on the housing market.
Your realtor should be working for you alone, sifting the likely properties via the huge online database of all the houses for sale, the Multiple Listing System, and negotiating on your behalf.
Property Buying Process
When you choose a property, your realtor will make the offer, in writing, including the offer price, details of what the offer includes and a date for completion. There may be conditions attached if you need to sell your own home first and/or get a mortgage. You will need paperwork such as bank statements and tax returns and most buyers in Canada ensure they are pre-qualified for a mortgage.
You will pay a 10 per cent deposit with the offer, which will be held in a secure escrow account. When the sale price is agreed, the lawyers are then engaged and a formal Offer of Purchase and Sale is created and signed by both parties. Your lawyer makes all the usual checks that the property is fully legal and has no debts.
Completion is usually within two or three months, when your lawyer will conform the final balance to be paid, in a Statement of Adjustment. Once you pay this the property is yours.
Budget for up to three per cent in buying costs. Most provinces have a land transfer tax of between 0.5 and 2 per cent, legal fees add another 0.5 and 1 per cent.