The Journey Begins

All you need to know about immigration to Canada and help you prepare before landing and smoothly transition to this amazing country.

Overview

When one thinks of immigration, Canada is usually one of the top countries that comes to most people’s mind and its popularity has gone up even higher in last few years ever since Trump administration clamped down on immigration. Moreover, given that the population growth rate is below that of the replacement rate of 2.1%, Canada must rely on immigration to fuel it’s economic and demographic growth. One interesting stat based on the Canada government’s website is that 80% of population growth was driven by immigration b/w 2018 and 2019. The total growth during this period was 1.4%. The net result is to make Canada rely on population growth to power its economic growth (for more read globe and mail article).

Consideration

Few of the important factors that drive people to immigrate to Canada are quality of life, improved living conditions, low crime rate, and freedom in practising beliefs/exercising sexuality. However, before embarking on this journey, it’s critical to do your own research, talk to friends/family living in Canada, explore opportunities in your area of expertise, and determine the true cost of living. If pursuing higher education consider the cost of education, your living expenses, whether you can commit to part time jobs or earn from TA, expected salary after graduation, and possible career paths.

Most often people think it’s easy after getting a PR to land a job in Canada only to realize that the path to a job is steep and requires planning, positioning, and significant networking. However, for people in the realm of IT or related professions, the job market shows more mercy mainly due to a supply constraint.  

Also, if you are earning significantly well in your current country and own a house, then migration for economic reasons should not be a major factor in your decision and one should realize that the jobs are not as high paying as the jobs in the US for the same skill & position and the opportunities are limited compared to the US.

Healthcare is free of cost for PRs/Citizens/Work permit holders. Healthcare is provincially managed and they do not cover dental, eye, and prescription drugs. Depending on the province, you must spend a certain duration after landing in Canada before you can avail free healthcare.  For international students, you would get the university insurance which will help you cover any regular doctor visits. Before travelling, if you want to be risk averse, get yourself a health care insurance from one of the Canadian insurers to protect yourself against uncertainties.

Finally, be prepared to shell out high rental costs if you are planning to migrate to Toronto or Vancouver. At the time of writing, in Toronto’s core downtown, an average one-bedroom apartment/condo prices range b/w 1800 and 2000, a reduction in prices in 2020 due to Covid. But depending on the economic recovery from here, the prices can vary. If you want a cheaper accommodation, either live in the suburbs or within the core downtown find people who are willing to share accommodation. Usually basement houses are cheaper. If you decide to live in the downtown, you can get a bike and move around easily except in winter. Otherwise, you can rely on subway, street cars, buses, or uber to easily move around. If you end up in the suburbs, most likely you would need a car to get around and you would have to account for high insurance costs which can vary based on your postal code, car type, and whether you have a G2 or full G license.

Process

Depending on your situation, you might apply as an international student, economic class, family class, or as a refugee.

For international students, the first step is to secure a university admission and apply for the student permit visa. If you are planning to work part time, ensure your student visa permits you to do so.

If you are planning to apply for PR after graduation, keep a note on the course duration as the work permit duration you get after graduation might depend on the course length.  Once you get a one year of experience in Canada, you will be eligible for applying for PR under Canada experience class. Under this program, you will get significant points for your education in Canada and work experience.

For people planning to apply for PR through federal skilled worker program, first and foremost check your eligibility and ensure you meet the minimum CRS (comprehensive ranking score). CRS is the basis on which the government decides whether you qualify for PR. If you have a master’s or a doctorate degree with at least 2 years of work experience, then the chances of getting a PR is very high. However, if you have an undergrad degree and at least 2 years of work experience, you can still apply and pray that CRS score comes down for you to get an ITA (invitation to apply). ITA is a document that basically says that you are eligible to apply for PR.

PR is a two-step process, and anyone can apply by themselves online without any agents’ help. It’s a very easy, intuitive process. Unless your cases is complicated, save money and use the online Canada.ca tool:

  1. Eligibility Check
    1. Write IELTS or CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program). Ensure you prepare well and get a high score upwards of 7.5 (for IELTS) and do well in listening and speaking.
    2. Apply for education credential assessment. Get your university transcripts and go to site www.wes.org. Ensure your name in the passport and your university transcripts match. Upon submission, WES usually takes a month to send out the certification
    3. Once you have this two information, go to Canada.ca, create an account for immigration, and apply for PR. It’s a guided process, enter your IELTS or CELPIP code, WES code, and other details and submit the application
    4. You will get a response from IRCC (Canadian government body for immigration called Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada) within few days. If you qualify for PR, they will send you the score and a document called ITA. ITA basically means you seem to meet the criteria and you are eligible to apply for PR.
  2. Apply for PR. As soon as you get an ITA, get the below documents
    1. Apply for Police Certificate
    2. Book a Doctor’s appointment (the ones the Canadian government approves in your country)
    3. Job offer letter, supervisor reference letter. Ensure all these documents have job responsibilities detailed for your respective job code. Job code is the code you chose for your profession while filling up your PR in the eligibility check or while applying for your PR application. This is an important step and ensure your job description is related to the job code.
    4. Get your transcripts. Do this even before you apply for your PR
    5. Arrange your finances and ensure you meet the minimum requirement stipulated. Depending on whether you are an individual or family sponsor the amount will vary
    6. Don’t forget to enclose a cover letter. In cover letter, give a summary of why you want to migrate, how you can contribute to Canada, any changes in your name/status, or any events from your past you want to highlight. Be honest and truthful in your narration. Finally, list down the documents you have submitted
    7. After you have done collecting all the documents, arrange them, and upload. Ensure you compress your documents to meet the size requirements and finally submit.
    8. Make the necessary payments

Preparation

Pat yourself if you have received your PR and before you pop out the champagne, do understand that you’re just getting started and the road ahead might not be as easy as you think and it pays to come prepared.

First, ensure finances are in order and you have enough liquidity at disposal to sustain yourself before you get a job. Depending on whether you are coming alone or with family, the cost of living will vary.

If you are coming by yourself:

  1. Be prepared to shell out $2000/month to sustain yourself. At least 500 for food/groceries and , depending on where and how you live, the cheapest accommodation can vary b/w 500 and 1000. The rest 500 for travel, entertainment, and other costs like internet/mobile

If you are coming with your family:

  1. Be prepared to shell out anywhere b/w $3000 and $4000 /month. If have children who need access to day care or school, do a considerable research on neighbourhoods before choosing your accommodation

Apart from your living cost, do budget for

  1. Start up cost – One time costs to get winter wear (can be used for few years before they wear down). You would need to buy jackets and shoes for fall, winter, spring, and rain. For winter jackets go for down jackets with a down number of at least 650. Budget brand is Uniqlo or if you are willing to loosen your purse go for eddie bauer or north face. Feel free to spurge on premium brands if you can afford it. Ensure you buy a good jacket as good jackets don’t require you to layer more. You would need an inner wear for winter such as wool or any polyester based winter base layer.
  2. Housing Cost – First month and last month rentals – In Canada, you need to enter into a contract with your landlord by showing you have enough funds, in good standing, and have a steady income. As you will be new, either you should have enough funds or ask your friends/family who reside here to vouch for you. Not you can also find short term rentals less than year.
  3. Furniture Cost: Once you have your new home, you might have to get furniture. Cheapest way is to buy off kijji.ca (site to buy and sell used stuff) or facebook marketplace or apps like “Let’s go”. Online store wayfair or ikea or any of the local stores like structube or the brick can be your other options.
  4. Airbnb Cost or Hotel Cost – if you are not staying with friends or family, you will need to look for an airbnb or hotel accommodation. Don’t get into long term rental before you land in Canada. Stay in a temporary accommodation until you figure out the neighbourhood and thoroughly check out the apartment/house you intend to reside as it’s going to be a contract and you don’t want to end up in place that has issues.

Other stuff like where to shop for groceries or common household stuff you can figure out after coming to Canada. However, below is a list of common stores you will find

  1. Common Grocers – Cheaper ones: freshco, no frills, foodstore, Premium Grocers: Loblaws, longos, sobeys, or eataly. There are too many other local grocery shops to meet different community needs. Walmart is major discount retailers and Costco major wholesaler.
  2. Kitchen stuff – You can buy most of the stuff from Canadian tire or kitchen stuff or local stores
  3. Biggest Dollar store in Canada is called Dollarama. Most of the items are priced under $4 and do check out this store to look at various household items you can get here. For some of the items, look at the unit price rather than the absolute price.

Another important document that one needs to carry is driving license. if you happen to originate from a country where Canada does not accept the driving license then reach out to the transport authority in your country and get an experience letter highlighting when you got your license, your license number, and your name. This experience letter is helpful when applying for driving license in Canada and lets you transfer your driving experience.

Arrival & Accommodation

I am not going to delve into air tickets as for the most part it’s a straightforward process. Remember to have all your documents in place when you enter Canada. If you are an international student or work permit holder, you will most likely be asked the purpose of your visit and whether you plan to exit the country after your graduation or after document expiry. Remember, not to give any indication that you won’t exit the country as your status requires you to exit the country after your study/work permit expires. For first time PR holders, have your final PR invitation and visa ready.

Once you are done with your landing formalities, the things you need to quick work on in the next coming days:

  1. Get your SIN ASAP. SIN refers to social insurance number, a unique number that links you to the tax man and through which your credit and taxes are monitored. Sin can be applied from Services Canada, a federal branch to hep you with SIN, birth certificate, and passports
  2. Bank Account: CIBC, Scotiabank, RBC Bank, or TD bank are the big banks in Canada. You can open an account easily in any of these banks. Tangerine bank is an online bank where you can save on your monthly cots and bank fees every month with the only caveat that you can’t do international transfer to tangerine bank accounts. For remittance, I use remitly and seem to get good rates and the transfer is amazingly fast.
  3. You would need an identity card. Best form of identity is Driving license. Even if you are not confident enough to drive or don’t know how to drive, I strongly encourage you to write the exam and get the first level of license called G1 for cars. This will help you get a photo identity which will be useful in many instances. First step is to write the exam. There are plenty of online tutorials and mocks questions to help you prepare. After you pass the exam, you will get G1. If you have enough experience, you can transfer your experience to get a G2 license which is less restrictive than G1. You can learn to drive, get acquainted with all the rules and finally when you are confident you can go for full G driving exam. Driving license is a provincial subject and hence each province will have their own regulations and authorities. In Ontario, Service Ontario takes care of driving license and health cards.

Finally, apply for the health card, even if it means you’re eligible later, applicable for PR holders. For students, until your status changes to pr or work permit you won’t be eligible for health card but can make use of your university healthcare. Check your provincial eligibility rules as it varies based on the province.

Job

Jobs are not easy as one would assume unless you are in certain niche sectors or IT field. Even in IT, it depends on what technology you are skilled in and how good you are with your soft skills to get a decent job. Hence, it becomes imperative you take it seriously and come up with a game plan.

First and foremost, connect with as many people on linkedin who best match your area of interest and start applying for jobs as soon as you are settled. You need to treat the process of getting a full-time job as a job in-itself. You need to come up with a schedule and, on daily basis, apply for jobs on indeed.ca, send out linkedin requests, meet people, and prepare/upskill yourself. Remember, every year Canada receives 300k to 350k PR holders and the numbers keep growing with every passing year. You are competing with immigrants, Canadians, recent graduates, and work permit holders and hence you need to stand out in the market. Reaching out to friends or family or anyone from your community or alumni will help you get some leads. There are plenty of recruiting agencies or staffing agencies and you should reach out to them and share your profile.

Within 3 months, if you are not getting interview calls then you need to assess your strategy and talk to others in the industry and seek their guidance. If finance is a constraint, you should get a part time job for few days in a week to help you manage your expense, increase your social interaction, and acquaint with Canadian culture. For most people, getting the foot inside the door is a major step and, hence, you need to have patience, confidence, and trust in the system to achieve success. If you are low at any point, then make sure you go for a workout, walking, biking, meeting friends, or anything that makes you positive, boosts your confidence, and reinvigorate your energy levels.

Healthcare

Once you get your health card, you need to look for a family physician who can keep a check on your health, answer any concerns you might have, and recommend you to a specialist if necessary. If you don’t have a family doctor, in case of medical urgency, you need to go to a walk-in clinic or emergency rooms in hospital which are notorious for long wait times. Most doctors you see are family doctors or someone from internal medicine practice. If you need to meet a specialist such as a cardiologist your family doctor needs to recommend you to one. Hence, it’s critical esp if you have pre-existing condition or migrated with your family to seek a family doctor at the earliest as soon as you receive your health card.

Conclusion

I have captured most of the critical information that can help someone who is planning to migrate to Canada. I believe this is a good primer and captures most of the stuff you would need to arm yourself and prepare in making your decision and preparation for arrival and getting around once you land. Please feel free to leave your comments and I will try my best to answer any questions you might have. Finally, I will try my best to update the article with new information and enrich the content based on the feedback and relevancy.