How to get into Canada if you’re not a Canadian...
I always knew that my getting into Canada was going to be more complicated than Eve’s...but then it got ten times more complicated than that, and a lot more expensive. But at least it was relatively quick…
My original plan was to have Eve sponsor my application for permanent residency, something which on paper seemed relatively simple. Once Eve was a bona fide Canadian all we would have to do is prove our status as ‘common law partners’ - i.e. that we had been in a relationship and living together for over a year. However there did seem to be an alternative - applying separately as a skilled worker - and however many times I read the Canadian immigration website I couldn’t work out if that was easier or harder than the sponsorship route. After a bit of googling I found an immigration consultant here in the UK who charged £100 for an hours’ consultation.
He was well worth the money. Not only did he put to rest Eve’s concerns about the validity of her claim to citizenship, but after an hour he had confirmed that my application should be through a system called express entry that would be quicker and easier than the sponsorship route. In fact for complicated reasons that I won’t go into here it would also mean I could get to work as soon as I arrived in Canada rather than being forced to wait 3-4 months after we arrived. Money well spent.
So what is express entry? Basically a pool system where candidates can apply, get given a points score based on their skills, experience, age etc. and then every 2-3 weeks those with the best scores get pulled out and asked to apply for permanent residency. The consultant told me that I should only have to hang around a couple of weeks to get fished out of the pool and that the application would only take a few months after that point. Easy!
Well, not quite. There are a few important things you need to do both before and after going into the pool. And when I say important I mean tedious and expensive. Before entering the pool you need to:
✓ Do a language test in English or French
I did mine with IELTS, which costs £150 and about 6 hours of frustrating bureaucracy on a rainy Saturday. Doing the test was fine apart from the weird overcomplicated true/false questions and Eve’s persistent mocking me for dropping a point in the reading section.
✓ Get your qualifications certified
Assuming you didn’t complete your education in Canada, you’ll need to use one of their certified institutions to confirm what the equivalent qualification would have been in Canada. You might assume that this was a pretty simple process (the output being that my masters degree was worth, wait for it...a masters degree!), but you’d be wrong. It actually takes 4-6 weeks and another £150. I used WES because their waiting times were the shortest.
✓ Dive right in
To enter the pool you fill out a form online here and get given a score, which should then give you an indication of how likely you are to get selected - a quick google and you can see the results from the last few draws. Once you’re pulled out of the pool, you need to submit your application for permanent residency. To do this you need a few more things:
✓ A medical
Surprise, surprise this can only be done in a few specific and expensive places. The one in London is a Harley Street doctor surgery who charge £330 for the scans and tests to show you’re fit to be Canadian.
✓ Police certificate
Used to show you don’t have a criminal record, this certificate is almost as complicated to obtain as the whole of the rest of the permanent residency process. Don’t be fooled by the simple looking ‘apply here’ button you find in this link it then asks you to upload *deep breath*... 2 forms of proof of address, a recent passport photo, a copy of your passport, your address history for the past TEN years, details of an ‘endorser’ who can be anyone who has known you for at least two years and holds a professional-sounding job (there’s a list of jobs that qualify), your national insurance AND driving licence numbers. Easy as that. Except don’t forget to pay the £45. Phew!
✓ Bank letters
You need to be able to prove that you have enough money to look after yourself, which varies depending on how big your family is. Luckily because it’s just me the amount of money isn’t too much, but I need to provide letters from my banks and other financial institutions to show that I have enough readily available.
As Eve mentioned previously Canadian passport photos are different to UK ones, and (you guessed it!) more expensive. Make sure you get 50mm x 70mm.
Even paying isn’t simple (and it definitely isn’t cheap!) - there’s a processing fee and a right to permanent residence fee, which together come to CAD$1,040 if you’re a single person applying like me. It’s different if you’re a family doing it together. Then that’s it! Hopefully just wait 6 months and you’re in, well, that’s the theory…!