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Updated 26 Oct 2011

This is a brief immigration guide for individuals and families who wish to call Canada their new home. We hope that at the end of this guide, we will be able to say “welcome!” or “bienvenue!” to you and your family.

Hello – Salut!

First of all, thank you for being interested in Canada of all the countries in the world. In quick facts, Canada is the second largest country in the world by area. Per each of the 10 million sq/km of land, there are only 3.4 citizens. The total population is almost 35 million people. The very low population density means that each Canadian family could live on 1 sq/km.

Yet, it’s more common for families to live in cities, the biggest of which is Toronto in the province of Ontario. This is partly because of the sociable nature of Canadians, and partly due to the hostile weather in the northern territories. Canada is administratively divided into ten provinces and three territories. Interestingly, Canada has the longest coastline in the world, which is in excess of 200,000 kilometres.

If you are planning to come live in Canada, you are most probably aiming for the south-eastern areas around the great lakes, between Québec City and Windsor, Ontario. Or you may decide to go west and settle down in or near Vancouver, British Columbia. Alternatively, you could find a home in Calgary or Edmonton, Alberta, close to the west coast.

Types of permanent immigration programs

Fortunately, immigration to Canada is handled on the federal level, so most of the laws and rules apply across the country.

A prospective immigrant may make use of several types of immigration programs with different implications and requirements. This is the list of the most popular permanent residency programs as at the end of 2011:

  • Skilled workers and professionals

  • Québec-selected skilled workers

  • Investors

  • Entrepreneurs

  • Self-employed people

  • Canadian Experience Class

  • Provincial nominees

  • Sponsoring your family

► Skilled workers and professionals

Use this option if you can prove your command of English and wish to work in Canada as a permanent resident. With this program, you do not need an employer or sponsor if you have had work experience in one of the listed occupations. On the contrary, you can request the Canada Skilled Worker Visa and accept a job after arrival without having to seek a work permit. Already after three years under this program, you can apply for Canadian citizenship if you fulfill the other statutory requirements.

There are yearly limits on the amount of processed applicants who do not have an arranged employment already.

To make things a little more complicated, Québec has a separate skilled-workers immigration program in place that follows independent rules. One of the reasons for an individual program is the fact that in Québec, over 80 percent of the population speaks French, not English.

To learn more about Québec’s immigration program, visit the province’s info-page on immigration and settling in Québec. The information is available in both English and French.


Canada is happy to welcome experienced and skilled businessmen from abroad to contribute to the country’s prosperous economy with their own acumen. Business investors who are already worth more than $1.6 million are expected to bring into Canada at least $800,000 in cash. This deposit qualifies them for permanent residency. This money is managed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and used to create new jobs for Canadians for the next five years. The deposit is returned to the investor without interest after approximately 62 months.


This program is designed for experienced business persons who are willing to own and manage businesses in Canada and do not want to apply under the “investor” program. The country welcomes any initiative to add jobs and propel the economy.

Entrepreneurs can use a simplified application process that begins by submitting a basic application form and a fee. The applicant does not have to provide more documentation unless/until she or he is selected by the Citizenship and Immigration Canada for further processing.

►Self-employed people

People who intend to become self-employed in Canada must have relevant work experience and be able to contribute to Canadian society. This program is primarily designed for artists, athletes, and farm experts who are looking to purchase and manage a farm in Canada.

The simplified application process mentioned above is available to self-employed people as well.

►Canadian Experience Class

This program is for people who have worked in Canada under another permit and are seeking permanent residence now. This includes students who recently graduated. These applicants are required to complete a Generic Application Form for Canada.

►Provincial nominees

This is a specific immigration process that is initiated by a province or territory rather than the applicant. Provinces may nominate a person to settle and work in Canada. This is a very specific scenario but if you have been chosen, you can find more details on provincial nominations here.

►Sponsoring your family

A present permanent resident or Canadian citizen may sponsor a family member to visit and/or stay in Canada too. The process varies with the applicant’s country of origin, and the detailed official sponsorship guide can be found here.

Temporary work permit

A category of its own, a temporary work permit is only awarded for a specified time to skilled workers who have received an offer for temporary employment by a Canadian employer. The application is processed by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) and is initiated by the employer rather than the immigrant.

Once the employer has gotten a positive Labour Market Opinion from the HRSDC, it is the worker’s turn to obtain a valid visa for legal entry to Canada (a Temporary Resident Visa is the usual choice). Upon the worker’s arrival, a Canada Border Services Agency officer will issue the Canada Temporary Work Permit as she or he is crossing the border (or leaving the airport).

Temporary workers should keep in mind that they may have to follow a separate set of rules if they are entering Canada under a specific trade agreement (e.g. NAFTA, other FTAs, GATS). Often, visiting Canada under one of these international agreements simplifies the process of Temporary Work Permit issue. Read this Working Temporarily in Canada FAQ for more information.

Applying for Canadian Citizenship

You’ve been living in Canada and have fallen in love with this amazing country. You wish to relocate all your affairs to Canada and start a new, exciting life as a full-fledged citizen. If so, we’re happy for you!

Canadian citizenship will endow you with all the rights — but also all the responsibilities — of every other Canadian national. You will have the right to vote and to enjoy the benefits of Canadian Medicare, you will be able to call this country your home, and you will be a proud and caring citizen. On the other hand, you will have to pay taxes in Canada, obey Canadian law, and help choose new municipal, provincial, and federal governments every so often.

There are several prerequisites for the application process. If you want to qualify for a Canadian citizenship, you have to be 18 years old or older. You also have to have lived in Canada for a minimum of three of the preceding four years and have been a Canadian permanent resident for at least two of those years.

Time spent serving a sentence, on parole, or on probation within the past four years will not count towards your residence unless you received a pardon for the conviction in question or if you were convicted under the Youth Criminal Justice Act and served as a youth offender in a Canadian prison. If you are currently facing criminal charges or are subject to immigration enforcement action, you may not be eligible to apply for Canadian citizenship either.

A convenient way to determine your eligibility to apply for citizenship is Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s official residence requirement calculator that will guide you through the process of counting your days spent in the country. You are even encouraged to use the summary output of this calculator and attach it to your application.

In addition, applicants younger than 55 years of age must also be able to communicate in English or French and have adequate knowledge of Canada and its laws.

If you fulfill the above criteria, you can find out more information and apply for Canadian citizenship here.

Good luck from the ExpatArrivals team and Jamie Sarner, a Toronto real estate agent who contributed with this handy information guide for immigrants.

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