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Home >> Before You Arrive >> Immigration to Canada

Immigration to Canada

People from many different backgrounds leave their country and move to Canada every year. The application to immigrate is generally made through a Canadian embassy, high commission or consulate outside the country, though immigration documents are available online. The application process involves the completion of many official forms, payment of a number of fees and may involve face-to-face interviews, a medical examination, and a background check. Applicants may also have to provide their biometrics.

There are a number of different options for people choosing to immigrate to Canada. You must determine which program best fits your situation and the categories for which you are eligible.

Note: There have been significant changes to the immigration process in recent years. Some programs that existed previously are no longer available or have been collapsed into other programs. Eligibility requirements for continuing programs have also often changed. See For More Information links below for details on tools to help determine eligibility and links to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) information on specific immigration programs.

Express Entry (Skilled Immigrants)

This is a new system introduced in 2015. Users fill out an online profile that includes language test scores (English and/or French language skills), education credential assessment and work experience. Eligible candidates are then ranked against others in a pool. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) will then regularly select top-ranked individuals from the pool and send them an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

Note: Candidates remain in the pool for one year only. If you are not invited to apply for permanent residency during that time, your candidacy will expire and you will have to reapply. Immigration applications are processed under the rules in place at the time of application. If you applied to immigrate under one of these programs before January 1, 2015, then the rules and processing times will be different than if you applied after the Express Entry system went into effect.
Also: the rules and requirements for all the Express Entry programs may change without notice. Check the official CIC site for details (See For More Information links below).

The following programs are managed through the Express Entry process and each has different requirements.

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program: For individuals who have the education, training, language skills and work experience to become economically established in Canada. Skilled work is defined by its Canadian National Occupational Classification (NOC), specifically Skill Type 0 or Skill Levels A and B. Individuals are also assessed on age, adaptability and whether they have a valid job offer.
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program: For people who are qualified and have experience in a skilled trade. Only certain skilled trades are eligible for this program and individuals must meet all federal job requirements for that skilled trade (as per the NOC). Additionally, provinces/territories often have different certification requirements for specific skilled trades. See the Regulated Professions & Recognized Trades page for more details on certification requirements.
  • Canadian Experience Class: For people who have recent skilled work experience in Canada and who want to stay permanently. Only certain types of work experience qualify as “skilled work” for the purposes of this program. Self-employment and work experience gained while a full-time student in Canada does not apply.
  • Provincial Nominee Program (PNP): Many Canadian provinces and territories have programs where the provinces/territories nominate individuals for immigration. In Ontario, this program is called Opportunities Ontario and has streams specific to foreign workers, investors, students with job offers, and Masters and PhD graduates. Some of these programs are tied to the federal Express Entry system. Application though the PNP program is a two-stage process involving: 1) application for a nomination certificate from the specific province/territory followed by 2) application to CIC for permanent residence.

Note: Criteria for provincial nominees are quite varied and can change without notice. Nominees are generally required to settle in the province/territory that nominated them. Express Entry programs do not apply to individuals looking to settle in Quebec.

The federal government’s online tool “Come to Canada” will help you determine if you meet the minimum criteria to apply under one of the Express Entry programs. See For More Information links below.

Other Programs and Categories

The following are alternate immigration options mostly for business, economic and family class immigrants. These immigration programs and categories are not part of the new Express Entry system, but have their own rules and requirements.

  • Sponsorship or Family Class: If you are a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada, you can sponsor relatives for permanent residency in Canada. There are three different sponsorship categories, depending on if you are sponsoring:
    • a spouse, common-law or conjugal partner, or dependent children;
    • parents or grandparents; or
    • other eligible relatives, including adopted children.

The rules and requirements for each Family Class category are different and often change. There are also often limits or caps set on the total number of applications accepted per year.

Open work permits are available from CIC for certain eligible spouses or common-law partners who are applying for permanent residency from within Canada. These permits allow them to work in Canada while waiting for their permanent residency application to be processed.

A Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is also available if sponsorship is not an option. This multiple-entry visa is valid for up to 10 years and allows parents and grandparents to visit Canada for a maximum of 2 years on each entry.

  • Investors, Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed People: For individuals who will support the development of a strong Canadian economy. This includes the following programs:
    • Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program: For international investors with the skills and abilities needed to integrate into Canadian society and contribute economically. This program has a set yearly cap and a set time frame for application.
    • Start-up Visa Program: For immigrant entrepreneurs who are able to obtain support for their start up from a CIC-designated Canadian organization. The list of designated organizations includes venture capital funds, angel investor groups and business incubators.
    • Self-Employed Persons Program: For self-employed people in certain fields who can make a significant contribution to that field in Canada. Specifically this is geared to those who can make a significant cultural or athletic contribution or who intend to buy and manage a farm.

For details on these programs and determining eligibility, see the For More Information links below.

  • Caregiver Program: There are three different categories for this program:
    • Caring for Children Pathway: For individuals who have at least 24 months of full-time work experience in Canada as a home child care provider.
    • Caring for People with High Medical Needs Pathway: For individuals who have at least 24 months of full-time work experience in Canada caring for people with high medical needs as a nurse, orderly, home support worker or related occupation.
    • Live-in Caregiver Program: For individuals who are qualified to provide care for children, elderly persons, or persons with disabilities in private homes. These individuals are required to live in the private home where they work. Among other things, this program requires a signed work contract with an employer who has obtained an official Labour Market Impact Assessment for this job.
  • Refugees and Asylum: A special class and set of categories for people who are fleeing from danger and/or persecution in their homeland and who are seeking protection and asylum in Canada. This includes those who are in Canada and who are unwilling or unable to return to their home country.

The online “Come to Canada” tool can be used to find out if you meet the minimum requirements to apply for any particular program. See the For More Information links below to be directed to specific CIC immigration program information, various immigration tools, and other relevant information such as reasons individuals may be inadmissible and not allowed to come to Canada.

The status of your immigration application can be checked online or by calling the CIC call centre (in-Canada only) or contacting the appropriate embassy, high commission, or consulate. Information on the standard length of time it takes to process applications for each visa office is also available.

Note: Information about the application process is available at no charge from CIC representatives. Hiring an immigration lawyer or immigration representative outside the government does not mean your application will be processed faster or given special attention.

For More Information

World Education Services
A non-profit organization that provides information about foreign academic credentials, institutions and trends. This organization is designated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to provide Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) reports for applicants to the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP) immigration stream. Includes a free Degree Equivalency Tool.

I am immigrating to Canada. How do I bring my belongings with me?
Information about documenting the goods you are bringing to Canada and the types of documents to present to customs officers. The official forms can be downloaded from this site. Includes information about bringing a car and pets into the country. Available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), French, Gujarati, Pilipino (Tagalog), Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu.

Common Questions — Immigrating to Ontario
A listing of common questions about immigrating to Ontario. Includes information on applying to immigrate, important documents, health care, jobs, business immigration, and education and training.

Family sponsorship
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) information about who can sponsor immediate family members and relatives into Canada, with links to details on the requirements of the different Family Class categories: spouse, partner or children; parents and grandparents; and other relatives and adopted children. Includes a set of frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program
Information about this pilot program for international investors with the skills and abilities needed to integrate into Canadian society and contribute economically. Includes eligibility requirements, how to apply, what to do after applying and a set of frequently asked questions (FAQ) specific to this program. Note that this program often has caps on overall number of applications and a set time frame for application.

Invest in Ontario: Business Immigration
Business immigrants have access to a variety of services and support before and after arriving in Ontario, including multi-lingual seminars, networking events, programs and an opportunity to explore other communities. Includes an explanatory video explaining how the Ontario government is ready to help you do business in Ontario.

Check application processing times
Information about processing times for immigration and citizenship applications: temporary residence, permanent residence, and other immigration documents. Provides links to regularly updated pages showing how long it takes to process them in Canada and at various Canadian Visa offices. Also includes a set of frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Crossing the border: documents you need
Official Citizenship and Immigration Canada page with details on documents individuals and families need to have with them to enter Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
Information about the policy, programs and services of the federal government department responsible for immigration and citizenship in Canada. Includes information on visiting, studying, working or immigrating to Canada; how to obtain the appropriate visas and documentation; links to downloadable applications and tools to determine eligibility and track application status; and much more. CIC is also available on Twitter.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC): Call Centre Services
Direct help with questions about immigration processes in Canada is available five days a week from the CIC call centre. An automated 24-hour phone service is also available. Links to Canadian visa offices in other countries are provided for those outside of Canada.

Settlement.Org
Detailed information and articles about living, working, studying and settling in Ontario. They can also be followed on Twitter and are available on Facebook and YouTube.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC): Apply to Immigrate to Canada
Details on the different programs available for immigration to Canada. Categories include investors; entrepreneurs (Start-up Visa); self-employed people; skilled workers, professionals, and those with Canadian experience (Express Entry); provincial nominees; caregivers; and sponsorship of family members.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC): Help Centre
Answers to frequently asked questions about various aspects of immigration. The questions can be organized by popularity (question or topic) or by location of inquiry (inside vs. outside Canada). Topics can also be organized alphabetically, and there is a glossary for unfamiliar terms.

Ontario immigration: How To Apply
General information about immigration options, including the Ontario Provincial Nominee Program: Opportunities Ontario. Also includes links to information on working, studying or living temporarily in Ontario and links to immigration forms that can be downloaded.

Ontario immigration: Documents You Need
A list of documents you must bring when you arrive and that you’ll need when you are living in Ontario. Includes information about Permanent Resident Cards, travel documents, Social Insurance Number (SIN) cards, health cards and driver’s licences. Links to Ontario government electronic forms site.

Fee list — Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
A list of fees that must be paid by applicants, employers and sponsors to the Canadian government for: immigration, citizenship, visas and permits (including visitor, work, study and temporary resident), and for various other related documents and services. Includes a link to an online tool to assist you with the process of paying your fees. Fees are subject to change without notice.

How can I apply to immigrate to Ontario?
An overview of the immigration process, including the application process, who is eligible and links to other helpful resources such as a links to a directory of services for newcomers. Also available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified) French, Gujarati, Pilipino (Tagalog), Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu.

Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
The board is an independent tribunal responsible for making decisions on immigration and refugee matters. Includes information about the board, its activities, policy and regulations.

How do I bring money into Canada (proof of funds)?
How to bring money into Canada, what to tell Canadian customs officials, the importance of setting up an account to transfer funds and arranging to transfer money from your home country.

How long does it take to process my immigration application?
The length of time to process applications for immigration to Canada varies according to the type of applicant and where the application originates. Includes a list of tips for filling out your application to reduce the chance of delays. Available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), French, Gujarati, Pilipino (Tagalog), Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu.

Should I get help with my immigration application from an immigration consultant or lawyer?
Information about paid and unpaid immigration representatives, questions to ask lawyers and consultants, how to file a complaint, and links to other useful resources. Also available in Arabic, Chinese (Simplified) French, Gujarati, Pilipino (Tagalog), Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, and Urdu.

Learn about using a representative — Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
General overview with links to more information on types of immigration representatives and what to look for, protecting yourself from fraud, and how to file a complaint. Includes an explanatory video and links to the application forms you will need if you choose to use a representative.

Phone Line for Legal Information and Referrals — In Many Languages (Settlement.Org)
Newcomers who need legal information or referrals can call a free toll-free telephone number 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and receive service in English, French, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Somali, Spanish, Tamil and Urdu.

Video Centre — Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
A selection of videos on topics of interest to newcomers. Includes tutorials for filling out immigration forms and other documents, personal stories of immigrants, immigrating and settling in Canada (process, requirements, etc.) becoming a Canadian citizen, applying for a Permanent Resident Card or a passport, multiculturalism in Canada and statements by Canadian politicians. Transcripts of each video are available in English and French. Versions of the videos are available in other languages on the corresponding CIC YouTube channels: Arabic, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), Hindi, Punjabi, Tagalog and Urdu.

Do you want to come to Canada, or extend your stay?
A Government of Canada online tool that will walk you through your immigration options and help you submit an online or paper application. For those who wish to come to Canada or extend their stay.

Parent and Grandparent Super Visa
A special visa for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents that allows for extended visits of up to 2 years. Includes information on eligibility requirements, how to apply, next steps, extending your visa, and a set of frequently asked questions (FAQ) about this visa.

Determine your eligibility – Canadian Experience Class
The Canadian Experience Class (CEC) is a subcategory of the Express Entry skilled immigrant immigration program. CEC is specific to those individuals who already have a qualifying amount of work experience in Canada, who meet the required language levels, and who are not settling in Quebec. Note that self-employment and work experience gained while a full-time student does not count under this program and that there are other restrictions as well. An explanatory video specific to students applying under this category is available.

Stay in Canada after graduation
The Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) allows students who have graduated from a participating Canadian post-secondary institution to stay and work in Canada and gain valuable Canadian work experience. Skilled Canadian work experience helps graduates qualify for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program. Criteria, requirements, and how to apply for this work permit are addressed. Includes a video on the Canadian Experience Class immigration stream for students.

Comparative Education Service: University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies
A University of Toronto service that can provide an expert assessment report that compares your academic achievements earned outside of Canada to credentials earned in Canada. This organization is designated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to provide Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) reports for applicants to one of the Express Entry streams, such as: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class stream.

International Credential Assessment Service of Canada (ICAS)
This organization provides an expert assessment report that compares your academic achievements earned outside of Canada to credentials earned in Canada. This organization is designated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to provide Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) reports for applicants to one of the Express Entry streams, such as: the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, and the Canadian Experience Class stream.

Medical Council of Canada
A non-profit organization for physicians that provides an expert assessment report that compares your academic achievements earned outside of Canada to credentials earned in Canada. This organization is designated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) to provide Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) reports for applicants to one of the Express Entry streams, such as: the Federal Skilled Worker Program and the Canadian Experience Class stream.

Temporary foreign workers — Your rights are protected
A Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) pamphlet to inform temporary foreign workers of their rights under Canadian law. The exploitation of a foreign national may violate Canadian law and human rights. Includes information on payment, contracts, safety, changing your jobs, accommodation (housing), and human trafficking. Also available in Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, and Tagalog (listed under the “Working Temporarily in Canada” subcategory).

Determine your eligibility – Skilled Trades
A subcategory of the Express Entry skilled immigrant immigration program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program is specific to those individuals who want to become permanent residents based on being qualified in a skilled trade. Only certain skilled trades are eligible for this program and individuals must meet all federal job requirements for that trade, plus the certification requirements as set out by the province/territory where they will work. Note that eligible trades may have annual overall application caps and that other criteria may be subject to change without notice.

Caregiver Program
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) information on this immigration program and the three streams available under it: the Caring for Children Pathway, the Caring for People with High Medical Needs Pathway, and the Live-in Caregiver Program. Includes links to details on the requirements for eligibility, the process of applying, and next steps for each stream. The Live-in Caregiver Program stream also has a list of frequently asked questions (FAQ), including the rights of live-in caregivers under Canadian labour and employment laws.

Living in Canada Tool
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) online tool that helps newcomers learn what they need to settle and live in Canada.

Start-up visa
A business-class immigration option for entrepreneurs, this program links immigrant entrepreneurs with experienced private sector organizations who are experts in working with start-ups. Details on eligibility requirements, the applications process, and what to do after submitting an application.

Reasons for inadmissibility
Information on why certain individuals may be denied a visa, denied entry to Canada, or removed from Canada.

Arrive Prepared -- Settlement Online Pre-Arrival
Arrive Prepared is a website offered by Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA). It helps people who have received permanent resident status, but who are not in Canada yet. It offers free online courses and personlized sessions with an intake counsellor to go over settlement questions and be connected to local resources in Canada. SOPA is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

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