Screw this – I’m moving to Canada. Not the first time you’ve heard it, eh? Maybe even thought it yourself. I mean, the U.S. hasn’t been a fun team to root for lately. But really, I am moving to Canada. And let me tell you why you are not… the immigration process is a pain in the ass.
16 months ago I started my application to become a permanent resident of Canada (the equivalent of a “green card” in the States – not to be confused with citizenship). Today I was approved. The journey was expensive, cumbersome, emotional, and long… Canada doesn’t necessarily want Americans hopping the border and taking over… Here’s what it took for an American like me to become a permanent resident of Canada.
What Does IT Meannn?
Being a permanent resident means you can live and work in the country. I just received the two-page “Confirmation of Permanent Residency” paper in the mail. I will present the airport customs guards with this paper, and have my passport stamped as a permanent resident the next time that I arrive to the country in July. WAHOOOOOO. MA-PLE LEAF! MA-PLE LEAF!
Ok wait. Before I go shredding my American passport, let me preface this immigration lesson with the truth – I adore my home and life in California. I’m not actually going into this whole uprooting process with a “screw this” attitude. Okay wait, maybe I am. But not towards the government or the depressing news or the crazy cost of living, but to having to be separated from the person that I love for nearly two years now just because of a country border. Being in an international long distance relationship is being incomplete from what makes you the happiest, every single day, knowing that there is absolutely nothing that you can do to fix it. And in order to close the distance, the most viable option at the moment is to relocate to the frozen arctic north (because I can already hear the Canadians – those beautiful people – rolling their eyes… just so everyone knows: it does get warm there, sometimes even over 90F (sorry, 30C) at times, and the sun does shine! More fun facts about Canada, from an actual Canadian here.). So, I love California, but we’ll see how it goes (nothing goes according to plan).
So What Does it Take?
- PATIENCE (about 2 years of life)
- MONEY (about $2,500 USD)
- STRONG LANGUAGE SKILLS (at least in English, bonus points for French)
- A COLLEGE EDUCATION (extra points for masters and beyond)
- A JOB (maximum points for the same job for 3 years, or if you’re a rocket scientist)
If you kept reading past #2 then maybe you’re serious about moving to Canada (or are just curious why the hell I’m doing all of this. So here’s a breakdown of the process.
What is the Express Entry Process?
Canada has dozens of different paths to becoming a permanent resident (PR). Marriage is one. Common Law (a form of dedicated relationship status without actually being married) is another. There’s also: student status, job sponsorship for doctors and other specialty careers, refugee status (unfortunately this doesn’t apply to Americans, despite how you might feel about it), and a few others. Express Entry is for us run-of-the-mill, single, average career people. Gaining PR status means you can work and live in the country, and receive all the great socialist benefits (free health care!). The sole thing a PR can’t do is vote, but they’re doing fine in that arena anyway (you go, Trudeau). Here’s what my process looked like with costs, which is pretty much what anyone going through the Express Entry process will experience:
- Consult a consultant – there are lots of immigration consultants out there. Mine cost about $125/hr. This was super helpful. He answered all 55 or so of my questions in an hour and was definitely worth the price.
- Research – YouTube videos, consultant websites, scour the http://www.canada.ca website; this website is actually impressively good for being a federal site. But I’m really not surprised… Canada…
- Check what type of visa you can apply for by using the website eligibility quiz.
- Start the online application via the http://www.canada.ca website, using a code from the eligibility quiz (above). The application is pretty straight forward and considers education, background, etc. There are a few key components:
- FBI Clearance – you have to get your finger prints done to prove you don’t have any felonies (~$90)
- Educational Assessment – you have to confirm through a third party that your educational credentials are legit (~$250)
- Language Test – you have to show that you are fluent in English by taking a 4 hour in-person test… I’m a journalism graduate and didn’t even get full marks, so I swear this test is flawed (~$300)
Once you have your first application completed (takes about 6 months to get all the tests and paperwork together) you submit the Express Entry Profile to the Canadian government. They immediately give you a ranking number in return, which is calculated based on the details of your application. This number is out of a total possible 1,200 points, and 600 is given if and only if you have a valid job offer in Canada. You might as well go ahead and disregard those points because you are not going to get a valid job offer in Canada (unless again, you’re a rocket scientist). My number was 413.
Every two weeks the Canadian government decides what number to “draw” i.e. invite. For example, when I was waiting for my number to be called, it would bounce around numbers like 453, 421, 508, 478. When they draw the number, it means that anyone with that number and higher will be receiving invitations to apply. There was basically no chance my number was going to be picked… NEVER had it dropped so low. Well after about 4 months in the pool, 413 was called and shortly after, I received a message in my immigration portal saying I was invited to apply. Side note: never has that low of a number been drawn since that day. I was right on the money.
Invitation to Apply
So if your number is drawn, this means that the Canadian government thinks you might be a good candidate and now you can put in your real application. The other one (above) was just for shits and giggles apparently. So this next application includes:
- A doctors exam – pretty easy unless you’ve got something crazy (~$450)
- History of everywhere you’ve traveled – particularly hard if you’ve been to countries that don’t stamp your passport or have a bad memory. I actually screwed this part up… more on that later
- History of everywhere you’ve ever lived– particularly hard if you moved around a lot in college
- A letter from your employer – particularly awkward if you haven’t told your boss you’re planning to move countries
- Information about your family – particularly annoying if you don’t know all your family members’ birthdays
There’s a few other details not included here but basically know that this second application is a pain in the ass, and is expensive. And documents expire. And if you don’t get everything done quick enough… this leads me to…
My application was rejected. All that. Dreams of perfect snow and reuniting with my love, crushed. My application was rejected weeks after I submitted it because my FBI Clearance was over 6 months old. Sigh. I didn’t even know that was a thing. The document nor immigration instructions certainly didn’t mention it. Just like that, back to square one.
Ok so here we go, round two, and this time it will be faster. I was an expert by this point. I could do this thing with my frickin eyes closed. Which would be incredibly stupid. This shit was important. So I submitted my Express Entry Profile again and this time, my score was 438 because I had attained another year at work. Sweet. First round draw, the number hits lower than 438 and I am invited! I resubmit all my stuff again checking 12+ times over to make sure nothing fell through the cracks. I submitted the online application *again* (~$1,000) and waited. A few weeks later, they asked me to reconfirm my travel history. That’s strange… wait… daaaaang it. I forgot one of my six trips to Canada. I sent them the form back and prayed this wouldn’t be the end of me. Well it’s been a few months from that point and here I am, holding my confirmation of permanent residency.
Piece of cake.
Oh.. and the How Easy Was It?
NOT AT ALL.
p.s. in case you missed this link earlier, I highly recommend you watch this vid from my “research” here.