A Brief Expat Guide To Canadian Visas

Living in Canada can be a highly enriching experience for people of all ages, nationalities, and genders. The nation boasts a spectacular countryside complemented by developed cities, and gives you the opportunity to bask in its natural beauty while you enjoy all modern conveniences. Moreover, Canada has one of the strongest and most stable economies compared to other developed nations today.Other factors like its varied diversity, world-class infrastructure, low population density, high life expectancy, moderate living costs, ample job opportunities, proper work and life balance, and education also make Canada one of the top expat destinations in the world.

However, settling down in this country is of course not as easy as packing your bags and hopping on to a flight, unless you are from the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand or certain European nations. Citizens of these countries are given visa-free entry into Canada for up to six months; the only document that they need is a valid passport. People from other nations are required to apply for a visit visa to gain entry into the country. Those who plan on living in Canada for a longer period of time may have to apply for a temporary or permanent residence visa, no matter which country they come from.

Documentation

Getting the right paperwork in place is a very important part of an expat’s life, and this is also true for Canada. Every year, a large number of people from all over the world are denied entry as they do not submit all the required documents when applying for their visas. It is not necessary to hire an agent to process the paperwork, though many people prefer to do so. Canadian consulates in most countries have comprehensive websites listing all the forms that need to be filled in and the documents that have to be submitted. Normally, the required documentation includes:

– A completed application form
– Family information form
– 2 passport-sized photographs for each applicant
– Processing fee in the right format
– A valid passport with at least one blank page (visa validity cannot last longer than the passport validity)
– Birth certificates and marriage certificates (optional)
– Labor Market Opinion (LMO) issued by the Employment & Social Development of Canada (ESDC)
– A job contract outlining profile, wages and working conditions
– Academic qualifications and other degrees/ diplomas/ certificates
– Proof of finance to support expenses for the entire duration of the visit

All the paperwork has to be in English. If any of your documents are in other languages, you will have to get them translated at your own expense.

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Eligibility

The consulate will review your application carefully before deciding to grant you a visa or reject your application. If you are applying on the basis of your education or work experience, you will be assessed on six points, which are:

– Education levels
– Language skills
– Work experience
– Age
– Adaptability
– Availability of jobs in Canada for you

The objective of this system is to ensure that a mix of professionals make it into the country and add value to Canadian society through their skills and expertise. The services of a consultant may be beneficial in identifying how many points you are likely to get beforehand. This system is only considered if you are applying under a specific program.

After having lived in Canada on a permanent residence visa for a certain number of years, you can apply for citizenship as long as you fulfill all the statutory requirements.

Types of Visas

Since there are several categories of visas, the whole application process can be a bit confusing and overwhelming, unless you are aware of the procedure and keep yourself prepared.

Temporary Residence Visa

Depending upon your place of origin, you may need to apply for this permit even if you are planning to spend a short period of time in Canada. To initiate the process, you will have to contact the Canadian Consulate or Embassy in your home country.

The visa application package issued by the embassy should give you all the required information on how to complete the form. It also contains guidelines about the passport photographs and paperwork that you need to submit. There is a guide that comes with this package, which helps you understand whether or not you are eligible for a temporary visa.

After filling out the form, send it to the consulate along with the mentioned documents. You can enter the details of your spouse and children on the same form. Do bear in mind that each applicant of the family, even if they are a child, should have a valid passport. Other documents that they ask for usually include an itinerary, ID cards (mainly passports), invitation letters, and employment contracts, or university acceptance letters for students. It is essential for you to prove that you can finance yourself and your dependants for as long as you all are in the country.

You’ll have to pay the visa application fee at the time of submitting the completed form. Go through the guide that you got with your application package carefully. If you aren’t eligible but apply anyway, your fees won’t be refunded if your visa application is turned down. On payment of the fee, you will be given a receipt.

At this time, the consulate representative should also give you some idea about how long it will take for the application to get processed. The duration is likely to vary, depending upon the center that is reviewing your case and paperwork. Some of the offices may require additional information and could ask you to attend an interview with one of their visa officers.

In some cases, you may also be required to undergo a medical exam, which could add several months to the application processing time. Again, the visa office will give you a complete set of instructions about where and when you need to go for the tests.

It is best that you apply for the visa in your home country at least 6 to 12 weeks before you plan to leave for Canada.

Permanent Residence Visa

If you are traveling to Canada with the intention to immigrate, you have to apply for a permanent residence visa. You can do this through the country’s federal program or through one of its provincial programs. Getting a permanent residence visa is a time-consuming and relatively complicated affair. However, contrary to what most foreigners believe, it need not be a frustrating one.

As a prospective immigrant, you can make use of different types of immigration programs. Each one has a different set of implications, requirements, and criteria. The most popular permanent residency visa programs available to foreigners include:

Skilled workers & professionals

Anyone who has a good command over the English language and wishes to settle down in Canada as a permanent resident should consider applying for this program. Fluency in French is definitely an added bonus. Under this program, you don’t need a sponsor or a prospective employer as long as you have work experience in one of the listed occupations. This visa gives you liberty to accept a job after arriving in Canada, without having to seek a work permit.

Of course, a firm offer from a potential employer does tip the scales in your favor, as there is a limit on the number of skilled workers and professionals that gain entry into Canada each year. Professionals and workers that don’t have employment offers at the time of application are more likely to get turned down than those who do have offers.

Another complication is that Quebec has a different set of rules in place for skilled workers and professionals, since more than 80% of the population speaks English, not French. For more information on Quebec’s immigration programs, go here. This website is available in both English and French.

Investors

As is the case with most countries, experienced and skilled businesspeople from other nations who can contribute to Canada’s economy with their own acumen and finance are usually welcomed into Canada without too many additional requirements and processes. This program is ideal for investors worth over $ 1.6 million, and who can bring in at least $ 800,000 cash.

A deposit of this amount can help you qualify for a permanent residency visa. The points system isn’t considered under this program. The money will be managed by Citizenship and Immigration Canada and will be used in creating new jobs across the country. The deposit will be returned to you after around 62 months, without any interest.

Entrepreneurs & self-employed people

This program has been specially designed for businesspeople who are willing to manage their own setup in Canada but who don’t want to apply under the Investor program. The country will welcome you as long as you take the initiative to propel the economy by creating more jobs.

If you are an entrepreneur, the application process is quite simple. You need to submit a form along with the fee. No other documents have to be furnished until your application has been selected for further processing by Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

If you are an artist, photographer, athlete, translator, farm expert, or any kind of consultant, freelancing or self employment may be a better option for you. However, you can only qualify for a permanent residency under this program if you have the right work experience and can contribute to Canadian society. In this case too, the application process is relatively simple.

Canadian experienced

Anyone who has worked in this country on a previous occasion (with legal paperwork and permits), and would like to go back, can apply for a visa under this scheme. People who have been here as temporary foreign workers for two years, or have graduated from a local university and have spent another year in Canada are eligible to apply under this program.

You can either apply for a permanent residency while living in this nation, or within a year of returning to your home country. The first step towards getting this visa is filling out a generic application form. When processing your case, the authorities are likely to scrutinize your past association with Canada very carefully. You will also be subject to a language proficiency test.

Unfortunately, this program is not valid in Quebec.

Provincial nominees

This scheme is run by individual territories, where the authorities nominate immigrants who can benefit the region in some way.

To initiate this program, you need to send your application to the province of your choice. Based on their needs and your skills, the authorities will decide to take your case forward. Next, you’ll need to send an application to the Immigration Department. The checks for this program are quite similar to those of the other schemes. The six-point check isn’t considered for provincial nominees.

For more detailed information on the eligibility criteria, application procedure and processing times of this program, take a look here.

Family sponsors

A permanent resident of Canada has the right to bring in a family member (spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, or dependent child) for a visit or for a longer period of time. In such cases, the authorities will evaluate both the applicant and the sponsor carefully before granting the visa.

The process will vary depending upon your country of origin. In all probability, you will need to fill out several sponsorship forms in addition to the usual Immigration forms.

For more detailed instructions on the visa application procedure, visit this site.

Do bear in mind that these visas only allow you to live in Canada for a relatively short period of time. Unless stated otherwise, you may need to apply for a work permit separately if you want to take up a job in the country.

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