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Which Canadian Immigration Program is Right for You?

You’ve decided you want to move to Canada, but what now? The first and most important step is to decide which Canadian immigration program is right for you. The first distinction to make is between temporary and permanent residence. There are several different options under these two major groups. Understanding each type of visa category will help you figure out which one you fall into and how best to prepare your application.

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Temporary Visa

A temporary visa allows foreign nationals to come to Canada for a short while. What you can do while you’re in Canada depends on what kind of temporary visa you have. If you’re in Canada on a temporary visa, you have to leave once your visa expires.

If you only wanted to come to Canada for a short time, a temporary visa could be the right program for you. If you want to stay in Canada permanently, this probably isn’t the right way to go. That said, if you’re not eligible for any permanent residence immigration programs, coming to Canada as a student or a worker could provide you with a pathway to permanent residence!

1. Work

Anyone with a work permit is allowed to live and work in Canada for the duration of the work permit validity period, as long as they respect the conditions in the work permit.

Open Work Permit:

This type of permit allows you to work for any employer anywhere in Canada and doesn’t require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This is a highly sought-after but not very common permit and usually is only available to adults accompanying their family members on a study permit.

Employer specific work permit:

If you have a valid job offer from a specific employer, you may be eligible to enter Canada on an employer-specific work permit. An employer-specific work permit usually requires an Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) which is a document that proves the employer tried to find a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident to fill the role, before it was offered to a foreigner.

Anyone wishing to switch jobs after entering Canada on an employer specific work permit will be required to apply for a new work permit.

Post-graduation Work Permit:

This is an open work permit that allows international graduates to live and work in Canada after they graduate. Lasting up to three years, the exact length of the Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) will depend on the length of the course/program you studied.

International Experience Canada (IEC):

Canada has signed bilateral agreements with certain countries, allowing citizens of those countries to travel and work in Canada under International Experience Canada (IEC). The three categories which fall under the IEC are:

  1. Working holiday: Candidates working for multiple employers without a job offer, possibly with multiple locations, with the aim of being able to earn money to travel.
  2. Young professional: If your current Canadian job offers contributes to your professional development, you can work for the same employer in one location during your time in Canada.
  3. International Co-op Internship: Anyone registered at a post-secondary institution with a valid job offer for a work placement/internship in Canada can apply for an employer-specific work permit under this category. This also applies to someone who is required to complete an internship in order to complete their studies and would like to work for the same employer in the same location during their stay in Canada.

2. Study

In order to study at a Canadian institution in a program that lasts more than six months, you must have a study permit. You need to be accepted into a program at  Canadian school and show a letter of acceptance from a Canadian school along with documents which prove you have sufficient funds, among other things, to come to Canada as an international student.


Anyone wishing to study in Quebec must apply for a Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ) before applying for a study permit in the school, if its located in Québec. You must have been accepted into a program before you can apply for a CAQ.

3. Visitor

If you plan on visiting Canada you will need one of the following to enter the country.

Single Entry Visa:

This allows you to visit Canada one time, for a fixed period of time. After leaving the country you will need to reapply for a new visitor visa in order to return, even if your initial single-entry visa is still valid. You can stay in Canada for a maximum time of 6 months on this visa.

Multiple Entry Visitor Visa:

This visa allows visitors to enter and leave the country for a period of up to 6 months, without needing to reapply each time. This type of visa can be valid for up to 10 years. Even if you apply for a single-entry visa, you are automatically considered for a multiple entry visa, thanks to a change in immigration law in February 2014.

Super Visa:

The Super Visa can be issued to parents or grandparents of someone already living in Canada as a citizen or permanent resident. It is an extended stay temporary resident multiple-entry visa that lasts for up to 10 years. Also, the visitor can remain in Canada for up to 24 months on their initial visit, as opposed to a maximum time of up to 6 months for single and multiple-entry visitor visa.

Electronic travel Authorization:

If you plan on entering Canada, don’t hold a valid study or work permit, and are a citizen of a visa-exempt country, you need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ETA) if you plan on entering Canada by air. The only exception is for US citizens, who can enter Canada without an ETA as long as they are travelling on a US passport.

Permanent Residence

If you have decided you want to move permanently to Canada, then you need to apply for Canadian permanent residence. Regardless of which of the following immigration routes you choose, they all lead to Canadian permanent residence.

Once you become a Canadian permanent resident, you will be free to look for work in any occupation of your choosing and can sponsor a spouse, your parents or even grandparents in the future.

1. Express Entry

Express Entry may be the most well-known Canadian immigration program – but it isn’t actually a program. It’s an application management system for three federal economic immigration programs: Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades, and Canadian Experience Class.

If you’re eligible for one of the programs managed by Express Entry, you have to submit an Expression of Interest to enter the Express Entry pool. Once in the pool, your profile is ranked against the profiles of all the other candidates in the pool. The candidates who rank the highest in the pool are then issued an ITA (Invitation to Apply) for Canadian permanent residence.

With a processing time as low as 6 months, Express Entry has become the most popular route for immigrating to Canada.

Federal Skilled Worker Program:

If you have at least one year of skilled work experience, meet minimum language requirements in French or English, and score at least 67 out of 100 points on the FSW selection grid, you may be eligible to apply to Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker Program.

Federal Skilled Trades Program:

If you have two years of experience in a skilled trade, meet minimum language requirements in French or English, and have either a Canadian certificate of qualification to practice your trade in Canada or a job offer in your skilled trade in Canada, you may be eligible to apply to Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Trades program.

Canadian Experience Class:

If you have worked for at least one year in Canada on a valid work permit you are eligible for this program, and meet minimum language requirements, you may be eligible to apply to Express Entry under Canadian Experience Class. Keep in mind, however, that your profile will still be ranked against everyone else in the pool, regardless of the program for which they are eligible.

2. Provincial Immigration

Every province in Canada operates its own immigration streams, known as Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP). The eligibility criteria and application guides vary for each stream in each province.

The Province of Quebec has the most robust immigration programs of any province in Canada.

Quebec Experience Class:

This accelerated Canadian immigration program is run by Immigration Quebec and is the Quebec equivalent of the Canadian Experience Class program. To be eligible for Quebec Experience Class (PEQ), you need to either be a temporary worker or an international student in Quebec.

If you’re a temporary worker, you must have an eligible work permit and be working for an employer in Quebec. You must also have at least 12 months of work experience (Skill level O, A or B), and advanced-intermediate French proficiency.

If you’re an international student, or recent international student graduate, you have to have an eligible degree or expect to complete your program within six months, and have advanced-intermediate French proficiency.

Quebec Skilled Worker:

Unlike many other provincial programs, the Quebec Skilled Worker (QSW) program does not require a job offer. It also does not require French language proficiency.

Although QSW operates on a points system similar to Express Entry, candidates are not ranked against each other. Instead, if you meet the minimum number of points required, you can submit an application. There are two application systems, depending on where you live. If you live in Quebec, you can submit your application at any time. If you live outside the province of Quebec, you have to wait for the program to open to apply.

3. Sponsorship

If you have a spouse or a common-law or conjugal partner who is a permanent resident of Canada or a Canadian citizen, then you are eligible for spousal sponsorship. There are two options, either inland or outland sponsorship. If the person being sponsored resides outside of Canada, it’s an outland sponsorship. If they reside inside Canada, it’s considered inland. The two types generally have different expected processing times.

Canadian permanent residents and citizens can also sponsor their dependent children, their parents, or their grandparents for Canadian permanent residence.

4. Study-2-Immigrate

Study-2-Immigrate (S2I) is a special program created by Canadim to help international students not only study in Canada but also to help with immigrating to Canada after completing their studies. This program takes care of the entire application process, from applying to a school of your choice, to eventually becoming a permanent resident of Canada. The program can be summarized as:

  1. Once you have picked your program of study, Canadim takes care of the study permit. Candidates can bring over their spouse or children while they study.
  2. Work while you study (20 hours per week).
  3. Once you graduate, Canadim helps with the post-graduate work permit.
  4. Following graduation, Canadim will assess your options to apply for permanent residence.

Immigrating to Canada can be tricky without help, and a qualified immigration lawyer can help you make all the right choices, paving the path to a successful outcome!

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The Canadim Team!

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