A Step By Step Guide to Canada's Immigration Application Process

What does Canada’s immigration application process actually entail? How long does the process take? What do I need to qualify? If you’re interested in moving to Canada then these are the questions you might want to ask to prepare for an incredible journey that could result in a new life in the Great North.

Canada receives thousands of immigration applications each year and has become one of the most sought-after immigration destinations. Ranked as the second-best country in the world for qualities such as job opportunities, high quality of life, and multiculturalism, newcomers are flourishing in Canada. By 2023, the Canadian government hopes to admit 1.23 million immigrants to the country. Find out what it takes to be one of them below!

7 Important Steps to Immigrating to Canada

If you apply to immigrate to Canada and your application is successful you will be issued with a permanent resident (PR) visa. This allows you to live and work in the country permanently. If you travel outside Canada, you will need to show your PR card and your passport when you return. As a permanent resident, you will enjoy most social benefits, including public healthcare coverage, and be protected under Canadian law. You can apply for citizenship after you have lived in Canada for five years, and receive a Canadian passport.


Step 1. Check if you are not inadmissible to Canada

The first step in Canada’s immigration application process is to check if you are not inadmissible to Canada. If found inadmissible, you won’t be allowed to come to Canada under Canada’s immigration law. The reasons why you may be inadmissible include security, criminal and medical reasons, among others.

Reasons Why You May be Inadmissible
You are a security risk
You have a criminal record, including DUI
You have health problems that can endanger public safety or will cause excessive demand on health and social services
If you are unable or unwilling to financially support yourself and your family members
If you misrepresent yourself in your immigration application
If you have an inadmissible family member

Step 2. Find a Canadian immigration program that you qualify for


This may be the most challenging step in the immigration application process purely because Canada has over 100 immigration and visa programs available. Each program comes with different eligibility criteria, application methods, processing times as well as specific documents that are required.

1. Eligibility assessments

The majority of successful applicants use the professional services of certified immigration consultants to help them find the right path to Canada. Immigration consultants use an in-depth eligibility assessment to strategize an immigration plan according to your goals.

It’s good to keep in mind that even if you don’t qualify for a direct immigration program to Canada, your immigration consultant can find other alternatives for you. For example, if you need to gain Canadian work experience or education to be eligible for an immigration program then a consultant may guide you to apply for a Canadian work or study permit instead.

2. Canadian immigration programs, annual targets, and processing times

How do Canada select immigrants? Well, the majority of newcomers to Canada are economic immigrants who can fill skills and labor shortages in the country as well as start businesses and create employment opportunities for Canadians and permanent residents, alike. In 2021, Canada aims to admit 401,000 immigrants through the economic categories in the table below.

Each immigration category has a number of immigration programs associated with it, for example, the Provincial Nominee Program is managed by 11 provinces and territories in Canada and has more than 80 immigration programs. Find out more below.

Immigration Programs
Immigration CategoryTargetProcessing Times
Express Entry System108, 000Six months
Provincial Nominee Program80, 80015 - 19 months
Economic Pilots:
Caregiver Pilot
Agri-Food Pilot
Rural and Northern Pilot
Atlantic Immigration Pilot6,000Six months
Business Immigration
Start-Up Visa
Self-Employed Persons
1,00024 months
Family Reunification
Spousal and Common-Law Partner
Parents and Grandparent
Grandparents Super Visa
76,00012 months

Step 3. Collect your immigration documents


What are immigration documents? They are forms, certificates, and records that are used to support your claims during Canada’s immigration application process. For example, if you state that you are in good health then you need to include a medical examination certificate with your application.

The following documents will always be required for immigration purposes:

Canadian Immigration Document Checklist
English or French language test resultsThere are designated tests for immigration purposes, including IELTS, CELPIP, TEF Canada, and TCF Canada.
A valid passport/travel documentYour passport must be valid during the immigration application process and during your stay in Canada if it's temporary.
Police certificationProof that you do not have a criminal record.
Medical examinationProof that you are in good health and more recently, you need to include a negative COVID-19 test for travel purposes.
Proof of fundsYou must have settlement funds for immigration purposes or enough funds to pay for a flight back during a temporary stay in Canada.
Proof that your foreign qualifications are equal to Canadian standardsYou need to get an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA).

Find out more information about these mandatory documents here.

Depending on the immigration program you qualify for and the number of immediate family members you have, even if they don’t move to Canada with you, you may have to submit additional documentation as specified in the program requirements. These documents can include any of the following:

  • Proof of work experience (resume with contactable references);
  • Provincial nomination certificate;
  • Valid job offer letter;
  • Marriage or divorce certificate;
  • Dependant children’s birth certificates or adoption papers; and
  • Evidence of family members living in Canada

Step 4. Give your biometrics at a center near you


You need to give your biometrics (fingerprints and photos) during Canada’s immigration application process. If you have previously given your biometrics you can check if they are still valid. The first step is to pay an $85 biometrics fee when you submit your application. Then, you’ll get a letter confirming that you need to give your biometrics and telling you where you can go. Remember to make an appointment beforehand. There are biometrics location centers in every country, use this tool to find a location near you.

Step 5. Fill in government forms


Unfortunately, there is no escaping tedious admin when you’re applying for permanent residency in Canada. You need to complete quite a few pages of government forms that are associated with your immigration program. It’s also very important that you complete the forms accurately because something as small as a typo or accidentally skipping information can result in your application being returned. No one can escape the strict rules as set forward by the Canadian government.

Then there is a matter of where to find the forms. They are available on the Canadian federal government website or on the provincial government websites. Fair warning, it may feel like you’re on a wild goose chase. Government websites aren’t known to be extremely user-friendly with clear indications of where to find the forms you need or even what your form numbers are called. For example, the form to apply for permanent resident cards is called IMM 5444.

Is there an easier way to do it?

Yes, there is. You can use the services of a licensed immigration consultant to take care of the paperwork on your behalf. Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) and immigration lawyers are authorized by the Canadian government to do just that. You can also rest assured that your forms will be filled in accurately without the possibility of rejection.

Step 6. Submit your application to the correct department


Finally, you get to submit your application! Where you need to send your application depends on which permanent resident program you want to apply for. The majority of immigration applications are processed at case centers in Nova Scotia, Canada. The only immigration program that is online-based is the Express Entry system, otherwise, you’ll have to mail or courier your application to one of the addresses below:

Where to Submit Your Immigration Application?
Immigration ProgramMailing Address
Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) – Non-Express Entry applicationsP.O. BOX 1450 Sydney, NS B1P 6K5 Canada
Start-Up Business ClassP.O. BOX 8700 Sydney, NS B1P 0G2 Canada
Atlantic Immigration Pilot ProgramPO Box 1500 Sydney NS B1P 0J4 Canada
Agri-Food PilotP.O. BOX 8700 Sydney, NS B1P 0G2 Canada
Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot ProgramPO Box 1500 Sydney NS B1P 0J4 Canada
Family ReunificationCPC Sydney PO Box 9500 Sydney NS B1P 0H5

Step 7. Wait for your results


The wait may be long but it’ll surely be worth it, especially if you get to pack your bags for Canada! It typically takes a few months to process certain immigration applications. (See step two.) There has been a slight delay in Canada’s immigration application process due to the COVID-19 pandemic and processing times may take a little longer than usual. For this reason, it’s a good idea to start your journey as soon as possible to beat the rush of applicants.

Read more: Latest COVID-19 Immigration News

Are You Ready to Start Your Immigration Application Process?

If you want professional guidance and advice, discuss your immigration options with our certified visa professionals. Simply, click on the link below to get started.