Canadian Immigration Process Explained in 5 Easy Steps

The Canadian immigration process is long and complex, with many things to consider before you can submit your application to the government. Ideally, when it's time to apply, you want to ensure that you stand the best chance of having a successful application and receiving a permanent resident card so that you may call Canada your new home.

Thousands of hopefuls worldwide pursue new lives in the vast and beautiful country, and many are successful. So, where do you even start this incredible life-changing journey? Follow the five steps below to tick all the right boxes during your journey to Canada.

Step 1: Ensure your Eligibility

Ensure Your Eligibility

Are you eligible to immigrate to Canada? To answer this question, you must first check if you meet the minimum requirements to pursue a new life in Canada. We'll get into the specific immigration programs and their eligibility requirements later.

To begin with, you need to have a decent level of language proficiency in either one of Canada's two official languages (English or French) to help you integrate into Canadian society that much easier. To prove your language ability, you must take a language test for immigration purposes. In addition, you should have enough settlement funds and not be inadmissible to Canada according to Canadian immigration law.

Canadian Immigration Eligibility: Minimum Requirements

English or French Language Proficiency

You must at least score a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark(CLB) of 5 - 7 or a Niveaux de Compétence Linguistique Canadien (NCLC) 5 - 7 in all four language abilities.

A great way to ensure you get your best possible CLB is to get a preparation course for one of Canada's government-approved language tests. Find out how our IELTS course can get you the results you need. 

Settlement Funds

Suppose you immigrate to Canada without a job lined up. In that case, you must have sufficient settlement funds starting at CAD 13,310 per single applicant and an additional $3,586 per family member.

To give you a better idea of how much money you need, here's a breakdown of the cost of living in Canada.

Good Health

Your health must not endanger public safety or cause excessive demand for health and social services.

Clean Criminal Record

You must not have any prior convictions, including DUI, and must not pose a security risk. Inadmissible family member If you have a family member (spouse, child) that is inadmissible to Canada (poor health, criminal record), you won't be able to immigrate to Canada.

Here is a list of crimes that will make you inadmissible to Canada.

Step 2: Find Your Immigration Program

Find Your Immigration Pathway

In the next step, you need to figure out how you will become a permanent resident of Canada. There are over 100 immigration and visa programs currently available for those who want to settle in the Great North, but how do you know which one is right for you? The last thing you want to do is waste your application fees on an immigration program that may be too competitive. The easiest way to determine your perfect path to Canada is with an in-depth eligibility assessment from certified visa consultants.

Express Entry

Canada's Express Entry System is the most popular immigration pathway. The system was created in 2015 to provide skilled foreign workers and their families permanent residency in Canada in as little as six months.

The Express Entry System has three programs to classify different types of applicants. They are as follows.

The Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)

The FSWP is a stream specifically for applicants working in occupations that generally require a university degree, like an accountant, web developer or doctor.

The Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP)

The FSTP is explicitly for skilled tradespeople, generally working in a trade that requires certification such as a College diploma. Examples of these occupations are plumbers, chefs and electricians.

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

The CEC is a program for skilled foreign workers who have already lived and worked in Canada for a year on a temporary visa, like a work permit.

You apply to this system by creating an Express Entry profile on the Immigrants, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website. When you create this profile, you must enter your information to determine if you're eligible for permanent residency in Canada. Then, your details are evaluated through the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to produce a CRS score.

Every applicant's score is entered into the Express Entry pool. Every two weeks, IRCC holds an Express Entry draw. Traditionally, every applicant with a CRS score higher than a certain number would receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for Canadian permanent residence.

However, as of 2023, Canada's minister for immigration, Sean Fraser, has stated that, while CRS scores are still critical, those with skills needed in Canada will have priority over those who don't. Here's a breakdown of the in-demand occupations in Canada to give you an idea of which skills Canada needs most.

If you feel the Express Entry System is the right pathway, here's a full breakdown of the system, its eligibility requirements and how to apply.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Hand-in-hand with the Express Entry System is Canada's Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs). The PNP is responsible for Canada's second-largest intake of immigrants every year. According to CIC News, 105,000 provincial nominees will receive permanent residency (PR) visas through this pathway in 2023.

Eleven of Canada's provinces and territories nominate foreign workers based on their job market needs. You need to discover which PNP is looking for someone with skills and apply to that program. You can apply for PR in Canada if you receive a nomination. Most PNP favour candidates with valid job offers or work experience within the province they wish to live in.

You can apply for a PNP through your Express Entry profile. If your PNP application is successful, you will receive an extra 600 CRS points, effectively guaranteeing you an ITA at the next Express Entry draw.

Here's a full breakdown of Canada's PNP system. Each province runs their PNP, and each has several PNP streams, so finding the right one for you is vital in maximizing your chances of getting a PNP.

Family Sponsorship

If you have family, a spouse or a conjugal partner in Canada, they can sponsor you to become a permanent resident. To do this, they must gain sponsor status from the Canadian government. To do so, they must be:

  • Over 18
  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • In possession of sufficient funds to look after you while you're in Canada
  • Not in need of any government assistance (outside of disability)

Your sponsor has to be a close relative of the applicant, and several different family sponsorship programs reflect the relationship between the applicant and sponsor. These are:

  • Spousal, partner or dependent children sponsorship
  • Parents' and Grandparents' sponsorship
  • Sibling sponsorship

To find out how one of your relatives can sponsor your Canadian immigration, here's a breakdown of the family sponsorship programs.

Pilot Programs

Canada also has occupations in such high demand that the Canadian government has created multiple immigration pilot programs for people who work in specific occupations or industries. They are as follows.

The Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP)

The AIP is for skilled and intermediate-skilled foreign workers who want to settle in Canada's Atlantic region. This region comprises Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador. To qualify, you must receive a valid job offer from a designated employer in one of these provinces. Alternatively, you can always ask an employer who wishes to hire you to become designated and endorse your Canadian immigration application through the AIP.

Find out if you qualify for the AIP here.

The Agri-Food Pilot

Farmworkers, industrial butchers and food processing labourers can immigrate to Canada through the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot. Canada has an ongoing demand for these workers. It makes it easy for them to earn permanent residency after successfully working in Canada and receiving full-time job offers.

Find out how you can take your career to the next level with the Agri-food pilot here.

The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP)

The RNIP is a new community-driven program designed to attract the benefits of immigration to small communities across Canada. Skilled workers, intermediate skilled workers, and labourers help these communities grow by filling in-demand jobs and starting businesses.

Find out which Canadian communities participate in the RNIP and how you can apply here.

The Home Care Provider Pilot

This Pilot program is designed to assist foreign skilled and experienced home childcare providers and home support workers in relocating to Canada and gaining permanent residency. Applicants must have a valid job offer in a Home Care profession and at least 24 months of experience to apply.

Learn which of the Home Care Provider Pilots is right for you here.

Temporary Resident Visas

Suppose you can't quite fulfill the requirements of a permanent residency program or can't wait the often multiple years of processing time. In that case, you can start your Canadian journey by getting a temporary visa, like a work or study permit to enter and stay in Canada long enough to qualify for a program like the CEC.

Study Permit

You'll need a Canadian study permit if you're looking to further your education via Canada's world-class education system.

To be eligible for a study permit, you will need an acceptance letter from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) in Canada and show you have sufficient funds to pay your tuition, support yourself and return home upon completing your study program. You may also have the option to start your career in Canada using a Post-Graduate Work Permit (PGWP), allowing you to live and work in Canada for up to three years post-graduation.

Find out how you can start studying in Canada here.

Work Permit

If you want to make your start in Canada by taking your career to the next level in Canada's booming job market, you'll need a Canadian work permit.

To get a work permit, you must have a valid job offer from a designated Canadian employer and be admissible to Canada.

Find out how you can get a Canadian work permit.

If you aren’t sure which of these programs is the right way to immigrate, you could hugely benefit from utilizing a certified immigration expert like a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC). An RCIC can give you a complete evaluation to show which program works best for you and provide you with the help and guidance you need to navigate your immigration process swiftly and effectively.

Step 3: Collect Your Immigration Documents

Collect Your Immigration Documents

If you have ever wondered why Canadian immigration is such a lengthy process, then don't look further than the documents you need to collect to submit your permanent resident application. It may take a while to collect them, so if you would like to be prepared, here is a Canada Immigration Document Checklist.

  • Valid passport/travel document
  • Medical examination certificate for immigration purposes
  • Biometrics
  • Police certificate
  • Language test results
  • Education Credential Assessment (ECA)
  • Valid job offer letter (if applicable)
  • Family information (if applicable)
  • Proof of previous relevant work experience
  • Proof of funds

Why do you need these documents? They are required to support your initial claims. For example, Express Entry applicants who claimed CRS points for their level of education during the draw rounds need to submit proof of their foreign qualifications and get an ECA that shows their education is up to Canadian standards.

Learn more about the required documentation and how to acquire it here.

Step 4: Submit Your Canada Immigration Application

Submit Your Canada Immigration Application

After all required application forms have been properly completed and all documents from the document checklist have been collected, it's time to pay your application fees. The application fees for Canada's various immigration pathways are as follows:

Canada's Economic Immigration programs all have the same fees. This refers to the following programs:

  • Agri-food pilot
  • AIP
  • CEC
  • FSWP
  • FSTP
  • PNPs
  • RNIP

The Fees for these programs are as follows:

Fees $CAN
Your application 850
Include your spouse or partner. 850
Right of permanent residence fee (for you and your partner) 515
Per dependent child 230

The fees to apply for one of the Caregiver pilots are as follows:

Fees $CAN
Your application 570
Include your spouse or partner. 570
Right of permanent residence fee (for you and your partner) 515
Per dependent child 155

For those immigrating through family sponsorship, the fees are:

Family Sponsorship Fees $CAN
Principal Applicant Processing Fee 490
Sponsorship fee 75
Right of permanent residence fee (for you and your partner) 515
Include the spouse or partner 570
Per dependent child 155

For those looking to start their Canadian journey through a temporary resident permit or visa, the fees are as follows:

Visa Fees $CAN
Temporary resident permit – per person 200
Study permit – per person 150
Work permit (including extensions) – per person 155

Once you've paid your fees, you can submit your application online or mail it via courier to the relevant Canadian immigration department. For example, RNIP candidates must mail their applications to the centralized intake office in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

If your application doesn't include all of the requested documents, it will be returned to you. If you misrepresent yourself, it can result in your application being rejected with a 5-year ban before you can apply again.

Step 5: Wait for Your Results

Wait for Your Results

Your application will undergo a detailed review by an IRCC Officer. This review can take a few months to complete. The Officer will consider all the information and documentation you have provided and assess it against current selection standards.

Here's a handy guide to the IRCC processing times to give you a clear idea of how long you will be waiting to immigrate to Canada.

Begin a Beautiful Future in Canada

These five steps can help you navigate the complexities of moving to Canada. However, if you want a quicker, stress-free, and, most importantly, successful journey to Canada, then put your application in the trusted hands of our immigration professionals.

Our RCICs can set up your online profiles, fill out your application forms, provide you with courses to help improve your English and interview skills, keep track of your application for you, help you gather and verify your documentation, curate your CV to Canadian standards, represent you with certain government authorities and provide you with advice and support you need through every step of your application process.


Do I Need a Canadian Job Offer to Immigrate to Canada?

While it is essential for many immigration and visa programs, you can immigrate to Canada without a job offer. Here are a few ways you can make that happen.

Which Provinces are the Easiest to Get a PNP in?

This highly depends on your occupation and other major factors influencing your immigration criteria. However, some of Canada’s PNPs do have fewer requirements than others. Here are some of the easiest provinces to get a provincial nomination from.

How do I Know if My Skills are Needed in Canada?

Canada is a massive country with vast diversity in environment, population and industry. As a result, different provinces require different skills to support their local economies. This map shows you which occupations and, by extension, which skills are currently in demand in Canada.