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 around the world pursue new lives in the vast and beautiful country, and many are successful. The five top countries with the highest success rate between 2017-2019 were India, China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. 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.

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How to Immigrate to Canada in 5 Steps

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Step 1: Do You Qualify? Canadian Immigration 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 abilities you are required to 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. Learn more about the minimum requirements below:


Canadian Immigration Eligibility: Minimum Requirements
English or French language proficiency. You must at least score a minimum of CLB 5 - 7 or NCLC 5 - 7 in all four language abilities.
Settlement funds. If you immigrate to Canada without a job lined up then you must have sufficient settlement funds starting at CAD $12, 960 per single applicant, and an additional $3, 492 per family member.
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 you 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) then you won’t be able to immigrate to Canada.

Do you meet the minimum requirements? If yes, fantastic! Now let’s move onto the next step that’s a little trickier.

Step 2: Discover Your Path. Top Canada Immigration Programs

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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.

Find out which immigration program you qualify for to immigrate to Canada with an in-depth assessment expertly curated by our Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) or learn more about the top Canada immigration programs below.

Typically, applicants with Canadian work experience or qualifications qualify for even more immigration programs and are favored by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). Here are a few other scenarios of favorable applicants:

  • Skilled foreign nationals that can speak French fluently
  • Skilled and unskilled foreign workers with Canadian work experience
  • Skilled foreign nationals with Canadian qualifications
  • Skilled and unskilled foreign workers with valid job offers in Canada
  • Highly specialized skilled foreign workers
  • Skilled and unskilled foreign workers in in-demand occupations

1. Express Entry Canada




The Express Entry immigration system is the most popular path to Canada for skilled foreign workers. In 2021, 108, 500 new residents will be welcomed through this pathway alone. It’s also one of the more competitive ways to move to Canada since it’s a points-based system that chooses the highest-scoring candidates for permanent residency in Canada.

How does it work?

Step 1. Create an Express Entry profile

To stand a chance of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residency in Canada you must first create an Express Entry profile online. Depending on your job type (NOC, A, O, or B) and other eligibility criteria such as years of work experience, level of education, and language proficiency, you will qualify for one of the following Express Entry immigration programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP)
  • Federal Trades Worker Program (FTWP)
  • Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

Step 2. Increase your profile rank

Your profile will be ranked according to the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and you’ll receive a CRS score. The highest-scoring candidates are sent ITAs during bi-weekly Express Entry draws. Here’s where it gets interesting because each draw has different cut-off scores! The lowest ever recorded CRS score was 468 in 2020 and 5,000 ITAs were sent. The ideal CRS score is 500 points and the good news is that you may be able to achieve it by doing the following:

  • Get a valid job offer in Canada;
  • Increase your level of education;
  • Improve your language proficiency scores in English or French or even both;
  • Gain more work experience; and
  • Achieve a Provincial Nomination

Step 3. Apply for permanent residency

If you receive an ITA then you can upload your supporting documents to your profile and submit a complete immigration application to the IRCC. Learn more about what type of documents you’ll need below.

2. Provincial Nomination Program (PNP)


The PNP is responsible for Canada’s second-largest intake of immigrants every year. According to Canada’s annual immigration targets, 80,800 provincial nominees will receive permanent residency (PR) visas through this pathway in 2021.

How does the Canadian immigration process for PNPs work? In a nutshell, there are 11 provinces and territories that nominate foreign workers based on their job market needs. Ultimately, you need to discover which PNP is looking for someone with your skills and apply to that program. If you receive a nomination then you can apply for PR in Canada. The majority of PNPs favor candidates with valid job offers or work experience within the province they wish to live in, and sometimes both.

What are the most popular Provincial Nomination Programs?

The majority of newcomers to Canada move to the bigger, metropolitan cities in Canada. In fact, two-thirds of the Canadian population lives in Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. It’s no surprise then that the PNPs for British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba are extremely popular.

3. Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP)

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The AIP is designed for skilled and intermediate skilled foreign workers who would like to settle in Canada’s Atlantic region that is made up of Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. To qualify, you must receive a valid job offer from a designated employer situated 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.

The AIP manages the following immigration programs:

  • Atlantic High-Skilled Immigration Program;
  • Atlantic Intermediate Skilled Immigration Program, and
  • Atlantic Graduate Immigration Pilot

4. Pilot Programs

Farmworkers, industrial butchers, food processing laborers, and caregivers can immigrate to Canada through the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot and the Home Care Provide Pilots. Canada has an ongoing demand for these workers and makes it easy for them to earn permanent residency after they’ve successfully worked in Canada and received full-time job offers.

Last but not least, the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot is a new community-driven program designed to attract the benefits of immigration to small communities across Canada. Skilled workers, intermediate skilled workers, and laborers help these communities grow by filling in-demand jobs and starting businesses of their own.

Step 3: What Do You Need? Collect Your Immigration Documents

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If you ever wondered why Canadian immigration is such a lengthy process then don’t look further than the stack of documents you need to collect to submit with your permanent resident application. It may very well take you a while to collect them all so if you would like to be prepared, take a look at our Canada Immigration Document Checklist below.

  • 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 Education Credential Assessment (ECA) that shows that their education is up to Canadian standards.

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Valid passport/travel document

Group A: You need to include copies of the pages on your passport or travel document. It’s important that your passport remains valid during the entire process.

Medical examination certificate for immigration purposes

Group A: You need to undergo a medical assessment to prove that you’re not inadmissible to Canada. Only doctors on this list of panel physicians can give you a medical examination certificate for immigration purposes. Simply, select your country of residence to find the nearest doctor in your area. The average cost of a medical exam is $200. In addition, all travelers five years of age or older entering Canada must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result. At this time, proof of having a vaccine does not replace a valid test result.

Biometrics

You need to pay an $85 biometrics fee when you submit your application. Then, you’ll receive a letter indicating where you can go to give your biometrics (fingerprints and photo) in person at biometrics collection services near you.

Police certificate

Group B: A police certificate is a statement that you don’t have a criminal record or if you have one, a copy of your criminal record. It can take a while to get a police certificate, so it’s good to get the process started as soon as you’ve collected most of your Group A documents. According to the Canadian government, police certificates must not be older than three months when the applicant submits his or her application.

Language test results

Group A: You need to submit the original copies and results of your language test for immigration purposes. The IELTS is the most popular test taken by those planning to move to Canada. It costs approximately $236 to write the test and you can find a testing center near you with this search tool. To prove your proficiency in English or French you can choose one of the following approved tests:


Note: Prepare for your IELTS test with our preparation course to score full marks in all categories.


Approved English Tests
TestInstructions
CELPIP: Canadian English Language Proficiency Index ProgramYou must take the CELPIP-General test
IELTS: International English Testing SystemYou must take the General Training option
Approved French Tests
TestInstructions
TEF Canada: Test d’évaluation de français,Your test must include writing, speaking, listening, and reading comprehension.
TCF Canada: Test de connaissance du françaisYour test must include writing, speaking, listening, and reading comprehension.

Education Credential Assessment (ECA)

Group A: Most economic immigration programs require you to submit proof of your qualifications such as a copy of your Bachelor's Degree, for example. You may have to take an additional step if your education was obtained outside of Canada and get an ECA from approved institutions such as World Education Services (WES). This assessment proves that your education is equal to a Canadian one.

Valid job offer letter

Group A and B: If you already have a job lined up in Canada then you must include a valid job offer letter. It is an official company letterhead that indicates your job title, duties, salary, and dates of employment. You must also include evidence that you meet the requirements of the job like relevant education certificates or a resume with contactable references. Some applicants may also need to include a copy of their employers’ LMIA which is valid for 6-months only.

Good to know You can get a bridging work permit to start working in Canada while your permanent residency application is being processed.

Family information

Group A: These documents pertain to your civil status. If you are married and have children then you need to provide copies of your marriage certificate as well as your children's birth certificates. If you are divorced or your spouse has passed away then you need to include a copy of your divorce certificate and/or their death certificate. On the other hand, if you have a common-law partner then you must provide evidence of cohabitation such as copies of leases or joined bank accounts.

Proof of previous relevant work experience

Group A: These documents can include employer reference letters, work contracts, payslips, and copies of your tax information.

Proof of funds

Group B: You need a specific amount of settlement funds to immigrate to Canada. You can indicate your proof of funds with a current bank statement, savings balance, or deposit statements. You must get official letters from any bank or financial institution where you keep funds. See the table below for the amount you need to save up to start your Canadian immigration process. In some instances, you may be exempt from needing settlement funds if you have a job offer.

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Source: Canadian Government

Step 4: How to Apply? Submit Your Canada Immigration Application

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After all required application forms have been properly completed, the application processing fee paid, and all required documents from the document checklist have been collected then 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.

Important: If your application is missing any of the requested documents it will be returned to you and if you accidentally misrepresented yourself it can result in your application being rejected with a 5-year ban before you will be allowed to apply again.

If your application is complete, it will be placed into processing.

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Step 5: Wait for Your Results. Immigration Application Processing Times

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

Take a look at the processing times for the different immigration programs below:


Canadian Immigration Programs
Immigration CategoryProcessing Times
Express Entry SystemSix months
Provincial Nominee Program15 - 19 months
Economic Pilots:
Caregiver Pilot
Agri-Food Pilot
Rural and Northern Pilot
12 - 18 months
Atlantic Immigration PilotSix months
Business Immigration
Start-Up Visa
Self-Employed Persons
24 months
Family Reunification
Spousal and Common-Law Partner
Parents and Grandparent
Grandparents Super Visa
12-24 months

Note: COVID-19 may have an impact on the processing times of certain immigration programs due to backlogs and travel restrictions in Canada.

What You Need to Know About Canada’s Immigration Process

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You asked, we answered. We searched the internet to find your most pressing questions about the Canadian immigration process. Do you have a question that we didn’t answer below? Send us a message on Facebook and one of our friendly agents will help you find the right answer.

How much money do you need to immigrate to Canada?

You need a minimum of CAD $12,960 in savings to qualify for permanent residency, and an additional CAD $3,429 per accompanying or non-accompanying dependent family member. The permanent resident application federal fee is CAD $1,325. For more details, check out our blog: How Much Money Do You Need to Immigrate to Canada.

What is the procedure to follow for Canada immigration with a job offer in hand?

If you have a job offer then you are in a good position to apply for Canadian immigration or a Canadian work permit, or even both! You can work in Canada with a valid work permit while the IRCC processes your application for permanent residency. A job offer is required for most immigration programs, and it can also boost your Express Entry CRS score by 50-200 points!

In which province is your employer located? You may want to check if there are any Provincial Nomination Programs available that are relevant to your occupation. Lastly, it’s important to confirm if your job offer will be valid without a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

What is the minimum score required to get an invite to the Canada immigration process?

The Express Entry immigration system is the most popular program that sends invitations to eligible candidates to apply for PR in Canada. The lowest score ever recorded for Express Entry draws was 176 CRS points and this draw took place recently on February 12, 2021, inviting a whopping 27, 332 candidates from the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program. Typically, Express Entry draw scores are never this low and this was truly an anomaly. It’s best to aim for a score between 460 - 500 CRS points judging from the latest draw results.


Recent Express Entry Draws
DateCRS
November 25, 2020469 - Non-specified program
December 9, 2020469 - Non-specified program
January 21, 2021454 - CEC program
February 10, 2021720 - PNP candidates

What is the best type of visa to move to Canada with family?

Almost all immigration programs allow you to include your spouse or common-law partner as well as your children as dependents accompanying you to Canada. The main applicants applying to Express Entry can receive additional points for their spouse’s or common-law partner’s education and work experience. So the Express Entry system is a good option to consider if you’re moving to Canada with your family. Otherwise, you can always sponsor your family members through Canada's Family Sponsorship Immigration Programs once you become a permanent resident.

What are the criteria for Canada business immigration?

For business-minded foreign nationals, Canada is the ideal place to set up shop. Taxes in Canada for small businesses are the lowest of all G7 countries, and you have trade freedom, investor protection, minimal red tape, and low corporate tax rates. Immigrating to Canada as a new business owner or investor is completely possible through the Start-Up Visa Program or one of the many Provincial Nomination Programs for entrepreneurs. The eligibility criteria and investment amounts vary from province to province and by designated investor groups such as Venture Capital Firms, Angel Investor Groups, and Business Incubators.

Is it safe and helpful to look for an immigration consultant or lawyer in Canada to be responsible for my immigration process?

It is safe and most definitely a lot easier to enlist the professional help of certified immigration consultants that have been authorized by the Canadian government to represent you on your application. It’s important to check if the consultant or lawyer you plan to hire is registered with the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) to avoid potential fraudsters.

Read more: How to find a reliable immigration consultant

Why You Should Pursue Immigration to Canada and Nowhere Else

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Canada is Rated #1 for Quality of Life

Out of 195 countries in the world, Canada ranks number one for a high quality of life. According to the study conducted by US News & World Report, Canada outperforms the rest of the world for qualities such as:

  • Good job market
  • Affordability
  • Economic stability
  • Income equality
  • Family-friendly
  • Safety
  • Politically stable
  • Well-developed public health system
  • Well-developed public education system

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Overall, Canada also ranked as the fifth-best country in the world for women, third in business, and second in terms of citizenship rankings. The beautiful natural environment and prestigious cities make it the ideal place for families, young professionals and international students to relocate to. If you’re thinking about making this incredible country your new home, your chances are better than ever with the new generous immigration targets set at 1.23 million newcomers by 2023.

Ready to Start Your Canadian Immigration Process?

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. Simply, fill in the form below and we’ll get in touch to discuss the way forward to a new, exciting life in the Great North.