How to Move to Canada

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Canadian Immigration History

Welcome to Canada Sign
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Canada is a welcoming, multicultural society that offers new residents a wealth of advantages, opportunities and support systems.

Immigration has been fundamental to Canada's growth as a country since its Aboriginal peoples arrived from Asia across the Bering Strait through to the 17th century when explorers from France and England set foot in Eastern Canada looking for fur and up until today as Canada helps settle tens of thousands of refugees fleeing war-torn countries. ​

The word "Canada" itself comes from "kanata," the Iroquois-Huron word for village and was labeled as such back in 1535 by explorer Jacques Cartier in describing the newly discovered land to the King of France. Today, Canada is a village comprising a diverse population, encouraged to accept and embrace each other's differences. 

The idea of Canada as a "mosaic," is key to the Canadian identity. Instead of melting into a homogeneous society, new Canadians from other countries are encouraged to maintain their beliefs and culture, bringing diversity to the national landscape. This cultural mosaic differs from the American "melting pot," in which immigrants are encouraged to blend into their new home. 

Approximately 20% of Canada's population is immigrant, which is relatively high compared to other countries worldwide. Each year, Canada accepts thousands of immigrants, more than 270,000 in 2015.

During the 20th century immigration to Canada came from a variety of countries but especially from those that were experiencing political turmoil, such as the refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Of the total number of immigrants to Canada in a year, approximately 6,000 are American. Since the year 2000, Canadian immigrants have come mainly from China, India, Pakistan and the Philippines. 

In 2015 and 2016, Canada increased its number of refugees from Syria because of the ongoing war in that country, taking in almost 35,000 over a 14-month period. 

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Are You Eligible to Immigrate to Canada?

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“Immigrating to Canada is a complex, paper-intensive, time-consuming process,” says immigration lawyer Lee Cohen. “This notion that somebody can just decide to move to Canada and live here is misdirected.”

So what does it take to move here? Who is eligible to make Canada his or her new home? 

In brief: refugees, family members of existing Canadians, skilled workers, young people, educated people, students, and people with a job offer already in hand.

You will need to decide which category you fit into and then apply for permanent residency through the appropriate immigration program.

In 2017, about 40,000 of the immigrants to Canada will be refugees: people who have fled their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution, and who are therefore unable to return home. This definition does not include Americans looking to flee the U.S.A. under a Trump presidency.

Another 80,000 family members of Canadians will be invited to immigrate here.

If you are not a refugee, nor do you have a family member willing to sponsor you, you will need to find another immigration program for which you may be eligible. The majority of these spots go to skilled workers. 

Other immigration programs include those that support caregivers of children or the elderly, people with large personal wealth who plan on investing in Canada, and self-employed athletes, artists or farmers.

In addition to these programs, each province has its own immigration program, Provincial Nominee Programs, with its own selection criteria.

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What Are the Eligibility Requirements for Immigration to Canada?

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Requirements vary depending on the program through which you are applying, but basically, candidates need to prove three things:

  1. Language proficiency in French or English as proven by your International English Language Testing System score
  2. An Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) verifying that your foreign degree, diploma, certificate (or other proof of your credential) is valid and equal to a Canadian one. ECAs can be obtained by select are from organizations designated by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC)
  3. Good health and character - provide the necessary doctor and police certifications
04 of 04

How Long Does It Take to Immigrate to Canada

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Canada's immigration processing time depends on many factors and ranges from 6 months to 6 years. 

Processing times will vary depending on the visa category and immigration program for which you are applying. Some are more rigorous or will have a greater number of applications.  

Another factor will be how quickly you are able to get your necessary documents in order and handed over to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. These documents will include your International English Language Testing System certificate, Educational Credential Assessment, medical and police checks amongst others.

The Express Entry immigration program fast-tracks skilled workers within 6 or 7 months into Canada based upon their ability to contribute to the Canadian economy. The Express Entry scores and ranks candidates based on a number of factors, including language, education, work experience etc. and then places them into a pool. 

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