When folks come to visit here in glorious North Vancouver, they often opine, “gosh i wish we could live in Canada” to which i say, if you have something to bring to the table, then you can. While many/most applicants retain a lawyer for this task, if you are diligent, patient and a good form filler outer, then you can do it yourself. There are many details to tend to, so stay alert!
Bear in mind, i am not a barrister but i do have some first-hand practical experience with these immigration matters – regardless, i’m pleased to run my mouth on this but admonish you to seek elsewhere for further opinions since i am just riffing here and might miss something.
The whole deal is all very nicely up on the Canadian gov’s site – appropriately called Immigrating to Canada – but since you are here … here are the status categories which allow you to move to (and work in) Canada legally, divvied up into a few buckets:
Refugee (Humanitarian) class – If you are, or will be, persecuted unjustly in your home country if not provided with sanctuary, you may apply for refugee status, some US military service evaders are currently grinding through the refugee system with minimal success – more luck if you are from Burma today or Darfur or other such debacle-laden land.
Family class – If you marry a Canadian (note: this includes common-law relationships and same-sex relationships), the Canadian partner can sponsor the other into Canada – this involves a stack of paperwork and may include a year or two before the non-Canuck can work legally in Canada and the sponsoring partner must commit to supporting their spouse for 3 years and not go on welfare. The CIC (Citizen Immigration Canada) will do extensive background checks, including addresses, family, criminal and health history checks. The Canadian must show ability to support the spouse and prove the validity of the relationship (save those holiday photos).
Note: As of Feb. 2004 (IIRC), you can apply from within Canada under a weird loophole known as a “sweetheart” clause in which they “pretend” your spouse entered legally and then applies within Canada rather than arriving as a landed immigrant and then applying from within Canada and being unable to leave Canada during this time. Minors (kids) get an application too and medical tests etc.
Investor/Entrepreneur/Self-employed – break em down:
1) entreprenuer – if you have $300K to invest in a business, you can come on in – buy yourself a Quizno’s franchise or start a business but you do hafta have money, experience and a plan with a reasonable chance of success so … your big crazy idea to build dinosaurs in Stanley Park is out cause that’s just insane and even suggesting should land you in the crowbar hotel (pardon my digression),
2) investor – if you have $800K, you can let the Canadian gov plays with half of it ($400K) for 5 years (interest not-paid) to boost Canada’s job market and allow some mid-level to bureaucrats to party on with your bread (just kidding) while you spend your other half eating fine meals and lolling about ;-)
3) self-employed – this is the “special” category for sports, arts, culture, entertainment – i.e. elite athletes, entertainers, performers, sculptors, announcers, writers plus and farm managers whom Canada needs/wants (dying family farms and all that) also some librarians – you gotta be noteworthy though but this is a great way if you can swing it
NAFTA Professional – this actually is the status i know least about but the one i come across the most since Computer Programmers are on the list of skills needed in Canada and, through the maligned North American Free Trade Agreement (Reagan and Mulroney), various professionals are afforded a fast track to come on up once they’ve been offered a job by a Canadian firm who will sponsor you to come to Canada (and thus you may sorta be stuck with them for a period of time). Lots of you more on this status than i, so fill me in.
Provincial Nominee – this is the wild card since each Canadian province can nominate and fast track anyone they want really based on strategic occupations needed – in BC, this un-met demand includes new media and IT along with construction and health, education and other professionals – really its about the economy, if you help build it, they want you but you gotta have your stuff together beyond “i can make webpages, can i come in now?”
Skilled Worker – and now to the best part, if you are a non-Canadian with professional skills and relevant experience, particularly in an in-demand job, you can likely immigrate – really, it’s that easy (note the US has no such program, only a lottery to get in, really, a lottery) and Canada is quite pragmatic and seeks out workers with skills in-demand in Canada (famously exotic dancers fall into this category from time to time)
The test inquires if you speak a second language (French really), finished college, worked in your chosen field for a period of time, have some skills etc. If you score 67 or better, you qualify to sponsor yourself to Canada (no spouse or employer needed) which means you have responsibilities to not fck up.
So get started eh, here’s the test: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/skilled/assess/index.html
Did ya score get 67 or higher? If so, haul bum over to http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/apply-how.asp and chose the simplified process (unless you are in one of the categories which requires the un-simple “regular” process like you are provincial nominee (this is another class which i know little about), you’ve been selected by Quebec (this francophone-heavy province seeks out French speakers specifically, again i know little more), or a few other odds and ends.
Tax and other crap
Once you’ve leapt across the border and are flipping the bird at Bush and his cronies back in the US, you’ll still need to be very aware of international tax laws (all US citizens abroad need to file US tax returns and myriad other details). Thus, i’ll direct you to David Ingram who is a bearded tax and immigration consultant – his rates aren’t trivial so subscribe to his old-school e-mailing list (in dire need of formatting) which discusses the mundanity and minutiae of international tax law. In brief, you gotta declare your worldwide income but it’s not all taxable.
Once you are in and off your double secret probation period, you can consider applying for permanent residence status (equivilent to a US green card) allowing you to do most anything but vote and hold top secret government jobs. Three years after that, you can start thinking about the Citizenship test too. Goodtimes eh!
Now show you are Canadian and turn the hockey game on, sing Oh Canada! and eat some perogies,
Thanks to Will Pate, Kris Krug for photos