Immigrating to Canada - Frequently Asked Questions
Sergio R. Karas
If you or someone you know is deciding to immigrate to Canada, you probably have a number of questions. Below are some frequently asked questions about who can apply and the Canadian application process.
Who Can Be An Immigrant?
Family Class Immigrants
Family Class Immigrants include spouses (by marriage, common law, or conjugal partners) and dependent children under 22 years of age. This class of immigrants to Canada also includes parents and grandparents, however, they can be sponsored only if a permanent resident or citizen son or daughter has sufficient qualifying income. Such Canadian immigration applications are not subject to the point system. Spouses and dependent children receive first priority processing.
Skilled Workers are subject to a point system. To be eligible for permanent residence in Canada, the applicant must receive 67 points. Points are awarded for such things as age, education, experience, arranged employment and proficiency in the English and/or French languages as measured by tests specified by regulation. The immigrant must also have work experience in an occupation listed in certain categories of the National Occupational Classification (NOC). Bonus points are awarded if the immigrant has a parent, brother, sister, uncle or aunt who is a permanent resident or citizen of Canada, or a spouse who has a university or college level degree, or if the applicant currently holds a Work Permit, studied in Canada, or has worked legally in Canada for a minimum period of time set by regulation.
Business Class Immigrants
Business Class Immigrants include:
- Self-employed persons
The self-employed applicant is one who:
- has relevant experience; and
- has the intention and ability to be self–employed in Canada; and
- intends to make a significant contribution in specified economic activities as defined in the regulations through either: self-employment in cultural activities or in athletics, participation at a world-class level in cultural activities or athletics, or farm management experience.
An entrepreneur is a foreign national who:
- has business experience;
- has a legally obtained net worth of at least CDN $300,000;
- provides a written statement to a Canadian officer that they intend and will be able to meet the conditions in the regulations, specifically, that for a period of at least one year within three years after he or she becomes a permanent resident in Canada they intend and will be able to control a percentage of the equity of a qualifying Canadian business equal to or greater than 33 1/3 %, provide active and ongoing management of the qualifying Canadian business; and create at least one incremental full-time job equivalent in that business for Canadian citizens or permanent residents, other than the entrepreneur and their family members.
An investor is a foreign national who:
- has business experience;
- has a legally obtained net worth of at least $800,000;
- indicates in writing to a Canadian officer that they intend to or have made an investment of CDN $400,000 in an approved venture capital fund administered by a financial institution.
Is every immigration applicant interviewed by the Canadian Authorities?
Canada Immigration has adopted a policy of "waiving" interviews for applicants wanting to immigrate to Canada receiving high points in their evaluations, whose qualifications and experience are not in doubt and who have all their documents in order. This may include waiving interviews for professionals with a good track record, easily verifiable references and solid academic qualifications from well-known institutions, and from countries where there appear to be no major concerns about document fraud.
Immigration lawyers have been highly successful in convincing Canadian visa officers to waive interviews for many applicants. However, if your application is "borderline," or your qualifications are in doubt, or your ability in either English or French is limited, you will most likely be interviewed at a visa post. If an interview is granted, you will be responsible for traveling to that location. Business applicants are routinely interviewed, because Canadian visa officers must determine their experience in running and managing a business, net worth, source of funds, and ability to meet conditions imposed on entrepreneurs.
Why should I engage an immigration lawyer to represent me?
Although individuals can file their own immigration applications, it is not advisable to do so.
A large number of immigrants engage the services of Canadian immigration lawyers ("Barristers and Solicitors") who are well versed in immigration matters to represent them, due to the complexity of the process and the obstacles that can be encountered. Canadian immigration lawyers are trained to deal with the specific problems that may arise and maintain a high level of qualification and expertise.
You must be cautious about individuals who are not lawyers and who claim to be "specialized" or otherwise represent themselves as "agents," etc. Only those duly admitted to practice law in a Canadian jurisdiction can use the title of "Barrister and Solicitor," which is a lawyer or attorney-at-law. Also, you must be wary of those who offer "money back guarantee", "no visa-no fee" or make other promises concerning the outcome of an application, or make representations to obtain visas in a very short time. Only Canadian visa officers can make a decision on your application or promise a specific result.
Who makes decisions concerning my application for immigration to Canada?
Visa Officers in Canadian Consulates, Embassies and High Commissions abroad make all decisions concerning a candidate's immigration application. Each application is assessed in accordance with its category.
Skilled Workers are evaluated according to a "point system" considering a variety of factors;
Entrepreneurs and Investors are assessed in light of their business experience and net worth;
Self-employed applicants must demonstrate a potential contribution to the artistic, cultural, or scientific life of Canada;
Family class applicants receive priority over other applicants in the processing of their applications.
An immigration lawyer can help you maximize your chances of achieving a higher point assessment, using their expertise and knowledge of what Canadian visa officers are looking for in immigration applications.
Where will my immigration application be filed?
Applications for Permanent Residence in Canada can be filed at the Canadian Consulate, Embassy or High Commission abroad responsible for your geographical area, in accordance with the Regulations.
An application must be made at the immigration office that serves:(a) the country in which the applicant is present and has been lawfully admitted; or (b) the applicant's country of nationality or, if the applicant is stateless, their country of habitual residence other than a country in which they are residing without having been lawfully admitted.
How long will the process take?
The duration of the application process varies from case to case and it is different for each visa post. It is also subject to seasonal variations. From a Canadian immigration lawyer's perspective, Skilled Workers who present the appropriate documentation in support of their qualifications and experience may receive a positive answer within 6 to 8 months of filing of their applications in some visa posts. Business applicants, entrepreneurs and investors wanting to immigrate to Canada, can also be accepted in less than 8 months from the time of their application, depending on the degree of difficulty of the case, reliability of documentation, specific visa post, etc. It must be noted that there is no hard and fast rule for processing times.
An immigration lawyer carefully analyses all documentation provided by clients and prepares professional presentations that save time for visa officers, providing them with an incentive to process your immigration application faster and avoid unnecessary delays.
What happens to my immigration application if I have a medical problem?
People who have medical problems may encounter difficulties in their application process, depending on the nature of the illness. The Canadian government is very concerned that individuals who suffer from chronic, contagious or other diseases that may create demands on our health care system should not be allowed into Canada. Also, Immigration legislation prohibits issuing a permanent resident visa to a person who is medically inadmissible according to law.
If you have a medical problem, it is best to consult with a Canadian immigration lawyer, prior to filing your application. We recommend that people whose illnesses can cause them difficulties in their immigration applications consider their situation carefully before investing time and money in the process.
What if I have a criminal conviction?
Those who have been convicted of criminal offences may have serious difficulties in obtaining permanent residence status in Canada. The law prohibits issuing a visa to those who are criminally inadmissible. A number of factors are taken into consideration, including the nature of the offence, the sentence received, the length of time elapsed since the offence, etc.
Every applicant wishing to immigrate to Canada is subject to a security background check, and must present the appropriate police clearances from their country of residence. Canadian immigration lawyers advise clients to obtain the appropriate police certificates immediately, so time can be saved in the process.
What if I do not wish to go to Canada right away?
If you wish to delay your immigration to Canada after your obtain your permanent residence status, it may be possible to do so. But since the immigration process takes a minimum of 6 to 8 months, it is wise to begin your application before you have finished your work assignment or graduate studies. Visas issued by the Consulates are normally valid for up to one year since the date the medical exams were performed, and you may come to Canada at any time prior to the expiry of your visa. Also, you may choose to come to Canada and then return briefly to your activities overseas. In that case, there are some special rules that apply and you must be careful that your absence from Canada does not cause your permanent resident status to expire. An immigration lawyer can offer consultations to discuss your particular situation to maximize your chances of success and, at the same time, allow you to complete your current assignment or studies.
Sergio R. Karas of Karas & Associates is a Certified Specialist in Canadian Citizenship and Immigration Law by the Law Society of Upper Canada, current Vice-Chair of the IBA Immigration and Nationality Committee, and Vice-Chair of the Ontario Bar Association Citizenship and Immigration Section. Contact Sergio Karas today.
A great way to start your search for a local Canadian Immigration lawyer is at Canadian-Lawyers.ca. Go to the 'Find a Lawyer' search box that appears on the right hand side of this screen to start your lawyer search. Type in Immigration or the name of the law firm, the city and the province that you are looking to hire a lawyer from, and click on the 'Search Now' button. This will generate a list of local Canadian Immigration lawyers.