Dear Phil . . .
I was in communication with an American friend of mine this week. It has been a tough few days for Phil, who lives in Ohio. Not only did his home state fall into the Trump column on election night, but the President-elect won enough states to claim victory, leaving many U.S-based residents looking for solutions. For many, that solution is life in Canada, and people like Phil are serious about making the move. Phil gave me permission to reproduce here the same advice I gave him about taking the first steps towards Canadian permanent residence.
I am hopeful that in a few months you no longer feel the need to leave the country you call home.
However, if you still do, there are steps to take and documents you need to collect before you can apply for a permanent resident visa. As I tell people often, it is better to have your documents and not need them, rather than need documents and not have them.
I try to help my clients collect all their documents simultaneously, but here is a brief list of what you can do to collect some of the more time consuming documents, putting you in the best possible position to apply within weeks or months:
Write the IELTS General Version and Have Your Spouse do the Same
Please do not be insulted. Even if you were an English professor at Oxford you would need to write an accepted language test to prove your proficiency and qualify under most immigration programs, including those under the Express Entry system. The general version of IELTS is the only accepted English test outside Canada for Express Entry, as well as other economic programs. Alternatively, you could also write a French test if your French is strong enough.
It costs more than $200 for each of you to write the test, but if an immigration program opens up and you want to apply, these test results can be the difference between you being able to apply or not. Since married couples can immigrate together with either partner as a principle applicant, it could maximize your options for both of you to write the test.
Many of Canada’s economic immigration programs use points-based systems and award points for human capital, including applicant and spouse language proficiency. Doing well on the test can get both of you many points.
Your English is perfect, and documenting it now can get you the credit you deserve within a month.
Have your Education Assessed
Canada’s popular Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program, as well as many other federal and provincial programs require candidates to have an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) done by a third party in order to determine the Canadian equivalence of a degree. This can also appear demeaning, especially for graduates of well-known American schools, but the requirement applies to all who studied outside Canada. Requesting transcripts can take time, and an ECA also costs upwards of $200. However, like the IELTS, if you and your spouse obtain this document now, it allows you both to get the credit you deserve for your education and puts you in position to apply quickly. (To learn more about the five designated organizations, click here.)
Collect your Other Documents
Even though work experience letters are not always needed at the first stage (for example for the FSW program), they can take time to collect. Begin organizing and collecting documents that show who you are and the work you have done, and ask your spouse to do the same. Some programs require work reference letters right away, while others only give candidates very short windows to collect their documents after they are requested.
Look at Jobs In Canada
As an American, it can be quite easy to come to Canada and learn about the labour market. You do not need a visa to visit, and as long as NAFTA still exists, you can easily move to Canada temporarily if you have a job offer in an eligible field and are qualified to practice in that field. By beginning to look at jobs in Canada, you may find a way to get a temporary work permit and/or obtain permanent residence quickly when you are ready.
I know Canada will be lucky to have you as a newcomer, but I also hope that you are able to immigrate here because you want to, and not because you feel you need to. The above steps can put you in a strong position to apply when you are ready.
If you want to discuss your concerns and objectives with like-minded people, our Canada Immigration Forum has a new section dedicated to moving to Canada from the U.S. It is worth your while to register on the forum and discuss your Canadian immigration project. In addition, I encourage you to subscribe to our Canada Immigration Newsletter; our team will send a bimonthly newsletter alert to your email inbox with all the latest news and analysis in Canadian immigration matters.