I wanted to share with you my brief history of immigration and to give some hints / make some comments that might be of help, hopefully.
Age 43, PhD, married & father of one 7-yr old child, 22-years work experience, IELTS: 7
* April-2008: Submitted my first application under FSW as per old rules, didn't know that two months earlier a new bill passed. 38 preferred occupations list was declared later that year. Had one of my employments with NOC#0711 in that list but alas, only the last 10 months of it fell within the last ten years, so missed eligibility by “2 months” only. Application rejected & fee refunded.
* August-2009: New application submitted to Sydney NS under FSW again but this time with Arranged Employment
* October-2009: Received first AOR & 120 days notice
* December-2009: Completed gathering all supporting documents, having them translated where necessary and mailed to immigration office in Ankara/Turkey (I was living & working in Azerbaijan as an ExPat by then). Received second AOR shortly after that.
* February-2010: Received phone call from immigration office and had an interview on the phone
* March-2010: Received medical forms
* March-2010: 2 weeks after receiving medical forms we passed medical check (Completed forms with X-rays & test results mailed to the medical centre in France by the MD)
* 2010 Received 60 days notice to bring passports and proof of payment of PR fee, travelled to Ankara, submitted passports and received back with visas the same day afternoon.
* 01-Jul-2010 Landed in Toronto (Nice coincidence isn‘t it? landing on Canada Day). In a few hours took a domestic flight from Toronto to Vancouver.
A) REGARDING APPLICATION PHASE
* If you are 100% sure of what you expect from immigration to Canada, don't give up if there appears obstacles on your way. If you are not quite sure then no need to risk a lot (including a lot of money) as I knew a few of my friends who immigrated, then returned home, one of them even got divorced. So confidence in yourself and in your family is a must. After the first refusal I didn't give up as my family's strong will to start a new life was also a driving force for me. Had I felt any reluctance from their side I wouldn't have tried the second time
* Make a good research on all aspects before filling the forms: You might not find exact matches of your job title(s) in the preferred occupations list but if you check the NOC coding resources/sites on the i-net, you'll see that your job title might have been named in Canada in a different way. Job descriptions matter, not the titles.
* Don't hesitate asking case-specific questions to your immigration office, I sent queries 3 - 4 times and they replied all. However, make sure that you can't find answer to your question elsewhere (like in this forum) and if not, then keep your question as clear and brief as possible to reduce the chance that they would ignore it. I recommend using your immigration office web site's case-specific enquiries section rather than trying to phone them (You may spend an hour listening to the answering machine's music)
* If all or part of your documents are not in English or French, try to pick qualified translators. You would not believe what mistakes have been done translating my diplomas, mark sheets etc. I had to return to them to correct their misinterpretation.
* Apply for Police Clearances as soon as you receive 120-day notice, I would suggest even before you receive the notice. It took two months to get PCCs from one country that I lived before
* Medical checks might differ from country to country but in general it's nothing fearful and I agree with the people who say that “if you receive medical forms, consider that you‘ll get your visas”
B) MOVING TO CANADA: “Pain-free landing” is very important as your experience of landing in Canada and settling in the first couple of months might turn so sour that you might regret that you immigrated. To avoid this you need to plan everything before you move to Canada. Some comments on moving to Canada as follows:
- Before flying to Canada, I checked a lot of real estate agencies' web sites and picked one that responded very friendly. Decided on a 1 bedroom 70-sqm fully-furnished apartment in a hi-rise in the heart of Downtown Vancouver, signed tenancy agreement, scanned & sent by e-mail and made the payment via wire transfer. This way I ensured that we have a place to stay as soon as we reach there (This is for the ones like me who have no relatives to stay for the first few weeks or month). It is important also that you will be able to give an address to the immigration officer at the airport so that you can receive PR cards quicker. Apartment had everything so that you could move in “with your toothbrush” and needing nothing else. Notes: A) Downtown apartments (not necessarily Vancouver, this should be valid for all downtowns) especially fully-furnished ones are expensive and usually rented no less than 1-month durations. So make your own budget accordingly. However, considering their per-day costs most of such apartments come cheaper than average hotels. For example a $1800/month suite equals to $60 per day which is still half the price of any bedbug-free moderate hotel room. B) You might not be able to buy a car immediately and if you chose to stay far from downtown, chances are you would be at some distance from public transportation routes. Living in downtown for the first few weeks will help you easily reach all amenities like banks, shops, mobile phone providers, government offices etc.
- I suggest you to spend some time on Google Earth to see the overall geography, city layout, roads, amenities, schools, anything that you might like to know about the city that you'll be living in. It has also a feature called “Streetview” where you can see panoramic pictures in any urban area in Canada, as if you are driving on the streets of Canada. It's really useful, I mean it; I was so familiarized with streets of Vancouver and surrounding places that I'm still feeling as if “I was here before” when I drive my car. Another thing: Before coming here, thru an internet webcam I watched almost everyday the junction where Robson St. and Denman St. in Downtown Vancouver intersects (That webcam is courtesy of a furnished suite-hotel complex at that junction, it was a real-time web-cam with no time-lapse but constantly streaming. Not allowed to give commercial name or link, sorry. I‘m sure you can find it if you wish). Anyway, it was like a ritual for us to watch that little piece of Canada from the other side of the world. We watched when it rained, when it shined, how people & vehicles crossed the traffic lights. Might sound silly to you, but it was a sentimental tie, an open window for us over Canada. After immigrating, I passed by that junction and looked at that camera mounted on the clock-tower of that hotel. It was a strange feeling.
- Got our tickets for a direct flight to Toronto, it was very expensive. Had I had the patience left for applying US visa to make a transit flight (Istanbul-Chicago-Vancouver) possible, I could have spent only $2k, whereas I paid $3.5k for Istanbul-Toronto plus $1.5k for Toronto-Vancouver (The USA no longer issues “Transit Visa“, so you need to apply for a usual tourist visa even if you won‘t leave the airport. I stopped filling in US visa application form when I read a question on it asking if we have ever been a pim* or prostit***. This was very annoying. They could have asked if we've done anything illegal and that‘s all). Notes: A) Search online cheap ticket selling agencies' web sites and make comparisons and obtain visas for transit countries if you need to. B) Obtain all tickets in advance and don‘t leave to the last minute (I bought Toronto-Vancouver domestic flight tickets at Toronto airport and had to pay more). C) Distribute your things in your suitcases evenly so that each suitcase weighs no more than 23kg, otherwise you might appear in a desperate situation in front of check-in desk. Ours passed first flight Ok to Toronto but from Toronto to Vancouver we had hard time as the check-in officer said one suitcase is 25kgs so she cannot accept it. Imagine moving things from one suitcase to another one hour before the take-off.
- Leaving airplane, going thru passport control and immigration office is quite straightforward and people are very kind, so I have no other comments on this issue. Just answer officers' questions correctly and that's it.
- Try to find (dunno how!) Canadian coins. If you have credit card that will be Ok. This is for taking a trolley at the Toronto airport for your suitcases. Yes they charge at Toronto airport, while here in our Beautiful British Columbia airport trolleys are FOC
- Check & compare currency exchange rates before coming to Canada and buy Canadian dollars in advance if it's at better rate at your home country. I bought some, but foolishly brought the rest of my funds in Euro & US dollars. If you bring foreign currency here, at least don't exchange at the airport (rates are miserable). Better exchange in the city and don't forget, if you are exchanging large amounts (like $10k) you can bargain in the private exchange offices for a better rate.
- Forgot to tell you: In the domestic lines (if you're landing in one Canadian city first and then flying to another like we did) food & drink services are not free. Chances are you can only have one glass of water during a 4 - 5 hour flight (I had no credit cards with me and they don‘t accept cash on board).
- So we arrived in Vancouver, 01:00AM.!!! Laid on airport's benches to have some sleep till the morning (Yes we arranged the apartment in advance but couldn't knock real estate agent's door to get the keys at 01:00AM). We could have stayed in airport hotel but $200+ for several hours is not so cheap a price.
- Moved in the apartment, better than we expected.
- First thing is first: I bought a portable GPS Navigator (At around $100). You might have mobile phone with GPS, but the one that I'm talking about can be fitted in your car later on and is more convenient than your mobile phone's GPS feature. Believe me, in a new city where you know no roads, it is superb. Say, you need to find an office, a shop, anything... Just type street & number (or its zip code) and GPS tells you where to go step by step. You don't even have to look at its screen if you buy a model with speech it tells you where to go. Hint: Occasionally connect it to a computer and update the maps in its memory. Once it lead me to the ferryboat station near the Fraser River but apparently the ferries stopped operating long ago. So I had to make a 35km detour to take the nearest bridge.
- During our stay in the downtown apartment for a couple of months, I have done a lot of things from my Things To Do list, one at a time, without panicking: A) Gone to the nearest Service Canada office, applied for and received our Social Insurance Numbers on a paper. SIN cards were mailed to our address later on. B) Bought 2 mobile lines with 3-year agreement (with this plan we pay a regular $50 a month payment and the smartphones come free. We have 300minutes free talk and 500MB free wireless data. But you need to stick to this agreement for 3 years or if you terminate your contract you must pay about $400). You can buy pre-paid phone lines too but I was told that having a subscription line and paying your bills timely will contribute to your credit history in Canada. C) Bought a used car at $7k but the vehicle insurance is costing $3k a year!!! (Guys don't forget to obtain a formal letter from your insurance company in your home country stating that you had no accident claims etc. Such a letter might help reduce your insurance costs here in Canada, even up to 40% as they say). I didn't have a bank account when I bought that car, so I had to pay all the money in hard cash which looks very funny here while usual method is cheque or wire transfer for large amounts. Note that the same person does here insurance & registration documents and gives the license plate to you, all in the same place, some of them even have an office in larger car dealer/showroom buildings. D) Opened a bank account and applied for a credit card (which is more effective than mobile phone payments to build a credit history in Canada. Your Credit History here is very important for many things including mortgage applications to buy a home later on. It‘s very convenient to buy home on mortgage than renting an apartment, for example if you pay $900/month for renting an apartment, you can buy a similar home on mortgage with $1200/month for about 20 years). As I had no previous credit history here, I had to let a $1k kept in a savings account as a safety deposit to get a credit card with $1k limit on it. E) Filled in Form 102 for medical services coverage for the family and mailed to BC Healthcare F) Gone to driver licensing centre (In British Columbia it's ICBC) and was refused as they needed PR card along with my passport (See why providing an address at your point of entry to Canada and receiving the PR cards are so important?) By the time I started worrying about expiring the 3-month duration of use for my home-country issued original driving license, we received our PR cards by mail and I went to ICBC again. First day I took the knowledge test that is answered on the touch-screen computers. I passed it and asked when can I take the road test. To my surprise they gave me the nearest available date about 2 months later!!! By that time I wouldn't be able to use my original license any longer. Then they told me to come next day at 07:00AM and quickly write my name in the Stand-By list, no guarantee but worth taking a chance. So, next day I waited a couple of hours when my name was called (apparently one of the candidates that day didn't come). I passed the test and got my license in mailbox a week later (Till then they give you a yellow paper with license number written. That temporarily serves as a license till you receive the real thing)
- After staying in Downtown Vancouver for two months, we moved to Maple Ridge. It is a very quiet place, so quiet that I cannot close my car's door without fearing that it will be heard several blocks away. Being close to nature is beautiful but has some drawbacks too (Last month a bear entered our backyard, chewed and crushed to open our large & thick plastic lockable waste container to dig out some food, littered all around. I saw the tooth marks on the container. My job is at 15minute drive from home. My son started Grade-2 of a nearby elementary school. Before immigrating, back in home country we sent him to a private elementary school (with education in English) so he has his Grade-1 completed. That one year was apparently enough for him so he started here without losing a year and even not needed to take supplementary English lessons. Don't worry, they get adapted faster than us adults. But if you have chance to do so, let them learn English at least for one year before immigrating. This will make the life easier for them.
C) MISCELLANEOUS INFO:
These are regarding Vancouver and surrounding cities, not necessarily true for other cities/provinces.
- Food is not too expensive (Well at least meat is much cheaper than my home country) but compare prices of different shops (I think again I'm not allowed to give here commercial company/shop names, sorry)
- Parking (especially in Downtown) is a pain (and is an expensive pain!). Parking meters take about $5 for a couple of hours of parking. Public parking lots take $15 - $18 per day or $180 - $200 monthly (So if you'll live or stay in Downtown, better make sure that your building has a parking place and your tenancy agreement states that it's included in the rent)
- Canadians are very polite and helpful. People you haven't met before might say hello or at least smile when you pass by in a park. Though it's not always like this in “vibrant & cosmopolitan” areas/streets of downtown.
- Do not expect too much from government's health services (i.e. don't think that all health services are fully covered by the “Medicare“) Notes: A) It‘s not free (at least in B.C. and as far as I know it does not cover vision and dental expenses). For a family of three I am paying $114 monthly for medicare. It covers doctor visits only and not the medication. If I'm not wrong there is also a “Farmacare” for subsidies on medication. When it comes to negotiating with your employers for employment salary/benefits package, discuss the possibilities of getting a private health insurance paid by the employer. B) I hope you won't but if you need to see a doctor and buy prescription medication at drugstores, don't think you can just give the prescription, pay and leave with the drugs quickly. Sometimes it takes nearly an hour for them to enter the prescription info online to the system and to get authorisation before they give the medication to you. This is for tracking the prescription drugs movement. C) As it is with a few more provinces in Canada, in BC too Medicare starts covering you after 3-months from your landing. So, don't forget to go to a private insurance office and get a temporary health insurance for your family for the first 3 months. It costed $330 for us. Don't ignore this. God forbid, if something happens before the Medicare starts, you might not be able to pay the hospital costs.
- There are a few benefits for new immigrants with low income, one of them is Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) a benefit to support bringing up child(ren), and the other is GST/HST - Sales Tax Credit which is basically returning to you part of the tax that you pay when you buy goods in Canada if you have a low income. Details on eligibility, how to / where to apply etc can be found in below web site. Not a lotta money but for newcomers every penny counts. www.cra.gc.ca
- Don't know other places but in BC tap water is potable and tasty enough. So you don't need to buy bottled water. Don't ignore this, you would want to save money for sure.
- Canadians usually drive abiding the rules but there are “fast and furious” type guys as well. Plus I saw old people barely standing on their feet and hardly seeing anything beyond the windshield are still driving their cars. Even younger drivers sometimes being very reckless (Within the first three weeks, I have seen 3 crashes that happened right before my eyes). For some of you the traffic rules in Canada might have differences compared to your home country. For me it took some time to get used to making right turns at red light (If you're at traffic lights, if there's no sign there saying “No Right Turns at Red” and the junction is clear of any vehicles and/or pedestrians, then you can turn right, and only right, no straight crossing nor left turning on red). If you wish to take the online Knowledge Test and/or find some documentation regarding driving license & traffic rules refer to the below web site:http://www.icbc.com/
- Yes Canada is diverse with huge percentages of “Visible Minorities” (No offense intended, this is not my terminology, in Canada officials use the term “Visible Minority” for the people that they can immediately tell their origin by their physical features). But I should say that this diversity is in total/overall percentages only. Otherwise, visible minorities seem to have concentrated in particular districts/areas (Like in BC; South Asians accumulated in Surrey, East Asians in Richmond, while Maple Ridge is about 90% Caucasian). It could have been better had this diversity been a homogeneous one so that none of us would feel like an alien in any area.
- Haven't yet seen other places in Canada but British Columbia is a gem of Mother Nature. Apparently God has spared a lot of time creating this place. Within the radius of an hour's drive you can see many geographical features. Ocean, islands, mountains, plains, rivers, lakes, thick forests. It was 30deg C during the summer and we swam in the ocean. Only a few days ago temperature dropped down to 10 – 15deg C. From September and on quite frequently it rains but no complaints as this makes the British Columbia so green.
Good luck to you all.
-Sorry for the lengthy posting, I hope it has not been too boring
-Many thanks to the owner, the moderators and the members of this forum for all the help & guidance I found here.
-I don't visit this forum quite frequently. So, if I cannot reply questions or PMs please excuse me (Will try though).