Immigrating to British Columbia (Script 290)
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The federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act controls immigration to Canada.
- 1 What are the main types of immigration?
- 2 Family class
- 3 Economic class
- 4 Does BC have a program to speed up immigration applications?
- 5 What about refugee claims?
- 6 What help is available for new immigrants?
- 7 What if your application is rejected or you’re asked to leave Canada?
- 8 What if you do not qualify under the usual immigration rules?
- 9 Where can you find more information on immigrating to BC?
What are the main types of immigration?
People who want to immigrate to Canada can apply under two main classes:
- family class
- economic class
There is also a refugee class, explained later in this script. Under it, a newcomer can immigrate as a permanent resident of Canada.
The goal of this class is to reunite Canadians with their close relatives overseas. If you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you can sponsor your spouse or common-law partner, parents, grandparents, dependent children (biological or adopted), or an unmarried orphaned sibling, nephew, niece or grandchild under 18. Depending on your relationship with that person, you must be able to financially support them from 3 to 10 years. Spouses and dependent children get priority. Usually, these applications take 3 to 12 months to process. It can take 5 to 6 years to process applications of parents and grandparents. As of August 1, 2014, dependent children must be under 19 years old (before that it was under 22), and as of December 22, 2014, eligible spouses of common-law partners have the opportunity to work in Canada while they wait for their application for permanent residence to be processed.
As of November 5, 2011, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration stopped accepting applications of sponsored parents and grandparents. Instead, these family members could apply for a long-term Super Visa to visit family in Canada for up to 2 years at a time. The Minister re-opened the parent and grandparent category for 5000 applications in 2014, but he has not said if he will re-open the category again for 2015. The Super Visa is still an option for parents and grandparents.
There are several types of economic-class applicants: Federal skilled workers, Federal skilled trades, the Canadian Experience Class, the Start-up visa, and Self-Employed Persons under the Business immigration program.
- Federal skilled workers need at least 67 points based on age, work experience, education, abilities in English and French, and adaptability. They also need at least one year of work experience in one of 50 occupations identified by the Minister or have arranged employment in Canada that the government has approved.
- Federal skilled trades applicants must have at least two years of full-time work experience (or an equal amount of part-time work experience) in a skilled trade within five years before applying, meet the job requirements for that skilled trade as set out in the National Occupational Classification (NOC), and have an offer of full-time employment for a total period of at least one year. Alternatives, applicants can have a certificate of qualification in their skilled trade issued by a Canadian provincial or territorial authority.
- The Canadian Experience Class lets people with one year of full-time work in Canada in a skilled occupation immigrate to Canada.
- Start-up visas are issued only to business applicants who have a viable business idea and have arranged part of their financing from private investors in Canada who have been approved by the government.
- Self-Employed Persons must have at least 2 years of relevant experience and show that they intend to become self-employed in Canada. They must also score at least 35 points and show they’ll make an economic contribution to Canada. Relevant experience means this class is limited to professional athletes, artists, musicians, actors, and some farmers.
As of January, 2015, an Express Entry program has been established to manage applications in some economic classes. The program’s goal is to give the government more flexibility to meet skilled employment needs in Canada. Under Express Entry, applicants will first fill out an online profile that includes their language test scores, their Educational Credential Assessment (where required), and an outline of their work experience. There is no cost to submit an Express Entry profile. Based on these profiles, applicants will be ranked against other applicants. On a regular basis, CIC will invite candidates from the pool to apply for permanent residence. The score required during each wave of invitations will vary, meaning sometimes a higher score will be needed, while other times a lower one will be sufficient. The Express Entry program must be used for those applying under the following categories:
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Canadian Experience Class
- As a Provincial Nominee
Does BC have a program to speed up immigration applications?
Yes—BC and several other provinces have provincial nominee programs (under the economic class). These provinces can speed up, or fast track, an immigration application so it takes less than one year. They can also have a work permit issued in 2 to 3 months. One of the fastest ways to immigrate to BC is under BC’s Provincial Nominee Program, which lets BC select immigrants based on their specific ability to contribute to the BC economy. For example, applicants for jobs in BC where there is a shortage of workers—such as high-tech positions and rural postings—qualify here. But an applicant must first have a job offer to apply under this program.
What about refugee claims?
Canada has had a long tradition of helping people in need. Until recently, it has accepted between 20,000 and 30,000 people a year as refugees. They are people unable or unwilling to return to their own country for fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, political opinion, nationality or membership in a particular social group, or people who might face risk to their lives, cruel and unusual treatment, punishment, or torture if they went home. In the last year, the Canadian government has restricted access to the refugee process by designating some countries as “safe” and requiring special procedures for refugee claimants from these countries.
What help is available for new immigrants?
Some financial and other help is available to immigrants through various programs and services, including counseling and cultural orientation, loans to help with transportation to Canada, language training, and job-related services.
The Legal Services Society (LSS) may provide a lawyer for free if you:
- meet the financial guidelines, and
- are facing an immigration proceeding that may remove you from Canada or you want to claim refugee status.
To find a legal aid location near you, see the LSS website at www.legalaid.bc.ca and click on Legal aid locations. Or you can call the LSS Call Centre at 604.408.2172 (Greater Vancouver) or 1.866.577.2525 (call no charge, elsewhere in BC).
What if your application is rejected or you’re asked to leave Canada?
Most people are eligible for a pre-removal risk assessment by Citizenship and Immigration Canada before they are removed from the country. If you have already made a refugee claim that was rejected, the decision on risk will be based only on new evidence.
The Federal Court of Canada can review most decisions of immigration officials and tribunals. But it does so only in very limited cases. You would need legal help in this area.
What if you do not qualify under the usual immigration rules?
Immigration officials can make exceptions to the usual immigration rules if following those rules would cause undeserved or exceptional hardship.
Where can you find more information on immigrating to BC?
- Citizenship and Immigration Canada is a good starting point.
- The Legal Services Society has free publications. Click Publications then under “I want to find a publication by subject,” click “Immigrants & Refugees”.
- The Immigration and Refugee Board has details on refugee claims, admissibility hearings, and immigration appeals.
- The Canadian Council for Refugees has general information on refugees.
- The BC Provincial Nominee Program explains program details.
[updated July 2015]
The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Jack Montpellier.
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