Immigration to Canada can be achieved through a wide range of programs. If you’re not yet sure how to select the right Canadian immigration program for you, you’re in the right place.

This section will help you answer the question: How do I immigrate to Canada?

Our immigration to Canada section has three main categories of programs for you to consider:

  • Permanent ResidenceLong-term immigration programs, including economic programs (inclusive of Express Entry) and family sponsorship.
  • Work PermitsPrograms which allow you to work in Canada for a limited period.
  • Study PermitsPermission to study at approved institutions, with the possibility to work during and after your studies and options to transition to permanent residence.

From the options below, click on the most applicable situation to find out which option(s) for moving to Canada may be available to you and your family, if applicable. If more than one of the situations listed above applies to you, we encourage you to begin your research with whichever situation is listed first. However, make sure to review the other potential option(s) as well.

If none of the situations listed apply to you, don’t lose heart – you may still be eligible for immigration to Canada. Check through the range of options outlined below to find out which pathway may be right for you, and use the government of Canada’s Come to Canada Wizard to check your eligibility.

Select an option:

How to immigrate as a worker

Take a look at this video to understand the main options for immigrating to Canada as a worker:

Economic immigration to Canada

Express Entry

Express Entry overview

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Who is it for?

Express Entry immigration to Canada is open to skilled foreign workers, tradespersons, and graduates with ability in English and/or French. Individuals of any age may become a candidate, but preference is given to younger workers seeking immigration to Canada.

How does it work?

Since January 2015, eligible individuals can express their interest in becoming a permanent resident of Canada. Eligibility may be through the Federal Skilled Worker Class, the Canadian Experience Class, or the Federal Skilled Trades Class.

Candidates are assigned a score (out of 1,200 points) based on their education, career history, and other personal details, and will be ranked against other candidates under what is called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

When draws from the Express Entry pool occur, the top-ranking candidates are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. While in the pool, candidates can strive to increase their CRS points total, and thus their ranking, by proving better human capital factors, for example by re-taking a language test or completing additional work experience.

Moreover, a candidate may obtain a qualifying job offer or a provincial nomination through one of the many Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams. A provincial nomination is particularly valuable, as it results in 600 additional CRS points being awarded to the candidate, who will then be invited to apply in a subsequent draw from the pool.

What’s the advantage?

Express Entry has proven to be a quick route for immigration to Canada, with more than 80 percent of applications processed within six months. The process is entirely online, and it is easy to track the status of the application.

Furthermore, Express Entry is a system that rewards proactive individuals who can prove to the government that they are likely to be economically successful upon settlement in Canada.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

Hiring representation (i.e. a regulated lawyer or consultant) would entail additional fees, but this is a price that many candidates feel is worth the outlay. Moving2Canada has partnered with a number of experienced representatives who can help candidates with their Canadian immigration goals.

How long does it take?

About 4–6 months from when you submit the application. In advance of this, additional time may be required to complete any relevant tests and obtain documents.

Other considerations

Success in this system is not guaranteed, as the government invites only a portion of candidates from the pool when it conducts one of its draws. However, the government has stated that the Express Entry pool is now the main source of economic immigration to Canada, and over time the CRS cut-off threshold has decreased substantially.

Where can I learn more?

The Express Entry system invites candidates to apply through four different programs. These are:

The criteria for each program is different, and it is possible to be eligible for more than one. For example, if you have a mix of foreign and Canadian work experience, you may be eligible for both the FSWC and the CEC.

To learn more about these programs, see our Express Entry Canada guide.

Canadian Experience Class

Learn more about the Canadian Experience Class

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Who is it for?

Foreign workers who have completed at least one year of skilled work experience in Canada within the last three years can pursue permanent immigration to Canada through the Canadian Experience Class.

How does it work?

Candidates under the Canadian Experience Class must create an Express Entry profile and be invited to apply for immigration to Canada before submitting an application through Express Entry (see above for details).

What’s the advantage?

  • Candidates have built up at least one year of Canadian work experience. This is a highly-valued factor under the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), and, as such, gives these applicants something of a “head start” against other candidates in the pool.
  • Because the required documentation is minimal, applications are processed quickly, often within three to four months.
  • Applicants are not required to show proof of settlement funds.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

How long does it take?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to process applications within six months, though in many cases Canadian Experience Class applications have been found to be processed more quickly.

Other considerations

Eligibility for the program does not guarantee that an invitation to apply will be issued or that permanent residence will be granted.

Where can I learn more?

See our dedicated Canadian Experience Class overview page.

Federal Skilled Worker Class

Learn more about the Federal Skilled Worker Class

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Who is it for?

Professionals and skilled workers around the world who want to immigrate to Canada permanently.

How does it work?

Interested individuals are assessed according to the FSWC points system and must score at least 67 points on this grid (out of 100) in order to be eligible. Points are awarded for age, language ability, level of education, work experience, whether or not the candidate has a job offer, and certain adaptability factors.

Eligible candidates must create an Express Entry profile and be invited to apply before submitting an application through Express Entry (see above for details).

What’s the advantage?

As this is Canada’s flagship immigration program, tens of thousands of newcomers are admitted as permanent residents annually. This provides a unique opportunity for individuals and families around the world to make the move to Canada, even if they don’t have previous ties to Canada.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

How long does it take?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to process applications within six months.

Other considerations

Eligibility for the program does not guarantee that an invitation to apply for immigration to Canada will be issued or that permanent residence will be granted.

Where can I learn more?

See our dedicated Federal Skilled Worker Class overview page.

Federal Skilled Trades Class

Learn more about the Federal Skilled Trades Class

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Who’s it for?

Qualified, experienced tradespersons from around the world who want to immigrate to Canada.

How does it work?

Eligible candidates must create an Express Entry profile and be invited to apply before submitting an application through Express Entry (see above for details).

What’s the advantage?

  • IRCC has previously conducted program-specific draws for federal skilled trades candidates only, with a CRS cut-off threshold far below what other candidates have needed in order to be invited to apply.
  • One way of being eligible as a tradesperson is to get a job offer in your trade from a Canadian employer. As well as helping you to become eligible, you may then also receive additional CRS points for the job offer. This will increase your chances of being invited to apply.
  • The language ability criteria to enter the Express Entry pool is set lower for federal skilled trades candidates than it is for FSWC and CEC candidates.

How much does it cost?

About $1,500–$2,000, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

How long does it take?

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) aims to process applications within six months.

Other considerations

Eligibility for the program does not guarantee that an invitation to apply for immigration to Canada will be issued or that permanent residence will be granted.

Where can I learn more?

See our dedicated Federal Skilled Trades Class overview page.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Learn more about the Provincial Nominee Programs

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Who is it for?

Individuals who intend to reside in a specific province and who can prove their ability to settle into the provincial economy. PNP streams often favour individuals with prior connections to the province, either through work experience, study, or family connections, though in some cases some individuals without a prior connection to the province may be eligible to apply or invited to apply, as the case may be.

How does it work?

PNPs offer a two-step pathway to permanent residence. Eligible individuals must first apply to the province for a provincial nomination certificate. Upon obtaining this certificate, applicants may then apply to the federal government for permanent residence; the federal government reviews an applicant’s criminal and medical admissibility to Canada.

Some PNP streams are aligned with the Express Entry system, outlined above. These are known as enhanced streams. A nomination certificate obtained through an enhanced PNP stream results in an Express Entry candidate being awarded 600 additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, effectively guaranteeing that an invitation to apply (ITA) for immigration to Canada will be issued in a subsequent draw from the Express Entry pool. The application for permanent residence will be receive priority processing by the federal government, with a processing time target of six months or less.

PNP streams that are not aligned with Express Entry are known as base streams. A nomination certificate obtained through a base PNP stream does not alter a candidate’s Express Entry CRS score. Indeed, eligible individuals may apply to a base PNP stream without ever having an Express Entry profile, and base PNP streams may offer a pathway to permanent residence for individuals who are not eligible to enter the Express Entry pool.

What’s the advantage?

There is a lot to be said for the fact that permanent residents admitted through a PNP have been personally selected by their destination province – they can settle into their life in Canada knowing that they are truly wanted at a local level.

Beyond this more emotionally subjective advantage, there are some more immediately practical advantages. For Express Entry candidates who have not yet met the CRS cut-off threshold set in Express Entry draws, enhanced PNP streams offer the opportunity to obtain 600 additional CRS points, resulting in the issuance of an ITA. For individuals not eligible for Express Entry, base PNP streams leave the door open for economic immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

That depends on the province and the stream. Some provinces allow individuals to make an expression of interest in immigrating to their province free of charge, with fees to be paid if or when an invitation to apply to the PNP is issued and a subsequent application submitted. Other PNP streams operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and consequently a processing fee would be demanded up front.

How long does it take?

As this is a two-step process, application processing times include a provincial processing stage and a federal processing stage, and both stages should be taken into account when considering the overall time it may take from start to finish. Immigration to Canada through a PNP can take anywhere from a few months to a few years.

Provincial stage: Some provinces publish updated processing times. Click any of the links below to find out more.

Ontario | Alberta | BC

Federal stage: For enhanced PNP streams, the federal processing time is usually under six months. For base PNP streams, average processing times at the federal stage are 15 to 19 months.

Other considerations

Applicants should have the intention to live in the province they are applying to. Once Canadian permanent residence has been granted, permanent residents have the right to live and work in any Canadian province or territory.

Where can I learn more?

Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program

Learn more about the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program

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Who’s it for?

Individuals with a job offer in one of the Atlantic provinces, namely Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, or Newfoundland and Labrador.

How does it work?

The AIPP is segmented into three sub-programs: the Atlantic High-Skilled Program, the Atlantic Intermediate-Skilled Program, and the Atlantic International Graduate Program.

The info-graphic below, provided by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), shows the step-by-step AIPP process for immigration to Canada.

Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program (AIPP) infographic

What’s the advantage?

Registered employers are not required to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order for the job offer to be considered valid under this program. This streamlines the hiring process for employers and applicants alike. In addition, employers must partner with a recognized settlement organization, which helps applicants and their families, if applicable, settle into their new surroundings.

How much does it cost?

A single applicant pays a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500, bringing the total to $1,325. If a spouse or partner is included, the same fees apply (i.e. $1,325 divided into two installments). Fees for dependent children amount to $225 per child.

How long does it take?

IRCC aims to process applications for permanent residence submitted through this program within six months.

Other considerations

Applicants must have a job offer from a designated employer in one of the Atlantic provinces and must intend to live in their destination province.

Where can I learn more?

IRCC provides more information.

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Immigration to Quebec

Immigration to Quebec

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Who’s it for?

Individuals and families who want to reside permanently in the province of Quebec, Canada’s only predominantly French-speaking province, home to the city of Montreal.

How does it work?

Quebec selects its own economic immigrants, who are issued a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). With a CSQ, a person may then apply to the government of Canada for permanent resident status. Certificates are issued to skilled workers under the Quebec Skilled Worker Program, to international students, graduates, and workers in Quebec under the Quebec Experience Program (PEQ), and to a variety of business persons under one of the Quebec business immigration programs (outlined below).

What’s the advantage?

For students, graduates, and workers in Quebec with French ability – or the reasonable expectation of eventually being able to prove such ability – the PEQ offers a pathway to permanent residence that is not dependent on being invited to apply or achieving a points total.

How much does it cost?

Fees levied by the government of Quebec amount to $812 for the principal applicant, as well as $174 for a spouse or partner and $174 for each dependent child.

Once a CSQ has been obtained and the applicant can apply to the government of Canada for permanent residence, federal application fees amount to a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500 ($1,325 total), plus $1,325 for an accompanying spouse or partner (divided into a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500) and $225 for each accompanying child.

How long does it take?

PEQ: The processing time for obtaining a CSQ under the PEQ is approximately six months.

QSWP: Processing times are generally lengthier under this program, ranging from a few months for cap-exempt applicants to more than a year for regular applicants. However, the government of Quebec has introduced a new Express Entry-style application management system for this program, which moves it from a first-come, first-served (or supply-based) system to a demand-based system that places a limit on applications received. This should result in reduced processing times.

Once a CSQ is issued, the federal processing time is approximately 15 to 17 months.

Other considerations

Quebec offers a predominantly French-speaking culture and economy. While French is not currently mandatory under the QSWP, it is weighted significantly more favourably than English under the eligibility points grid. Applicants to the PEQ are required to prove advanced-intermediate or better French ability in order to be approved for a CSQ under that program.

Where can I learn more?

If you intend to study or work in Quebec, or are currently working or studying in the province, we encourage you to review your options under the Quebec Experience Program. We also have a comprehensive guide for the points-based Quebec Skilled Worker Program, which doesn’t require applicants to have any previous period of work or study in Quebec (though such prior connections may be rewarded with additional points).

Quebec Immigrant Investor Program

Learn more about the Quebec Immigrant Investor Program

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Who is it for?

High net worth individuals wishing to make a passive investment in the province of Quebec.

How does it work?

Under revised program regulations introduced in 2018, applicants make a five-year term investment of CAD $1,200,000 with a subsidiary of Investissement Québec for which the foreign national has entered into an investment agreement with a financial intermediary authorized to participate in the program.

The investment agreement is one of the documents to be submitted with the Application for a Certificat de selection du Québec (CSQ), which must be obtained before the applicant and his or her accompanying family members, if applicable, may apply for immigration to Canada.

What’s the advantage?

The passive investment is guaranteed by the government of Quebec, and brokers and trust companies offer the possibility of financing the investment.

How much does it cost?

Fees levied by the government of Quebec amount to $15,763 for the principal applicant. This fee covers the entire file, with no further fees payable to Quebec for any accompanying family members.

Once a CSQ has been obtained and the applicant can apply to the government of Canada for permanent residence, federal application fees amount to a processing fee of $1,575 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500 ($2,075 total), plus $1,325 for an accompanying spouse or partner (divided into a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500) and $225 for each accompanying child.

How long does it take?

IRCC lists the federal processing time at 54 months. This does not include the time it takes the government of Quebec to process the initial application.

Other considerations

The program is typically quite popular, and quotas generally fill quickly. Note that knowledge of French is not a requirement for this program.

Where can I learn more?

The government of Quebec provides further details.

Quebec Entrepreneur Program

Learn more about the Quebec Entrepreneur Program

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Who is it for?

Experienced business owners who wish to create or acquire a business in the province of Quebec.

How does it work?

Eligible applicants submit an application for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). Requirements include having net assets of at least $300,000 and at least two years’ experience in running a business acquired during the previous five years. With a CSQ, the applicant and his or her accompanying family members, if applicable, may apply for immigration to Canada.

What’s the advantage?

In previous intake cycles, applicants with French ability were allowed to apply outside the set quota, giving them an advantage over other applicants. This policy may or may not be in place for future intake cycles.

How much does it cost?

Fees levied by the government of Quebec amount to $1,099 for the principal applicant, with further fees of $174 for an accompanying spouse or partner and $174 for each dependant child.

Once a CSQ has been obtained and the applicant can apply to the government of Canada for permanent residence, federal application fees amount to a processing fee of $1,575 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500 ($2,075 total), plus $1,325 for an accompanying spouse or partner (divided into a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500) and $225 for each accompanying child.

How long does it take?

The federal government lists a processing time of 54 months. This does not include the time it takes to obtain a CSQ from the government of Quebec.

Other considerations

Applicants should intend to live in the province of Quebec.

Where can I learn more?

The government of Quebec provides more details.

Quebec Self-Employed Program

Learn more about the Quebec Self-Employed Program

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Who is it for?

Self-employed workers with net assets of at least $100,000 and at least two years of experience in the profession of trade they wish to practice in Quebec.

How does it work?

Eligible applicants submit an application for a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ). With a CSQ, the applicant and his or her accompanying family members, if applicable, may apply for immigration to Canada.

What’s the advantage?

While under most Canadian economic immigration programs, self-employment may be either difficult to prove or not recognized as work experience altogether, the Quebec Self-Employed Program promotes self-employment and offers self-employed persons a route to permanent residence in Canada

How much does it cost?

Fees levied by the government of Quebec amount to $1,099 for the principal applicant, with further fees of $174 for an accompanying spouse or partner and $174 for each dependant child.

Once a CSQ has been obtained and the applicant can apply to the government of Canada for permanent residence, federal application fees amount to a processing fee of $1,575 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500 ($2,075 total), plus $1,325 for an accompanying spouse or partner (divided into a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500) and $225 for each accompanying child.

How long does it take?

IRCC lists the federal processing time at 54 months. This does not include the time it takes the government of Quebec to process the initial application.

Other considerations

Applicants should intend to live in the province of Quebec.

Where can I learn more?

The government of Quebec provides more details.

Entrepreneur Start-up Visa

Learn more about the Entrepreneur Start-up Program

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Who is it for?

Entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada that can create jobs for Canadians and compete on a global scale. The Entrepreneur Start-up program is a relatively new addition to the selection of programs for business immigration to Canada.

How does it work?

With the support of a designated organization (the list includes venture capital funds, angel investor groups, and business incubators), applicants must also meet language requirements and provide proof of settlement funds.

Eligible applicants who have received a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support issued by a designated organization may qualify for a short-term work permit before submitting an application for permanent residence.

At the time applicants receive permanent residence they must:

  • provide active and ongoing management of the business from within Canada;
  • show that an essential part of the operations of the business happens in Canada; and
  • show the business is incorporated in Canada

What’s the advantage?

With the support of a designated organization, successful applicants are in a strong position to make their business idea in Canada a successful one.

How much does it cost?

Federal application fees amount to a processing fee of $1,575 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500 ($2,075 total), plus $1,325 for an accompanying spouse or partner (divided into a processing fee of $825 and a right of permanent residence fee of $500) and $225 for each accompanying child.

How long does it take?

IRCC states that applications are being processed in 12 to 16 months.

Other considerations

Preparation is key. Not only do applicants need to attract the attention and support of a designated organization, but doing so is not a guarantee that the government of Canada will also support the idea.

Where can I learn more?

IRCC provides further details.

Continued below…

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Family Class immigration to Canada

Spousal/Common-Law sponsorship

Learn more about spousal / common-law sponsorship

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Who is it for?

Spouses and common-law partners of Canadian citizens and permanent residents, where the couple wishes to settle in Canada permanently. A common-law relationship is when a couple has cohabited for at least 12 months in a relationship that can be proven as co-dependent. As is the case across all Canadian immigration programs, same-sex relationships are assessed according to the same eligibility criteria as opposite-sex relationships.

How does it work?

In situations where the sponsored person resides outside Canada, the Outland sponsorship route is the one to take. This means that the sponsorship application is submitted to a visa office located outside Canada, typically in the sponsored person’s home country or country of residence, though the application may ultimately be processed in a third country.

If the sponsored person is currently in Canada – for example as a worker, student, or visitor – the Inland sponsorship route may then be an option. Under Inland sponsorship, the sponsored person may obtain an open work permit, allowing the sponsored person to work in Canada, until a decision is reached on the application.

What’s the advantage?

Family Class immigration to Canada allows families to be united with their loved ones in Canada. Sponsored persons in Canada may work while the application is being processed.

How much does it cost?

Fees amount to $1,050, divided into a sponsorship fee ($75), principal applicant processing fee ($475) and right of permanent residence fee ($500).

How long does it take?

The government of Canada aims to process applications to sponsor a spouse or common-law partner within 12 months. This target has been achieved in the vast majority of cases.

Other considerations

In order to be accepted, the application must prove that a legitimate relationship exists. If sufficient proof of such a relationship is not forthcoming, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) exercises the right to refuse the application.

Where can I learn more?

See our page on Spousal and Common-law Sponsorship.

Parent and Grandparent Program

Learn more about the Parent and Grandparent Program

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Who is it for?

Non-Canadian parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

How does it work?

During a defined period, the government of Canada allows potential sponsors to submit an Interest to Sponsor form online. After this period ends, the government invited a selection of these potential sponsors to submit an application to sponsor their foreign parent(s) or grandparent(s) for immigration to Canada. Not all potential sponsors who submitted the form are subsequently invited to apply, though they may be invited at a later stage.

What’s the advantage?

Most countries do not allow the parents and grandparents of immigrants and naturalized citizens to themselves become immigrants. The Parent and Grandparent Program is therefore a rare opportunity for this level of family-based immigration to occur through the legal channels. Sponsored parents and grandparents may enjoy all the rights and privileges associated with Canadian permanent resident status, including the right to work in any location in Canada, and access to publicly-funded health care and other benefits.

How much does it cost?

Fees amount to $1,050 per sponsored person, divided into a sponsorship fee ($75), principal applicant processing fee ($475) and right of permanent residence fee ($500).

How long does it take?

IRCC is processing applications received after January 1, 2017 in 20 to 24 months.

Other considerations

The number of applications accepted annually is typically fewer than the number of Interest to Sponsor forms submitted, resulting in disappointment for some. However, it should be noted that Canada also offers the Super Visa – a unique visitor visa for parents and grandparents of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. There is no annual quota of Super Visas, so an application may be submitted at any time, with processing times measured in weeks and months, rather than years. However, it should be noted that Super Visa holders are not authorized to work in Canada and must have a private medical insurance policy.

Where can I learn more?

See our comprehensive guide to the Parent and Grandparent Program.

Sponsorship of dependent child(ren)

Learn more about sponsorship of dependent children

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Who is it for?

Foreign children of Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Dependent children may be up to 21 years of age, inclusive.

How does it work?

IRCC receives applications on an ongoing basis – there are no set intake periods or limits to applications received. Eligibility is determined by the familial relationship between the sponsor and sponsored person.

What’s the advantage?

Allows families to stay together, a central tenet of Canada’s immigration commitment.

How much does it cost?

Fees amount to $1,050, divided into a sponsorship fee ($75), principal applicant processing fee ($475) and right of permanent residence fee ($500).

How long does it take?

Processing times depend on where you are applying from. See here for details.

Other considerations

Adopted children may eligible.

Where can I learn more?

IRCC provides a resource for downloading checklists and forms for this program.

Continued below…

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Refugee and humanitarian resettlement programs

Learn more about Canada’s refugee and humanitarian programs

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Who is it for?

People who have fled their countries because of a well-founded fear of persecution.

How does it work?

The Canadian refugee system has two main parts:

  • The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program, for people who need protection from outside Canada. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), along with private sponsors, identifies refugees for resettlement. A person cannot apply directly for immigration to Canada. After they are identified, it takes time to process the cases.
  • The In-Canada Asylum Program for people making refugee protection claims from within Canada. The asylum program works to provide refugee protection to people in Canada who have a well-founded fear of persecution or are at risk of torture, or cruel or unusual punishment in their home countries.

What’s the advantage?

Canada’s recent refugee resettlement efforts have been lauded worldwide, particularly with respect to the tens of thousands of Syrians who have been resettled in Canada since 2015. Canada’s programs make sure that there are no issues related to security, criminality, or health, while also providing a safe haven for eligible refugees and asylum seekers.

How much does it cost?

Fees depend on the program and whether or not private sponsors are involved in the application.

How long does it take?

Processing times depend on where you are applying from. See here for details.

Other considerations

Under Canada’s multi-year immigration levels plan, Canada plans on gradually increasing the number of new permanent residents admitted as refugees or for humanitarian reasons annually, from around 49,700 in 2020 to more than 50,000 in the years beyond.

Where can I learn more?

How Canada’s refugee system works.

Temporary work permits

International Experience Canada (IEC)

Learn more about the International Experience Canada (IEC) program

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Who’s it for?

The IEC program is for passport-holders from more than countries, including Australia, the UK, and Ireland, aged under 30 or 35 depending on the country. You can see the full breakdown of eligible countries, and the age requirements, on this list.

How does it work?

Every year, a number of work permits are assigned to each participating country. Candidates can visit the government’s immigration to Canada website and notify authorities of their desire to get one of these work permits.

After submitting this Expression of Interest, candidates may receive an invitation to apply for a work permit. With this invitation, candidates may submit forms, and pay the application fees. Successful applicants receive a Letter of Introduction, which is presented on arrival in Canada in order for the work permit to be issued.

What’s the advantage?

For eligible candidates, it’s typically an easy way to get a work permit for Canada. The IEC program allows you to live and work in Canada for up to two years, depending on your nationality and the IEC category. Candidates under the working holiday category may obtain an open work permit, meaning they can work for almost any employer in Canada.

The IEC program is a gateway to permanent residency, as the work experience you gain in Canada may give you an advantage when applying for permanent immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

The IEC Canada participation fee is CAD$153. For Working Holiday Visa in Canada participants, an open work permit holder fee of CAD$100 is also due.

For IEC Young Professionals and International Co-Op participants, your employer will need to pay a CAD$230 employer compliance fee.

How long does it take?

Once candidates express their interest in obtaining a work permit, they need to wait for an invitation to apply before they can submit their application forms. It can take weeks or months to receive this invite, as they are issued to candidates at random.

However, once the forms and payments are submitted, it should take about eight weeks to receive your Letter of Introduction.

Other considerations

The time limit on the work permit means you may be better off applying for permanent residency if you’re currently eligible to do so (though you may pursue both options simultaneously). In some countries, notably the UK, demand for IEC work permits usually far outstrips supply and thousands of candidates may be disappointed.

Some employers regard the limited duration of the work permit as too short, as they’ll be looking to hire staff who can stay with the company for a longer period. Also, some employers regard the ‘working holiday work permit’ as a transient permit, and may question participants’ career aspirations as a result.

Where can I learn more?

Find out more in our Working Holiday Visa in Canada guide.

Intra-Company Transfer

Learn more about intra-company transfers

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Who is it for?

Employees of businesses wishing to move the employee to their Canadian office, branch, or affiliate.

How does it work?

Workers must fall into one of three defined categories:

  • Executives primarily direct the management of the enterprise, or a major component thereof, and receive only general (if any) supervision from higher level executives.
  • Senior managers manage all or part of the enterprise and supervise or control the work of other managers or professional employees.
  • Workers with ‘specialized knowledge’ can demonstrate specialized knowledge of the enterprise’s product or service, or an advanced level of expertise in the enterprise’s processes and procedures.

In all cases, workers being transferred to Canada must have at least one year of full-time work experience with the foreign enterprise and be coming to Canada to perform comparable work.

What’s the advantage?

Employers do not have to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order for the work permit to be issued. This streamlines the process considerably. Moreover, work experience gained may assist in an eventual application for permanent immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

Work permits cost $155 for the worker. The employer must also pay a compliance fee of $230.

How long does it take?

Processing times depend on where you are applying from. See here for details.

Other considerations

Work permits may be renewed. Moreover, the work experience gained by intra-company transferees in Canada may provide a springboard towards pursuing Canadian permanent residence, for example through the Express Entry system or through a Provincial Nominee Program.

Where can I learn more?

See our comprehensive guide to the Intra-Company Transfer program.

Free Trade Agreements

Learn more about Free Trade Agreements

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Who is it for?

Eligible foreign workers and businesspersons from countries that have an existing free trade agreement with Canada that includes the reciprocal exchange of certain categories of worker.

How does it work?

Under NAFTA and CETA, certain professions are listed for the reciprocal exchange of workers among signatory countries. In addition, business visitors, traders, and investors may enjoy simplified temporary entry to Canada.

What’s the advantage?

Eligible foreign workers and their employers-to-be in Canada are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Labour Marker Impact Assessment (LMIA) before the period of employment in Canada may commence, thereby eliminating an otherwise lengthy and detailed recruitment process. In certain cases, the LMIA-exempt work permit may be issued on the spot at a Canadian Port of Entry, making the process quick and relatively simple.

How much does it cost?

Work permits cost $155.

How long does it take?

Processing times depend on where you are applying from. See here for details.

Other considerations

For NAFTA professionals and businesspersons, it should be noted that the agreement is currently undergoing a renegotiation by the signatory countries, the outcome of which may fundamentally alter how, or even if, the agreement functions in the future.

Where can I learn more?

For US and Mexican nationals, see our comprehensive guide to NAFTA.

For citizens of EU countries, see our comprehensive guide to CETA.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program (Labour Market Impact Assessment)

Learn more about the TFWP / Labour Market Impact Assessments

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Who’s it for?

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) may be considered by a job candidate in conjunction with a potential employer in Canada who has provided a job offer to that candidate. The employer will need to prove that no suitable Canadian citizen or permanent resident could be found to perform this job and pay relevant fees. The employer will also need to meet other requirements in order to be deemed eligible to hire the foreign worker.

There are two types of LMIA: one for temporary work in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and the other for permanent immigration to Canada through Express Entry (see above).

What’s the advantage?

  • For foreign workers who may otherwise be unable to secure a work permit, or find it difficult to do so, the TFWP offers an opportunity to work in Canada for a specific employer.
  • The Global Talent Stream, introduced in 2017, allows employers to bring in certain foreign workers through the TFWP in just 10 business days.
  • Work experience gained may assist in an eventual application for permanent immigration to Canada. For Express Entry candidates, a positive LMIA is rewarded with 50 or 200 Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, depending on the position offered. These additional points may make the difference in securing an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

For employers, a LMIA (acquired through the TFWP or Express Entry) allows a business to fill labour shortages.

How much does it cost?

Under the TFWP, employers need to pay CAD$1,000 per position they’re filling. There is no employer fee for hiring a LMIA submission for a job offered to an Express Entry candidate. Moreover, the job candidate is not subject to a fee.

How long does it take?

For temporary positions, a LMIA application may take a 2–3 months.

For positions offered to Express Entry candidates, the government aims for a 10-day turnaround before a decision is made. If the decision is positive, the candidate may then upload the job offer to his or her Express Entry profile, thereby obtaining 50 or 200 additional CRS points and increasing his or her chances of being invited to apply for immigration to Canada. If he or she is then invited, the government aims to process the application to completion within six months.

Other considerations

LMIA-approved foreign workers do not receive an open work permit, and are instead tied to a particular employer. This means they have less immediate flexibility should they wish to change employer at a later date.

LMIA-approved Express Entry candidates who arrive as permanent residents through that system are not bound by employer, and may change job as and when they wish to.

Where can I learn more?

Read our full explanation of the LMIA process.

Work permits for spouses and partners of foreign workers and students

Learn more about open work permits for spouses and partners of foreign workers and students

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Who is it for?

Spouses and common-law partners of certain foreign workers and international students in Canada.

How does it work?

You may be eligible for an open work permit if you’re:

  • a spouse of a skilled worker in an occupation under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill type 0, A or B approved to work in Canada six months or longer, or
  • a spouse of a foreign student at a public post-secondary school, such as a college or university or collège d’enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP) in Quebec.

What’s the advantage?

An open work permit allows you to work for any employer and to change employers for the duration of the validity of the work permit. Moreover, work experience gained may assist in an eventual application for permanent immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

Work permits cost $155.

How long does it take?

Applications can be made online or at a port of entry. Port of entry applications may be processed immediately. Online applications are submitted to IRCC, the federal department overseeing immigration to Canada, and processing times may vary, but typically take a few weeks.

Other considerations

The work permit will not be valid longer than the foreign worker or student’s work permit.

Where can I learn more?

See here for spouses and partners of students, and here for spouses and partners of foreign workers.

Study in Canada

Learn more about studying in Canada

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Who is it for?

Individuals who wish to enroll in a study program at university or college in Canada.

How does it work?

For study programs longer than six months in duration, a study permit is required, In order to obtain a study permit, an international student must have a Letter of Acceptance to a DLI and proof of funds.

What’s the advantage?

In a world where more countries roll out increasingly restrictive conditions for entry and work rights among international students, Canada can be considered incredibly kind. Not only can international students in Canada enjoy lower tuition fees than they may be asked to pay elsewhere, they may also fund their studies and other expenses by working off-campus while studying. Upon graduation, they may then work in Canada on an open work permit for up to three years, allowing them to gain valuable Canadian work experience before potentially pursuing permanent immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

Prospective students have a few costs to consider. In addition to a study permit application fee of $150, students have to cover the international tuition fee set by the university or college.

In addition, applicants need to show sufficient funds to cover living expenses. This comes to $10,000 per year, or $11,000 in Quebec, plus more for any accompanying family members. These are not fees, but applicants must have access to these funds in order for their study permit application to be approved.

How long does it take?

Study permit applications are usually processed within a few weeks, with expedited processing times for eligible students in certain key partner countries. For updated processing times, visit this IRCC page.

Other considerations

A letter of acceptance from a designated Canadian university or college is required before an applicant may apply for a study permit.

Where can I learn more?

See our extensive study in Canada section.

Continued below…

Check out our study section!

From finding the right option for you, all the way to graduation and permanent immigration to Canada, our new section has everything you need.

I’m ready for immigration to Canada. What do I do when I have my work permit or permanent resident status?

Looking for jobs

Since 2011, through our Outpost Recruitment agency we’ve specialized in finding work for construction and engineering professionals, with companies across Canada who value foreign work experience.

When you have your permission to work in Canada secured, get in touch. We can explore your opportunities when you complete your immigration to Canada.

Consider your health needs

New permanent residents in Canada may need an insurance policy to cover the period immediately upon obtaining permanent status, before their public coverage is granted

In addition, certain temporary programs — such as the IEC program and study permit program — require applicants to obtain an insurance policy.

Expatriate health insurance ensures access to the best possible healthcare while living and working abroad. Cigna Global is a leader in these policies and provides 12-month cover for those moving to Canada, regardless of nationality or age.

Click here to get a free online quote, which should take less than 60 seconds to complete.

Get more information

Download Moving2Canada’s Getting Started Guide, a free magazine that can help you settle and plan your immigration to Canada with confidence.

Do you have health insurance for Canada?

Many newcomers are not eligible for Canadian healthcare coverage when they first arrive.

Our partner, Cigna, offers newcomers a range of comprehensive health insurance policies for peace of mind. Explore your options with a free quote today!