Immigrating to British Columbia

The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. Script 290 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call Lawyer Referral at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.

The federal Immigration and Refugee Protection Act controls immigration to Canada.

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 person can immigrate as a permanent resident of Canada.

Family class
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 20 years.

Processing times—spouses and dependent children get priority. Usually, these applications take 3 to 12 months to process. It can take 2 to 6 years to process applications of parents and grandparents, depending on the visa office processing the application. Dependent children must either be under 22 years old and unmarried, or unable to support themselves due to a mental or physical condition. The government website lets you check processing times and application status.

Work permits—sponsored spouses and common-law partners applying from within Canada may receive a work permit so they can work before becoming permanent residents. But people without this status when they apply may have to wait much longer for a work permit.

Parents and grandparentsImmigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada aims to receive 10,000 completed applications for sponsored parents and grandparents in 2018. The parent and grandparent sponsorship program is by invitation only for 2018, and sponsors were asked to submit their interest in the program in January 2018. It is unclear whether Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will invite sponsors to submit their interest in the program again in 2018.

Parents and grandparents can also apply for a long-term Super Visa to visit family in Canada for up to 2 years at a time. Normal visitor visas are for only 6 months.

Economic class
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 continuous, high-skilled work experience within the past 10 years and at least a high-school education. They must also take a test to ensure that they meet the required level of either English or French.
  • 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), take a test to ensure they meet the required level in either English or French, and have either an offer of full-time employment for a total period of at least one year or 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, as long as they were not self-employed, and they meet the required level of English or French.
  • Start-up visas are issued only to business applicants who have a viable business idea and have arranged part of their financing from certain private investors or business incubators 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.

Express entry program—set up in January 2015 to manage applications submitted in certain economic streams. Now, all applications under the Federal Skilled Worker Program, the Federal Skilled Trades Program, the Canadian Experience Class, and certain Provincial Nominee Programs must go through the Express Entry program. The goal is to streamline and speed up the processing of permanent resident applications.

A person who meets the requirements of one of these economic programs can register in the Express Entry pool. They are given a score out of 1,200 based on criteria such as age, language ability, education, work experience, whether a job offer has been made, and other factors. Every two to three weeks, the government invites the people in the pool with the most points to apply for permanent residence. A person who receives an invitation has 90 days to submit a complete application for permanent residence. Most of these applications are processed within 6 months.

BC’s Provincial Nominee Program to speed up immigration applications
BC and most 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. The program has 4 steps: registration, invitation, application, and nomination.

Refugees
Canada has a long tradition of helping people in need, accepting them as refugees. Refugees are people unable or unwilling to return to their own country based on a well-founded 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. The Canadian government has now restricted access to the refugee process by designating some countries as “safe” and requiring special procedures for refugee claimants from these countries. Refugee claimants must prove they meet the definition of a refugee to become a protected person in Canada.

Help 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.

The LSS website lists legal aid locations. You can also call the LSS Call Centre at 604.408.2172 (Greater Vancouver) or 1.866.577.2525 (elsewhere in BC, no charge).

If your application is rejected or you’re asked to leave Canada
The refusal of a temporary residence application (such as a visitor record, a work permit, or a study permit), will most often come with instructions to leave Canada immediately. But some applicants will get a 90-day restoration period when they can resubmit an application without having to leave the country. If you stay in Canada without a restoration period, it can cause serious problems for any future application to enter.

In cases where Canada Border Services Agency takes steps to remove someone from Canada, most people are eligible for a pre-removal risk assessment 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.

If you do not qualify under the usual immigration rules
Immigration officials can make exceptions to the usual immigration rules in some cases to prevent undeserved or exceptional hardship.

More information

[updated February 2018]

The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Darren Penner and Gregory Bruce, and edited by John Blois.


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