Blog by Chloe Cartwright, BSW, RSW, ABR

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Choose Your Immigration Route to Canada

Obtaining Permanent Residency

Please read the information on the Government of Canada’s and the Government of Alberta’s websites regarding Using an Immigration Representative.  Click here to read the Federal Government’s preamble:
and here to read the Province of Alberta’s preamble

The general trend in Canada is to accept immigrants who will be independent and employed very quickly because of the high demand for qualified workers in specific categories OR who have already found employment and demonstrated they can be self-sufficient by using their work skills in the Canadian labour market.  Each year, it becomes harder to qualify to immigrate without Canadian work experience or a Canadian job offer. There are several avenues available for you to consider and it may appear to be a bit of a minefield at first but with a little guidance most people can choose the avenue best suited to their situation.  Keep in mind there are programs at both the Federal level and the Provincial level so examine all of them, discard the ones that don’t fit your situation and you will be left with only one or two that do fit.  From there it is easy to determine the best route for your family.

Applications from Outside of Canada

One of the first avenues for you to explore is whether you or your spouse is in the Federal Skilled Worker Category 1 outlined below.   

1.  Federal Skilled Worker Category 1 - There are 29 occupations in demand across Canada in which a skilled worker may immigrate without a Canadian job offer This list will be revised again in July 2011, and is posted on the Canada Immigration website – linked above, along with a running tally of applications already received.  There is a ceiling of 1000 applications that will be accepted per occupation, and 20,000 per year for all of Category 1 cases.   To qualify, you also need 67 points on a points scale that favours post-secondary education, skilled work experience and language proficiency.  Decide whether you or your spouse is the principal applicant based on the Occupations list.  Both of you will have permanent residence granted but either of you, or both of you can work once you arrive in Canada.  The employment does not have to be in the field used for immigrating.  You also need sufficient funds for you and your family to live on while getting established.   Again - you do not need to have a job offer to qualify for this avenue of immigration.

2.   Federal Skilled Worker Category 2 - If you are not yet in Canada but you have an offer of permanent employment from a Canadian employer in any skilled occupation, you may qualify.   The job offer must be vetted through Service Canada - a process which currently takes several months; this is to ensure you are not taking a job away from a qualified Canadian and that the employer has attempted to recruit a qualified Canadian to the position without success.  You can read more about this program here;  This is an employer driven program and the application starts at the employer level.  Service Canada will issue an “Arranged Employment Opinion” indicating the job offer is genuine.   To qualify, you also need 67 points on a points scale that favours post-secondary education, skilled work experience and language proficiency.  Because you will start working within a short time of your landing settlement funds are not needed in this category. Frequently the employer hires an immigration consultant or immigration lawyer to assist with this application BUT again it is NOT necessary.

Remember Canada needs you!  The application process was designed to be easy for you, the applicant, to complete and it is processed relatively rapidly - 6 to 9 months.The website of Canada Immigration is a good source of both general and specific information on all of the above avenues.  If you are in one of those Occupations and can apply by way of the Federal Skilled Worker Category 1 - the process is relatively easy – about the same difficulty level as applying for university admission.  Just download the applicable forms, submit all supporting documentation and arrange for fee payment. If you are in Category 2 - there is help for your employer on the website. 

3.  Federal Entrepreneur ‘s Program - An entrepreneur who qualifies under the federal program may choose to settle in any province and establish a business.  Minimum criteria to qualify include a net worth of $300,000.  You must have  been a business person back home, having owned and managed your own business that meets the criteria for a business of a certain size based on revenues, assets and employees.  More information is available here:

4.  Federal Investor’s Program - Any investor who qualifies under the federal program may choose to settle in any province.  The investor must have significant business management experience and have a minimum net worth of $1.6 million and be prepared to invest $800,000 in a Canadian project.  (more information is on the above link for 3.)

5.  Federal Self-Employed Category - This category applies to certain occupations where the individual is self-employed abroad and could create their own self-employment in Canada in one of the specified fields.  The three eligible fields in which the immigrant must make a contribution are (1) arts and cultural industries, for example a professional ballerina (2) in athletics at a world class level, e.g. NHL players or (3) in the purchase and management of a farm in Canada.   

Applications from Within Canada

For people working in Canada temporarily, there are specific avenues to obtaining permanent residence.  The categories are:

1.  Canadian Experience Class - This is for skilled foreign workers who have accumulated 24 months of skilled work experience in Canada in the three years immediately before they apply.  The skilled work can be in any occupation – skilled trades, professional or management personnel can all qualify.   There is a language test to establish language proficiency, but there is no points system.   Those who were foreign students and graduated from a program of at least two years in duration need only one year of work to qualify for this class.   One benefit of this class is that the applicant can be in Canada awaiting the process. The application is made from within Canada:

2.  Federal Skilled Worker Category 2 --  If you have an employment situation where the employer is willing to make a permanent job offer to you and you are already working for the employer in Canada and on a work permit, doing skilled work in any occupation, that can satisfy the requirement for “Arranged Employment” for this category.  The permanent job offer must be in a skilled occupation as well.   You must be working for the employer at the time you apply and when the visa is issued, so this usually requires the ability to renew the work permit.  To qualify, you also need 67 points on a points scale that favours post-secondary education, skilled work experience and language proficiency.   See the link in the above category 6.

All programs for Canadian immigration have very detailed rules, and they are strictly applied.  There is very little discretion exercised in work-related immigration – either the applicant meets the requirements or they do not.   If they meet the requirements to be selected in the category, the applicant and their family members must also pass the criminal, medical and security screening. 

If you need to take one of the other avenues you should thoroughly review the criteria for qualifying.  You may want to consult with a professional immigration lawyer or certified immigration consultant to make sure you do in fact qualify before undertaking the paperwork required and investing the time and money to apply, the process can be quite involved.   

 The main programs summarized here are paths to permanent residence that are based on one’s education and work experience.  Canada also has other programs where immigrants can qualify based on their relationship to a Canadian (family sponsorship) or for humanitarian reasons.  Independent immigrants must show they meet the requirements to become established in the Canadian labour market.  You will find those on as well.

Provincial Immigration Programs

Each Province in Canada has their own Provincial Immigration program which is based on the economic and workforce needs of their specific province

1.  Alberta Immigrant Nominee Skilled Worker – This program is designed to retain skilled workers for Alberta employers, where the worker intends to remain with the employer and settle permanently in Alberta.  Any skilled occupation qualifies, with a few exceptions such as clergy.  The employer must also qualify to nominate their employee, and there are some criteria for that.  There is no points system, or language test, so this program especially benefits skilled trade workers who may not qualify as a federal skilled worker under the points system.  

2.  Alberta Immigrant Nominee Semi-Skilled Worker - This program is designed to retain semi-skilled workers for Alberta employers, where the worker intends to remain with the employer and settle permanently in Alberta.  Only certain occupations qualify, and all applicants need some minimum basic requirements including functional language skills and at least a high school diploma.  There are various eligible occupations that fall into five industries (1) Food and Beverage Processing (2) Hotel and Lodging (3) Manufacturing (4) Food Services (5) Long Haul Trucking.  There are requirements for an employer to meet as well as the employee in each industry.

3.  Alberta Self-Employed Farmer – This category is for farm owners and operators with proven farm management skills who wish to purchase and operate a farm in Alberta in primary agriculture.  There is a minimum net worth requirement of $500,000 or confirmed access to such funds from other sources.  You must invest a minimum of $500,000 in the Alberta farm. 

For information on all provincial nominee programs click here:  Keep in mind that these programs offer you the security of immediate employment upon landing but that you are somewhat tethered to that employer for the duration of your temporary work visa.  If you quit work or are fired your temporary work visa may not be extended.  It may take several months to process a new temporary work visa for a new employer.  These programs are intended to lead to permanent residency and should not be confused with the ‘Temporary Foreign Worker’ program which is exactly what its’ name implies – used to bring in foreign workers for a temporary, possibly seasonal period of employment – then return to their home country.  For Employer assistance in navigating the path to hiring under Alberta’s provincial nominee programs click here:

This information is accurate to January 15, 2011.  The websites should always be checked for current information as the programs can change quickly and without notice.

Prepared by Chloe Cartwright with the assistance of M. Lynn Gaudet, B.A., LL.B, Certified Canadian Immigration Consultant at The Immigration Help Desk - #40, 805 – 5th Avenue SW Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P ON6403-229-9256       Email:

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