By Dave Lympany
Probably the most important question and possibly the hardest to answer is "is this the right thing to do"? This, of course, is the question only YOU can answer and it depends a lot on your family. If you're single then there are your parents, siblings, and other close family and friends you may miss who have to be informed. If your married (or separated) with a family then it's a totally different scenario. If your kids are old enough to understand then they have to be fully informed and you have to listen to them. Both partners need to be 100% committed to the idea - a half hearted attempt or negative attitude will make the transition even harder.
This is a deeply personal subject and we experienced it first hand. Before we had kids we had visited Canada and I wanted to go for it - my wife wasn't sure and didn't want to leave her parents. About 3 years later after another visit to a different part of the country everything changed, we had a son and the town that was visited was everything we had dreamed of to raise our kids. The lifestyle available was vastly superior to the way we were living and obtainable by ordinary people. My wife came back to the UK and announced that she was 100% behind a move and we set the ball rolling straight away - the rest they say is history!!!!
So, once you are all in agreement, then you are past the first step. The real "fun starts here!!
You need to consider your options very carefully -which Visa class do you qualify to apply for and if there is more than one that fits, which is the best for you? In Canada there are 6 standard classes of visa and then a seventh separate class if you are applying to live in Quebec. All of the main 6 visa types are administered by the Citizen and Immigration Canada (CIC) department which was established in 1994 to handle all the Citizenship and Immigration procedures. Quebec runs its own immigration system!
Read each of the types of visa and go through them in great detail - always err on the side of caution and be conservative in your assessment of your case. I was applying for the skilled worker class under the old system (70 points - the latest system is a pass mark of 67) and assumed that with my wife's sister living in Canada (married to a Canadian) I would score an extra 5 points and bring my total to 74. After several months of assumptions I checked it and found that I wouldn't be entitled to the points and so failed to meet the pass mark. Then we hired Kerry Martin of Access Migration to act on our behalf and she eventually secured the permanent residency for us.
The skilled worker class is by far the most popular choice of application and is currently taking 18 - 24 months for applications to be processed. (This is always changing so check www. For the up to date info) The CIC site has an excellent self assessment tool for you to use - if you pass easily then you shouldn't have a problem with the application. If you don't reach the pass mark or are close/don't want to do it on your own; then I would recommend hiring an Immigration professional (Lawyer or consultant). Do ensure they are registered with the CSIC AND in good standing before you hire anybody to represent you. Both Kerry Martin and Phil Mooney offer free, no obligation assessments and are qualified consultants registered with the CSIC. Kerry can only represent UK nationals and Phil offers his services to clients worldwide.
If you are short of points there are several ways of earning more - learning second language skills (English or French) is possibly the quickest method. Gaining work experience will take the appropriate number of years as will any educational improvements you may need. Definitely don't submit your application until it is complete and check it over several times to avoid submitting an application with mistakes. They will most likely be found and will then delay your application while they are sorted out. Always give EVERYTHING that you are asked to provide and to be honest try to give more - extra evidence of work history, personal character references, other qualifications or skills - to give too much info shouldn't affect the application, not enough definitely will!!
Okay, you have chosen the visa, compiled the application and submitted it - what next? Well, depending upon the type of visa you have applied for you can check the CIC website for the approximate processing times and see how long you have to wait. This time could be several years so you can spend it very proactively and improve your chances of a successful resettlement.
If your educational levels are in need of a boost you would be able to complete some fairly high level courses in 2 years. The major problem is that whatever course you do - make sure it can be transferred to Canada. The chances are the process will be lengthy with a fair chance it won't work. The best option would be to enroll on internet courses with Canadian colleges - then the resulting qualification is Canadian.
Another option is to learn new skills (typing. Welding, electrics, auto maintenance) most skilled trades are in very short supply in Canada and even if it isn't your chosen career, they pay well and would give you an excellent start in the Canadian workforce. It is always easier to find the career you want from a well paid job. It is most unlikely that your trade skills will transfer directly across to the Canadian system as there are separate legislative/licensing agencies for most trades across each Province so expect to have to retrain and/or sit exams prior to be allowed to work in that profession.
A huge step forward is to identify the area you wish to settle in and then tie in your (and your partners) skills to see if any of the local industry is likely to hire you. You can easily research any of the local companies by using the yellow pages (link), town/city chamber of commerce and the main job searching sites and see who is in commutable distance and whether they are likely to be hiring. If the area of your dreams does not have the industry that applies to your skills is there anything you can offer the companies that are there or do you need to change your plans and move to where the work is?
To be honest, we moved to the area of our dreams and now I have a lengthy commute to work - this becomes an issue in the winter and provides a longer work day. Would I change it? No, but I think plenty of other people would.
All this is in YOUR control before you move and forewarned is forearmed as they say. It is always better to know what lies ahead, if your qualifications transfer (do you have to retrain) will there be a chance of work in my chosen profession. Etc. so you can plan for it. Once you have moved, you are at the mercy of the local job market and if your settling funds diminish as fast as ours did then it won't take long for the panic to set in!!
Another vital aspect of your move is the budget - the chances are you will be selling most of your possessions and moving with your life savings. Choose a conservative exchange rate to work out your settling funds and make sure you account for all of your expenses to move (legal fees for house sales/purchases, shipping/storage, house deposits, replacement of goods you sold to move, flights, hotels, pet shipping costs, rented accommodation, insurance.)
This is where your research will pay extra dividends. If you know the area you want to settle in, housing costs, local taxes, which are the most likely employers and what they are paying, then you can fairly accurately forecast your budget. The following table demonstrates our average monthly outgoings for an 1800 square foot family house:
Life insurance ($250,000 on each parent) = $60
Pet Insurance (for a Dog) = $30
Local taxes (approx 1% of house value) = $215
Cell Phone (family plan 2 phones) = $55
Local town bill (water, recycling, sewage) = $65
Gas (heating + hot water) = $75
Electric (power and cooking) = $70
House phone (long distance + features) = $80
Cable TV and high speed internet = $110.00
Total monthly = $760.00
Then add your mortgage/rent (allow $1,000 for a family house) and living costs (family of four about $250 per week) and it soon adds up. Your wages will see the Canadian Pension Plan, EI and federal/Provincial taxes deducted along with any Provincial healthcare premium that may be applicable. Total deductions will be around 45% of your salary (depending upon the Province you move to) so always bear that in mind too. This is a conservative estimate with everything rounded up but is an honest picture of the level of outgoings you can expect to see. Add in activity costs if you have kids - hockey equipment is expensive with the season ice fees normally in excess of $500.00 and you see the picture.
This is an illustration based upon our experience and will be different for each area - believe me, the effort involved with this research will pay you back and then some!!!
More detailed information and links to great resources can be found at http://www.onestopimmigration-canada.com/immigration.html
About The Author
Dave Lympany immigrated to Canada in 2003 and has constructed a free information website http://www.onestopimmigration-canada.com about Canadian Immigration and life in Canada based on his family's experiences.