Canadian Immigration System Explained

Canadian parliament building

Today I am going to describe the Canadian immigration system so you could understand Canadian immigration laws and policies better.

Understanding the system will help you learn how to move to Canada and what immigration program would work for you or your loved ones.

You will find out about the types of temporary status as well as three main pillars of permanent immigration to Canada.

Temporary Residence

When we talk about Canadian immigration system, first we need to differentiate temporary and permanent status.


Temporary immigration status, as its name implies, gives one a permission to stay in Canada under certain conditions and within a limited time frame.

Thus, a Study Permit allows an international student to study for a certain period of time.

A Work Permit gives a foreign worker an opportunity to work either freely (an Open Work Permit) or for a certain employer (an LMIA work permit).

A Temporary Resident Permit (visitor visa) gives a foreign national a right to stay in Canada up to six months. There is also a specific type of a visitor visa, called a “Super Visa”, used by parents and grandparents of Canadian residents to stay in the country for up to two years.

Permanent Residence

Permanent resident status means that you have a right to stay in Canada permanently and also live, work and study in any Canadian province or territory. Permanent residents receive most social benefits that Canadian citizens enjoy, including health coverage. They have an obligation to stay inside the country for a certain time and cannot vote or run for political office. Under certain conditions permanent residents may apply to become Canadian citizens.

People, who become permanent residents, immigrate to Canada under one of the three main classes: economic, family or humanitarian.


Economic Immigration

According to official statistics, Economic Class is the most popular way to come to Canada permanently. Most of economic applications go through the Express Entry (EE) system. Express Entry is a pool of candidates, ranked by the number of points. Points are awarded based on the candidates’ age, education, work experience, language ability and some other factors. To be selected from the Express Entry pool and receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA), a candidate has to score high enough to meet the cut off as well as qualify under one of three programs. These programs are: Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades and Canadian Experience Class.

Federal Skilled Worker, or FSW, is a program for highly educated and highly skilled professionals. Federal Skilled Trades, or FST, is a similar program for workers in trades. And finally, Canadian Experience Class, or CEC, is for workers who have experience working in Canada.

Another way to qualify is to get a provincial nomination. Provincial Nominee Program, or PNP, is a general name used for a vast number of provincial programs. These programs and their requirements differ from province to province (or territory). They mainly work for people with history of work and/or study in the province (or territory) but sometimes there are opportunities for people abroad to get the nomination if their profession is in a required occupations list, they are able to make a business investment, etc. Many PNPs work through EE, granting a candidate 600 points, which leads to an automatic ITA.

There are some other ways to benefit from economic immigration: Self-Employed, Start-up, Caregiver or Quebec programs, as well as Atlantic Immigration Pilot.

Family Immigration

The Family Class mainly consists of sponsoring spouses (or common-law/conjugal partners), children, including adopted, and parents or grandparents. There are also rarely used programs of orphaned closed relatives and the only relative you have left.

To sponsor children or spouse, you must prove your relationship. Though it is not difficult to do in the first case, if you have proof of parentage, it is sometimes challenging to show that you have a genuine relationship with your partner.

Since 2017, you have to express interest through a special form to sponsor your parents or grandparents. The expressions of interest are selected randomly, through a lottery-like process. If you win the lottery, it doesn’t mean your relatives get the permanent residency (PR) right away. You family will still have to qualify for the program, more specifically – its very strict financial requirements.

Humanitarian Considerations

Finally, the humanitarian classes include humanitarian and compassionate grounds, protected persons and protected temporary residents.

PR status may be granted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, if a person in Canada found themselves in exceptional circumstances and would suffer hardship if they had to leave. The success rate for this application is very low, as the government is very peculiar about the eligibility requirements.

Protected persons (and protected temporary residents) are Convention refugees, as determined by United Nations or the Immigration and Refugee Board (or IRB, a tribunal in Canada) or persons in Canada in need of protection. The refugees may come to Canada through Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program or claim their status inside the country through In-Canada Asylum Program.

I hope this overview provided some clarification to people researching the Canadian immigration system. Did this post help you understand it better? What immigration program are you considering? Please comment below!

Next time: 6 Reasons Why Parents Sponsorship Lottery Should Be Abolished Today

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