What We Needed To Immigrate To Canada | South African Expat Series

Feb 19, 2018

Immigration is a lot of work. It took us a full two years of planning and getting things together to immigrate to Canada (granted we had other uncommon delays). That said, I have been asked over and over about how to actually go about moving. I would hate to advise anyone incorrectly or give you false information, but this is our recount of our process. Yours might well be different so please expect to do your own homework. Read up everything you can. And if you’re still unsure, get help. I’ll say it again, immigration is A LOT OF WORK!

Read: Things I Have Learned From Moving Abroad

How We Got Into Canada:

Craig got a Job Offer then a Work Permit:

We moved for Craig, as he had essentially been ‘recruited’ by Alberta Health Services to work as a GP in Rural Northern Alberta. At the time, we applied for a work permit, as he had a job offer, and we weren’t aware of other options. But we later found out that we could apply for PR through the Express Entry Route.

(Note: PR = Permanent Residency)

For the Work Permit, he needed to complete an expensive ‘conversion’ exam, get police clearances, do a full immigration medical, get his qualifications certified by the ECA (An Educational Credential Assessment confirms whether or not your medical degree/diploma is comparable to a Canadian one) and apply for a LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment).

How We Became Permanent Residents:

PR Application through Express Entry:

As soon as I could get all the documents together, we applied for Permanent Residency via the Express Entry Program. Read more about it here. Through this program, based on whether you meet certain criteria, you might qualify for immediate PR once you land in Canada as opposed to coming over on a Work Permit.

The Program is based on a points system, you get points for certain qualifications and criteria which puts you ahead in the pool to be invited to PR. Check the points system here and calculate whether you would qualify.

Read: About Where We Live — Alberta, Canada

Below is the list of documents we needed to immigrate to Canada:

#1 Language Test:

Only Craig was required to do the language test as he was the primary applicant. Look up more information on the accepted tests here. Your test results must not be more than two years old on the day you apply for permanent residence.

#2: Police Clearances

You and all the people in your family who are 18 or older need to get a police certificate. You must get one from each country or territory where you have lived for six or more months in a row since the age of 18. For the country you currently live in, the police certificate must be issued no more than six months before you apply. For countries where you have lived for six months or more, the police certificate must be issued after the last time you lived in that country. If your certificate is in a language other than English or French, send it when you apply, along with the original copy of a translation done by a certified translator.

#3: Employment Records

This was by far the most frustrating to try get from all Craig’s previous employers. So just a tip for all people in general, always get a letter confirming employment when you leave a company. You must provide proof of each of your current and previous work experiences within the last 10 years. Your records must be on a letterhead, confirming your position, time period of work, duties, signed and dated.

#4: Job Offer

You must provide an official document from your proposed employer, printed on company letterhead, stating that the company will employ you in Canada for a specified period of time, including contact information.

#5: Birth Certificates & Marriage Certificates

Birth certificates must be provided for each family member and list the parents as well. While you’re at Home Affairs, be sure to get unabridged versions of both too. Divorce certificate too, if applicable. 

#6: Proof of Finances

You must provide an official letter issued by your financial institution indicating your financial profile. A financial profile includes a listing of all your bank (chequing and savings) and investment accounts. It must be printed on the letterhead of the financial institution with its contact information and must include your name, account numbers, dates of when each account was opened and the balance of each account over the past 6 months.

#7: Proof of Medical Exam

Craig did one in South Africa for his Work Permit application, but we both had to do one again for the PR application. We had to go to an accredited GP in Edmonton who is appointed by the board to do immigration medical exams. We had a full physical check-up, bloods, and an x-ray which was pretty pricey. Find a Panel Physician near you here.

#8: Additional General Information Forms

In addition to all of the above, you will need loads of other general information to complete other forms including parents information of birthdates, home addresses, etc.

#9: Copies of Travel Documents/Passports

Easiest requirement of the lot and pretty straight forward. Another thing I would say is make sure that you have renewed passports if you need to.

#10: Pay Your Fees

It’s a pricey little long term investment and it more than likely won’t be the last thing you throw money at to move, but check here what this application will cost you. You can pay for it online. I would only recommend paying for these fees or any other immigration fees through the Official CIC Immigration Site. Be aware of scams! So many people have fallen for these and lost thousands of rands (hundreds of dollars).

Wait for It To Be Processed:

Send in Your Application:

Once we submitted our application, we were told that processing times were between 6 – 8 months. We submitted on the 3rd of October 2016 and received an email two months later, inviting us to send in our documents within 30 days. We sent in our documents as soon as possible and later received a letter confirming our Permanent Residency.

PR Interview:

We then had to phone to book an ‘interview’ at Canada Place in Edmonton, to hand in our letter. We struggled at first to get hold of anyone, but we eventually did and booked a time. It was here that they essentially scratched out our work visas and we weren’t able to get back into the country until we received our PR Cards. This was highly stressful during a really long winter and we did have flights booked to go to LA.

The other option is to flagpole, that means drive to the border or fly out and come back in, and you will have your ‘interview’ at border control as you come back into the country. This option can obviously be much quicker as you determine how soon you come back through the border to process your PR.

Wait For Your Cards:

You can check processing times to receive PR cards here. We were told it could be between 3 – 6 months, but we received ours within 64 days.

If You Don’t Get Invited:

You Could Try The Job Offer / Work Permit Route:

Finding a company willing to wait while documents and visas get finalised is definitely more difficult, but not impossible. If you don’t have enough points get in to Express Entry, this is still a route worth trying! You will, however need an LMIA. Learn about that here.

Note: Your IELTS is valid for 2 years and WES ECA is valid for 5 years so if you get ‘pulled from the pool’ before it expires you don’t have to do it again.

Didn’t Answer Your Question?

You can read up more on the CIC Website of on the SA Canada forums. Again, please be sure to do your own research. THINGS CHANGE. In fact, they did even while we were applying. Be sure to research as much as possible and not follow other people’s advice blindly. What we found, is that most of the time, following other’s advice ended up in more delays so be sure to double check what you’ve read.

Read: An Open Letter to South Africa After My Last Visit

Was this helpful? Please let me know, and I will continue to blog about our immigration experience! 🙂 

~ Leigh


  1. Caren

    March 14th, 2018 at 2:19 AM

    Thank you Leigh

    This was very informative, helpful and to the point. Love all your posts!

    Thank you

  2. Xandré Ross

    March 30th, 2018 at 4:52 AM

    This was super awesome thank you!
    Please keep us updated with what you are going through!

  3. olivia

    August 7th, 2018 at 6:42 AM

    Hi Leigh!
    So this is my follow on email to the one I emailed earlier(BEFORE I read your blog post on the NCA exam) THANK YOU so much for such an informative and detailed post on the NCA! Congratulations on your passing! This article has been so helpful. Your blog is really great and so informative on many different aspects! keep it up and I’ll keep reading!

    Regards,
    Olivia

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