What is permanent residency?
Permanent residency is not the same as citizenship. Permanent residents are issued a permanent residency card that they must bring with them when travelling abroad as it will be required for entry into Canada. They may not vote, hold political offices or certain high-level security clearance jobs. They may also be deported if you are convicted of a serious crime (any act possibly incurring a prison sentence of more than six months). However, a permanent residency visa does mean you are permitted to live, work and study throughout all of Canada (except Quebec) freely and indefinitely and grants you access to social benefits such as healthcare.
How to become a Permanent Resident
There are various ways to obtain a permanent residency visa and immigrate permanently to Canada. However, before you begin the process of acquiring one of these visas, you first need to check that you meet the minimum requirements.
Any person wishing to apply for a permanent residency must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have lived in Canada for at least 2 years (730 days) over a 5-year period
- Level 4 English or French language competencies
- Not have a criminal conviction making them ‘inadmissible’ to Canada
If you meet all these basic requirements, you may also be eligible to apply for a permanent residency visa under one of the following immigration programs:
- Express entry
- Provincial Nominees
- Business class Immigration
- Family class Immigration
- Quebec-Selected Immigration
All applicants for permanent residence apply via one of these programs. Therefore, they too must meet all requirements, complete all application package forms, pay all fees (including the biometrics fee and give these within 30 days of the date on the letter from the Canadian authorities requesting they do this and provide any additional documents requested (such as police certificates, medical exams and/or proof of funds) specific to the program to which they are applying.
Program-specific requirements and applications
The express entry category encompasses three economic immigration programs:
- The Federal Skilled Worker Program
- The Federal Skilled Trades Program
- The Canadian Experience Class
As well as the minimum requirements for permanent residency listed above, to apply under these programs, applicants must meet specific additional requirements.
1. To apply for a permanent Canadian residency visa under the The Federal Skilled Worker (FWS) Program applicants must:
- Have worked 30 hours a week in a job deemed skill level 0, A or B under the National Occupational Classification (NOC)for at least one year continuously (no matter whether this time was split between different skilled professions).
- Have either a Canadian secondary or higher education diploma or certificate or one deemed equivalent under an Educational Credential Assessment.
If candidates meet all these requirements, their applications are individually scored from 0-100 based on age, education, work experience, employment offers, language skills and adaptability. The minimum qualifying score is currently set at 67, but applicants are ranked and only those with the highest scores are invited and may apply for permanent residency online.
2. To apply under The Federal Skilled Trades Program candidates must have either have a job offer, qualification or two years full-time work experience (in the last five years) in a trade belonging to one of these categories under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) by the Canadian Federal Government:
- Major Group 72 - industrial, electrical and construction trades
- Major Group 73 - maintenance and equipment operation trades
- Major Group 82 - supervisors and technical jobs in natural resources, agriculture and related production
- Major Group 92 - processing, manufacturing and utilities supervisors and central control operators
- Minor Group 632 - chefs and cooks
- Minor Group 633 - butchers and bakers
As of 2019 new job categories are being introduced meaning caregivers and workers in specific agri-food industries and occupations will also be able to apply for permanent residency.
3. To apply under The Canadian Experience Class program candidate must have at least one year of skilled work experience (determined as above) in Canada, in the last three years.
This program works much like the federal skilled workers program. However, provincial nomination may help candidates trying to obtain permanent residency and if their occupation is in high demand in the area of the nomination.
Applicants may submit a non-express paper nomination application to the province or territory and then, once they receive a nomination, submit another paper application for permanent residence to the federal agency Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
Equally, applicants may apply through express entry. Firstly, prospective provincial nominees may contact the province or territory and apply for a nomination under an Express Entry stream and then put this nomination on their express entry application. Secondly, they can create an Express Entry profile and indicate which provinces and territories they’re interested in. If a province or territory wishes to nominate them, they will send them a ‘notification of interest’ and offer you a nomination which may be accepted electronically.
The process to apply via this program is similar to the provincial nominee program above. Since the ratification of the 1991 Canada-Quebec Accord, Quebec has enjoyed devolved autonomy over immigration to the province. To apply for a permanent residency visa through the Quebec- selected immigration program (if you should wish to live and work in this province) apply directly to the Ministère de l’immigration, de la Diversité et de l’Inclusion (Ministry of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion) and then, if chosen and granted a Quebec Certificate of Selection (CSQ), they must then apply to the federal Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada within 24 months of the date the CSQ was issued.
Those with work or study permits in Quebec generally have preference over those who do not but, contrary to popular belief, the language requirements for this program as all other programs state-wide.
The Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot
Foreigners with job offers from employers in participating communities permanent residency applications’ may also be endorsed by certain rural and northern communities in the same way provinces may endorse candidates.
Atlantic immigration pilot
As of 2019, foreign skilled workers wishing to immigrate and graduates wishing to stay in Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, or Newfoundland and Labrador) after they graduate may also apply for a permanent residency visa through this program.
To apply through this program, you must have an idea or venture supported by at least one of the designated organizations listed below:
To be eligible for this visa, you must have been a self-employed person or competed at a world level in cultural activities or athletics for two of the last five years.
People wishing to obtain permanent residency status in Canada may also apply for this under the Family sponsorship program if they have a family member who is a Canadian citizen or has been a permanent Canadian resident for at least 5 years Canadian citizens. For information on this, please see our article on family sponsorship.
Refugees and asylum seekers
Those wishing to obtain permanent residency as a refugee or asylum seeker are required to comply with distinct requirements and follow a different application process, information for which can be found here.