Canada does an excellent job of marketing itself as an open, welcoming country looking to attract new immigrants. It certainly lives up to its reputation in terms of tolerance and ethnic diversity. However, this doesn’t mean you can waltz into Canada and expect to be automatically granted permanent resident status – far from it.
If you’re considering relocating to Vancouver, your very first concern should be getting a visa. There will be plenty of time later to think about the job market, find a place to live or look for a school for your kids.
Don’t assume getting a Canadian visa is a mere formality. The process is often lengthy, admissibility criteria are getting increasingly restrictive, and quotas apply for each visa category.
In other words, you need to do your homework, and do it well ahead of your planned relocation date.
Where can you find the information you need?
The only fully reliable and up-to-date source for immigration matters is the government. You can either talk to the nearest Canadian embassy / consulate, or visit the official Immigration Canada website.
There is a whole range of visas you can apply for, depending on your age, your professional profile, and your relocation goals. Only a specialist can advise you on the best visa category to apply under.
Don’t rely on second-hand information, even if people seem to know what they’re talking about. It doesn’t matter how quickly your neighbour’s son got his visa last year – what you need to find out is how long it’ll take to get your own application processed.
What if you don’t have a visa?
Many foreigners don’t need a visa to get into Canada. However, without a proper visa or work permit, you’ll be considered a tourist. This means you can only stay in the country for a maximum of 6 months, and under no conditions will you be legally allowed to work.
If you’re planning on working here or becoming a resident, you absolutely need a visa or work permit. There is no way around this.
It is your responsibility to make sure you can get a visa before making any significant commitment, such as signing a lease for an apartment or accepting a job in Canada.
As for landing in Vancouver as a tourist in the hopes that things will work themselves out… that’s really chancing it. I can only advise against such a risky tactic, as it could have serious consequences both for you and your potential employer.
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Image by Nick 1297, via Flickr Creative Commons