I immigrated to Vancouver, BC in March 2020. I was given permanent residency before setting foot in Canada and without a job offer, under the Express Entry program. From gathering documents to landing in the country took 9 months. Judging by 3rd party trackers this is well over the median - I was pretty disorganized and the London embassy is one of the slowest.
The whole process looks like this:
- Check the eligibility requirements and spend 5 minutes filling out this questionnaire. You'll get a score which you can compare to recent admission rounds to see if you have a good chance. (The results aren't recorded, so just guess what your language test scores would be.)
- Take an English and/or French exam and get an Educational Credential Assessment. Get the rest of your paperwork ready - proof of employment history, proof of funds, police certificates.
- Fill out an Express Entry profile and wait for an invitation to apply.
- Get invited to apply. Submit all the paperwork. Take a short medical exam and go the embassy for fingerprints and photos.
- Send off your passport and wait for it to come back with a Confirmation of Permanent Residence inside.
The total cost for me was £1456:
- £165 for the IELTS exam
- £140 for the Educational Credential Assessment
- various small fees for eg mailing paperwork, getting sealed degree certificates
- £670 for the Express Entry application
- £330 for the medical exam
One thing I really appreciated is that most of the expense of applying, in terms of both time and money, was at step 4, by which point the acceptance rate is something like 95%.
- Step 2 took me 4 months (poor planning). Step 3 took 2 weeks. Step 4 took 3 months. Step 5 took 2 months, apparently due to heavy backlog at the London office.
- Self-employment is fine for the employment history requirements. I submitted tax records and signed letters from a few previous clients.
- I didn't have a job offer in Canada, but if you do it seems worth trying to get provincial nomination which will shoot you to the top of the queue. Eg BC has a fast-track for tech jobs.
- Permanent residents are eligible for public healthcare (which in BC is free) after 3 months. There are companies that offer cheap private insurance to cover the gap - I used Destination Travel.
- To keep my residency I need to spend 2 out of every 5 years in Canada. After accumulating 3 years in Canada in any 5 year period I'm eligible for citizenship.
My move was totally unrelated to current events - I had decided a few years back that I wanted to settle down somewhere and Vancouver ended up at the top of the spreadsheet. But since many of my friends in the US are thinking about emigrating, here are the main points I see for and against.
In favor of Vancouver:
- World class climbing, skiing, kayaking, mountain biking etc as well as a solid parkour gym
- Astounding natural beauty
- Low air pollution
- Trees, beaches, murals
- Reasonable social safety net
- Politically stable
- English-speaking (I've lived in several non-English-speaking countries so this certainly isn't a hard requirement, but it is easier)
- Same timezone as SF and 3 hours behind NYC - good for remote tech work
- Regularly ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world