How to immigrate to Canada: complete guide

Every year, thousands of foreigners move to Canada from all over the world. Some go to study, others to work or visit and a significant number end up becoming permanent residents. This comes as no surprise as Canada is immigration friendly and has frequently been ranked as one of the best countries to live in in the world.

In 2015, a high school friend and her husband left Nigeria for Canada. Her spouse had good experience in the banking sector and she, a master’s degree. Together, they were able to meet the requirements for permanent residence. In the near future, their kids (who will be Canadian citizens) can enjoy free education up to high school level among other benefits. For them and other immigrants, moving to Canada might be to give their children the best of opportunities.

To move to Canada, one has to go through an application and selection process. Applications usually take time to complete and be approved. The newly introduced Express Entry system (which is relatively fast) takes about 6 months. There is also the need for submission of documents, language tests, medical exams, police clearance and so on.

Temporary residents are meant to return to their home country after some time. These includes visitors, students and temporary workers. The latter two require a permit to stay in Canada for the duration of what they came for. A temporary resident visa (TRV) is needed to enter into the country.

The two types of TRVs are single and multiple entry. TRVs usually come with study/work permits but can be applied for separately.

Image Credit: Kananaskis Alberta / Flickr

Image Credit: Kananaskis Alberta / Flickr

Permanent Residence

A permanent resident enjoys basically all the rights of a Canadian citizen except; he cannot vote, he cannot contest elections or hold a Canadian passport. Lastly, if convicted of serious crimes, he stands the risk of being deported.

There are different ‘routes’ to becoming a permanent resident in Canada. These might be at the Federal or Province/Territory level. Some examples are; Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Federal Skilled Trades (FST), family sponsorship, Provincial Nominee Program (PNP and Canadian Experience Class (CEC).

Someone applying from Nigeria can go through the Federal Skilled or Provincial Nominee Programs. Applications for immigration related matters are done online through the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.

Express Entry

Express entry is an immigration processing system that fast tracks the processing of permanent resident visas. It was introduced in January 2015.


Generally, eligibility is based on age, language ability, education, work experience, income/net worth, adaptability and job offers.

Language ability is to show how well you can communicate in English or French. In the application process, you will need to take and submit a language test. The International English Language Testing System (IELTS) is a popular choice for English tests.

Foreign educational degrees are to be assessed to show validity and that they’re equal to a completed Canadian Credential. This assessment is known as an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA). It is usually done via approved agencies. When applying for a PR visa, you must submit your credentials and ECA.

Eligibility for Provincial Nominee Program vary by province. Language ability might be less of a major hurdle in some provinces. Also, provinces might require certain professionals to fill up local employment needs. All these can be checked on the province websites. For a PNP example, see the Saskatchewan Immigrant Nominee Program Page.

Image Credit: Stuart Williams / Flickr

Image Credit: Stuart Williams / Flickr

To qualify to apply for Express Entry through Federal Skilled Worker Program;

  • You need to have at least one year full time (30 hours a week) or two years part time (15 hours a week) skilled work experience. Your experience must fall under the NOC code A, B or C. Click here to check NOC code
  • You need at least 67 out of 100 points on the FSW grid. Click here to understand how to calculate your score.

Note: You must take an English test and assess your credentials before checking if you’re eligible for FSWP.

Now you can apply for FSWP through Express Entry.

Steps for applying

There are two main steps for Express Entry;

  1. Applicants create an online profile and are placed in an Express Entry pool
  2. Highest ranked applicants receive an invitation to apply (ITA).

Step 1: Creating an Express Entry Profile

Step 2: Invitation to apply

On completing step 1, the application is sent to an Express Entry pool with other applications. You’ll agree that not all applications can be picked at once so a selection system has to be in place. This is where the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) comes in.

The CR system has a total of 1,200 points. The breakdown of this total is as follows;

Skills and Experience factors       –              max. 500 pts

Skill transferability                        –              max. 100 pts

Additional points                            –              max. 600 pts

Additional points are gotten if one has a job offer or nomination from a province.

Based on information provided in your application, you will be graded with the CR system. Point cut-off for an invitation to apply currently hover around 470 points. This is subject to change.

On receipt of an ITA, the applicant is given a 60-day window to submit completed application. Failure to submit during this time leads to the ITA being withdrawn and Express Entry profile removed.

To enter pool again, you will need to complete and submit a new profile.

An Express Entry Profile is valid for one year.


Image Credit: Rick Ligthelm / Flickr

After getting an ITA, follow these steps to continue your application;

Sign into your MyCIC Account

  • Click on link to apply for permanent residence under Express Entry
  • Fill out all mandatory fields in the form
  • Upload all requested documents (you will be given a document checklist to help you)
  • Pay necessary fees
  • Submit completed application

Documents needed

  • Proof of funds (official letter(s) from financial institution(s) showing all funds)
  • Proof of work experience (well signed reference letters from places of work experience)
  • ECA report
  • Police certificates (See here for how to get police certificate in Nigeria)
  • Medical examination
  • Copy of biographical data page of passport, travel history since age 18
  • Educational and professional qualifications
  • Birth, Marriage certificates
  • Other documents may also be requested, as necessary.

Other important information

To come to Canada you must show that you have enough funds for you and your family. Below are funds required by family size.

Number of family members              Funds required in Canadian dollars
1                                                                $12,164
2                                                                $15,143
3                                                                $18,617
4                                                                $22,603
5                                                                $25,636
6                                                                $28,913
7 or more                                                 $32,191

Medical exams must be conducted for the PA and family. The result is only valid for twelve months and must be valid for at least six months after submission of application. This means the medical is best completed after getting an ITA.The application must be submitted by the Principal Applicant (PA). The PA can be either spouse. It is advisable the PA be the one with a better profile. .

Processing time for submitted applications through Express Entry is six months or less.

You can be contacted if there is need for more documents or attend an interview.

If your application is approved, you will be issued a Confirmation of Permanent Residence and a permanent resident visa. You can start planning on how to settle down in Canada.


Further reading:

Determine your eligibility (FSW) – A Citizenship and Immigration Canada page to determine if one is eligible for the Federal Skilled Worker Program

IELTS – British Council Nigeria information page on applying for and writing IELTS

Educational Credential Assessment – Citizenship and Immigration Canada page detailing important information about Educational Credential Assessment and how to get it done.

Express Entry (Skilled Worker) Application – A Citizenship and Immigration Canada page on how to apply for the Skilled Worker Program through Express Entry.


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