11 ways to immigrate to Canada

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The ways you can immigrate to Canada largely depend on three factors: your personal circumstances or situation, what you intend to do there, and where you want to go in Canada. Are you a student? Skilled worker or an investor? Factors like having a job offer in Canada, and having relatives living here, also matter. Your intention for immigrating also counts a great deal. Are you intending to study, work or start a business in Canada? Or do you just wish to be reunited with your family? Finally, the specific province or city you plan to go to is also a big consideration as immigration programs vary per province.

Whatever your situation, intention or specific destination in Canada, the Government of Canada offers several immigration programs that may fit you. The following are brief overviews of these to give you an idea of the general requirements for each. Note that there are additional eligibility requirements, depending on the program, and your situation. Go to the links (on each program title) to the particular CIC page to know more details.


1.Canadian Experience Class

This program is an opportunity for those with Canadian work experience to become permanent residents. Beginning January 1, 2015, applicants must go through the Express Entry System and must:

  • intend to live outside Quebec
  • have at least 12 months of full-time skilled work experience (or equivalent in part-time) in Canada with the proper authorization in the three years before they apply
  • language proficiency

2. Quebec Entrepreneur or Investor

This program is for immigrants who wish to start a business (as an entrepreneur or investor) in Quebec. It requires:

  • intention to reside in Quebec
  • investment of CDN $800,000 and a net worth of CDN $1.6 M for investors and a net worth of CDN $300,000 for entrepreneurs

3. Start-Up Visa Program

This program is for businessmen and entrepreneurs who wish to start a business in Canada. It requires the following:

  • Designated organization support -These can be designated venture capital funds, angel investor groups or designated business incubators (a list is available here). You must get in touch with these organizations who can evaluate your business proposal and provide you with a Letter of Support.
  • Language skills – you must have the ability to communicate in English or French, at least at Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) 5.
  • Settlement funds – you must have sufficient funds to start your business. A minimum investment of CDN $200,000 is required if it’s through a designated Canadian venture capital fund, CDN $75,000 if from a designated Canadian investor group.

4. Provincial nominee program

Each province or territory has different immigration streams that target specific groups (e.g. students, business people, skilled workers, etc.). Because of this, each province/territory has different eligibility requirements. Generally, applicants must meet certain criteria for skills, education or work experience and must intend to live in that specific province or territory.

The application is in two stages: Acquiring a provincial nomination, and application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC, formerly CIC) for permanent residence. You can apply using the paper-based process or through Express Entry. If you have a clear idea of where to live in Canada, it is best to check out eligibility requirements by going to the province or territory’s website.

5. Self-Employed Persons

The program is for self-employed persons who:

  • have relevant experience and have taken part in either in cultural activities or athletics at a world-class level
  • have been employed in cultural activities or athletics, or
  • have experience in managing a farm

Applicants who have this experience will be assessed by a selection criteria that takes into account experience, education, age, language abilities, and adaptability.

6. Federal Skilled Worker Program

The program is for people with skilled professional work experience who may be chosen to apply for permanent residency based on eligibility and a qualifying job offer. Starting January 1, 2015, qualifying applicants must go through the Express Entry System. Applicants are assessed based on (they must reach at least 67 of 100 points):

  • Language skills (English/French)
  • Education
  • Work experience
  • Age
  • Arranged employment
  • Adaptability

7. Live-in Caregivers

Experienced caregivers are given the chance to become permanent residents through this program so long as they meet the following:

  • have had at least 24 months of full-time live-in employment, or
  • 3,900 hours of full-time employment (completed within a minimum of 22 months). Overtime up to 390 hours can be included
  • work experience must be acquired within four years of your date of arrival

Applicants to this program may also avail of two pathways: Caring for Children or Caring for People with High Medical Needs.

The Interim Pathway for Caregivers is a short-term dedicated pathway to permanent residence for qualifying in-home caregivers who, in good faith, have come to Canada and are providing care to Canadians, without a clear pathway to permanent residence. It is open for applications from July 8, 2019 to October 8, 2019. Go to the link to know the detailed eligibility criteria and conditions.

8. Federal Skilled Trades Program

The program is for those who wish to become permanent residents based on being qualified for a skilled trade. Applicants must also go through the Express Entry System. To qualify, applicants must:

  • have an offer of a full-time employment for at least one year or a certificate of qualification in that skilled trade by a provincial or territorial body (the offer can be from 2 employers)
  • language proficiency. Must present test results from a valid third-party language testing centre
  • at least 2 years of full-time experience in a skilled trade
  • meet all job requirements for the trade as set out in the National Occupation Classification (NOC)

9. Immigrant Investor Venture Capital (IIVC) Pilot Program

This program is for people with a net worth of CDN $10M or more acquired through lawful private sector or business investment activities. Qualified applicants must submit a due diligence report from agencies designated by CIC to be considered for second stage review.


Permanent Residents in Canada (at least 18 years old) can sponsor their relatives to also become permanent residents. Depending on which relative you are sponsoring, there are specific eligibility requirements that generally assess:

  • Your ability to meet basic needs (food, clothing and shelter) for yourself and your relative
  • Your capacity to support your relative financially when he/she arrives
  • The likelihood that the relative will ask for financial help from the government
  • Your relatives must also pass health and security checks as part of the application process.


This includes Humanitarian and Compassionate Cases, Protected Persons and Convention Refugees, Government-Assisted refugees, and Privately Sponsored refugees. People who need to flee their homelands to escape persecution, war or severe human rights abuses are the clients of the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.

Read this page on the CIC (IRCC) website to know the various programs authorized to help out refugees. It will be helpful to read this warning too on Sponsorship Fraud.

Important note:

Immigration programs are subject to change. For your safety, always go to the Immigration Refugees and Citizen Canada webpage for the latest eligibility criteria and requirements.

Article updated March 27, 2019.

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11 ways to immigrate to Canada

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