A summary of Canadian immigration programs: Express Entry, PNP, Quebec, and family sponsorship.

If 2022 is your year to immigrate to Canada, here are some options to become a permanent resident.

In this article, we are going to discuss four pathways to Canadian immigration: Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), Quebec immigration, and family sponsorship.

But before you pack your bags, be sure to take note of Canada’s travel restrictions, especially if you are planning to travel during the pandemic. Canada is starting off the new year with record case counts of COVID-19. The federal government recently re-introduced the requirement for incoming travellers to take a pre-arrival PCR test. Starting January 15, most foreign travellers will have to be fully inoculated with a vaccine from a recognized manufacturer.

The Canadian government website has the official information on travel restrictions as they change with the coronavirus situation. As of now, students, workers, and approved permanent residents can still come to Canada provided they follow the public health guidelines.

Express Entry

Express Entry is Canada’s main immigration pathway. It is the application manager for three economic-class immigration programs: Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Worker Program, and Federal Skilled Trades Program. If you are eligible for one of these programs, you may also be able to apply for a Provincial Nominee Program that is aligned with Express Entry, although it is not necessary for all PNPs. Some PNPs are managed by the province’s own application system and they may be more suitable for some people who are not eligible for Express Entry.

Express Entry operates on a points grid. You get more points for having a high language score, at least one year of skilled work experience, post-secondary education, and for being between the ages of 20 and 29. There are other factors that can boost your score such as having French language proficiency, a sibling in Canada, or a valid Canadian job offer, among other things.

Not everyone who submits an Express Entry profile will be able to apply for immigration. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) invites the highest-scoring candidates in the Express Entry pool to apply through bi-weekly draws. In 2021, Canada only invited candidates who were eligible for the Canadian Experience Class or who had previously received a provincial nomination from a PNP.

Although the processing standard for an Express Entry application is six months, in 2020 the average processing time was nine months. The pandemic slowed down processing at IRCC. According to the latest figures, IRCC has a backlog of about 1.8 million immigration applications across all programs. The Express Entry backlog alone is at about 140,000 applications.

We know from an internal briefing memo that IRCC needs to cut the Express Entry backlog by “more than half” in order to achieve its processing standard of six months or less. Processing seems to have ramped up in the past few months as the government pushed to meet its 2021 immigration target of 401,000 new permanent residents.

Express Entry allows you to apply for Canadian immigration to any province or territory other than Quebec, which is why it gets a segment of its own.

Provincial Nominee Program

The PNP can be an option for people who do not qualify for Express Entry, or for Express Entry candidates who want to get extra points.

Other than Nunavut and Quebec, every province and territory has a PNP. The provincial and territorial governments tailor these programs to suit their own economic and population growth strategies.

You can think of PNP immigration as a two-tier application process. First you apply to the province or territory, then if you get a nomination you can use it to apply to the federal government.

There are two categories of PNPs: enhanced PNPs, which use the Express Entry pool to draw candidates; and base PNPs which operate independently from Express Entry.

If you receive a provincial nomination through an enhanced PNP, you get an automatic 600 points added to your Express Entry score. This award boosts your profile to the top of the pool, and primes you to get an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

Base PNPs are more focused on recruiting candidates who support regional economic and population growth strategies. They are open to people who have connections to the province, such as local study or work experience, as well as workers whose professional experience falls under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) skill levels C and D, which are not eligible for Express Entry.

Quebec Immigration

The primarily French-speaking province of Quebec has its own immigration program. Although the federal government still has the final say on who gets permanent residency, it cannot make sweeping immigration policy that applies to Quebec.

To immigrate to Quebec you need a Certificat de sélection du Québec (CSQ), which is administered by the Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI). You can get the CSQ by applying for one of Quebec’s immigration programs such as:

  • Quebec’s Regular Skilled Worker Program for French-speaking foreign workers in skilled occupations.
  • Quebec Experience Program is popular among French-speaking international student graduates from Quebec institutions as well as skilled workers.
  • Quebec Permanent Immigration Pilot Program for food processing workers, orderlies, and tech workers in certain occupations.

Once you get your CSQ, it confirms to the federal government that Quebec has selected you for immigration. You can then use it to apply for permanent residence to IRCC.

Family sponsorship

If you have family in Canada, you may be eligible for family sponsorship. Canadians can sponsor their spouses and common-law partners, their dependent children or adult relatives, as well as their parents and grandparents. In some cases, Canadians may be eligible to sponsor other family members.

There are eligibility criteria on both sides of the sponsorship process. Canadians may have to demonstrate that they can financially support both of you. The person being sponsored has to pass criminal and medical admissibility criteria. Both of you have to demonstrate that your relationship is genuine. For example, in the case of spouses, the immigration officer has to be convinced that you did not get married just for the purposes of immigration.

Each program has its own eligibility criteria, and depending on what country you are coming from, different document requirements. IRCC offers all of the up-to-date application forms and checklists on its website.

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