Moving soon to Canada!
I know I have not written blog articles for very long. But this time I felt I wanted to write an article again to tell you about this exciting adventure: I am moving with my wife to Canada in a few weeks. But we had applied two and half years ago! Here’s the story of this adventure to get our Permanent Residency.
Why move to Canada?
We went to Canada for the first time in 2019 for holidays, and visited mostly the Quebec province (Montréal, Quebec city, Trois-rivières) but also went to Ottawa and Niagara Falls. We have also been in the United States several times, and found in Canada some of the things we love in the United States: big spaces and cities where it is easy to drive. We love road trips as you might have guessed from my article about our road trip in Japan.
But all this is about tourism, why would we want to live in Canada? One part of the answer is that we are aspiring to an “American dream” life, living in a house in a nice neighborhood with plenty of space to park our cars in front. You might say, OK but that’s like the United States then? And indeed it is true that we like a lot of things about Canada that we like about the US: the spirit of entrepreneurship, a love of freedom and a belief in technological progress. For instance I wrote that Canada is one of the top 5 in GMO cultivated surfaces and that Ontario (Canadian province) also has a strong nuclear industry, with a high ratio of nuclear power like France.
But we feel that Canada is even “more American” in certain aspects that the US itself, in the sense that they succeed better at being what the US wants to be:
A haven for democracy: Canada is the 12th most democratic country in the world according to the Democracy Index, with a status of “Full Democracy” (the best category). It ranks above the United States (25th position, “Flawed Democracy”) and France, our country of origin (22nd, “Flawed Democracy”).
In the 2022 Index of Economic Freedom, it ranks 15th in the “Mostly free” category, again above the US (25th, “Mostly “free” too) and way before France (52nd, “Moderately free”) which is heavily penalized in this ranking because of its huge government spending.
But a huge advantage compared to the US is I think that the political climate of Canada is much better. They haven’t reached this situation of an extreme split between two political factions, and they don’t have a third of the population think the last election was stolen. I think this better political context is reflected in the fact that Canada is able to make progress and fix things that don’t work instead of being stuck in partisan wars like the US. Two examples:
They have a better balance between freedom and security in their gun laws for instance (in the US, even moderate restrictions are strongly lobbied against successfully by the NRA and blocked by republicans).
They have a better medical insurance system, which works more like a European one, while still benefiting from the most advanced technology.
The application (End 2019 - Early 2020)
We decided to apply directly for permanent residency, as statistics showed that the process took 6 months on average. We wanted some time to leave our respective jobs, and in my case, a company I had co-founded, which as you can imagine is more complex that leaving a regular job. We started the application at the end of 2019, and in our plan, we were supposed to move to Canada at some point in 2020 (this did not go as planned for a reason you probably guess, see later in this article).
In our case, we applied for the Federal Skilled Worker program. It allows you to immigrate to Canada by showing that you have strong enough professional experience and qualifications. It’s the sum of total points you get that determines whether you can immigrate. You can make a common application to come with your partner and your children. In this case, your partner's points for each section will be less than yours as the main applicant, and even some won't bring any points at all. Knowing this particularity, we made sure that it was me (owner of a PhD and with more work experience) who was the main applicant to maximize our points.
First step: selection in Express Entry
The application is in a two-step process: first you fill some forms on the Express Entry website and hopefully get selected if you have a high enough score. This part is free and does not require you to send any documents. Then, if you are selected, you are “invited to apply” for the real thing.
But you need to provide your language level in English and French (like “C1”, “C2” etc.), so the first step is actually to pass the IETF test for English and “TEF Canada” test for French. Speaking both English and French is not mandatory, you may speak only one of the two languages, but speaking both gets you more points.
So the first few months for us were basically planning and passing those tests, which have both a written and an oral part. We got a C2 in French (unsurprisingly since it is our native language) and C1 in English.
Once we had those tests, we applied for the selection in Express Entry, and after only one week, they told us that we had enough points and invited us to applied “for real”, ie. through the Federal Skilled Worker program for Permanent Residency.
Second step: Permanent Residency application
At this point you actually need to gather some other documents. The hardest part is to get your diploma certified. You might think that since I have a PhD, this is pretty easy. But actually it’s quite complicated: your diploma needs to be certified by a company officially recognized by the IRCC. Moreover, you cannot send the documents yourself to the company, you have to convince your university to send them directly to them (to avoid falsification). Luckily this was easy (thanks “Bureau d’Accueil des Doctorants” of Sorbonne Université). The company then determines which Canadian diploma is the equivalent of your original one. In my case, my PhD in France corresponds in Canada to… a PhD (big surprise!).
I initially used ICAS to do the diploma certification, but a friend told me they were super-slow. So I also did the process with WES, which means I paid twice for the certification process (a few hundred dollars). But in the end that was very good advice, because WES certified my diploma in about 2 months, while ICAS took 2 years! ICAS actually sent me my certificate after I had already received the Confirmation of Permanent Residency!
By the way, if like me you have several diplomas, don’t bother certifying all of them, just do it with the highest (I didn’t do the process for my Master’s degree, License degree or French “Baccalauréat”)
Some other documents we had to send:
A letter from my bank saying that the amount of money I have
A proof of lack of criminal condamnation (simple to get online in France)
A list of all the countries we have been to and the dates of flights (this is pretty annoying if you like to travel a lot like me)
At some point, they asked us to come to an office to give our fingerprints (easy to do).
And then… COVID!
The real mess came with the pandemic in March 2020. Borders were closed. All applications were stalled.
So from this point to the end of 2021, nothing happened. We did not know whether it was a matter of months or years. I delayed my departure from my job by a few months to help everyone with the pandemic situation (and because I had nothing to do anyway). But I finally left my job as planned, although about 6 months later, as I had initially announced my departure the week before the French government declared national lockdown!
So by the end of 2020, I had nothing to do any more. So I created this blog you are reading! Then, in 2021, I learned how to use Arduino and created YouTube videos showing my projects.
A new hope in September 2021
We still had no news of our application which was 2 years old now, but there was some hope. The Canadian border has just reopened to vaccinated Americans, and a few weeks later it reopened for vaccinated people from the rest of the World. When the border reopened, we immediately booked a flight to Canada for the week after!
We wanted mostly to discover Vancouver and Toronto so we took a flight to Vancouver and a return flight from Toronto. But to make things harder, we took an internal flight to Toronto from… Calgary! We actually wanted to drive through the rockies and see a glimpse of Alberta too.
The thing we had not anticipated was the rental car shortage, which prevented us from renting any car in the first few days! Hopefully, we still got a car (at a very expansive rate) to be able to drive to Alberta.
This was a wonderful trip, and we both enjoyed Vancouver and Toronto very much. Both cities were very good candidates for us to live there, and we finally settled for Toronto.
After two weeks, we were then back in France, but we wanted more than ever to move to Canada! But we still had no visibility on our application. Was it a matter of weeks or months?
So I looked for a job, with the idea to work somewhere for 6 months. At this point I was afraid that I would receive my CoPR a few weeks after I started working.
I found a great Franco-American startup called Upflow, which helps businesses get paid in time. This was a great experience. I learned new skills and met awesome colleagues whom I will always remember!
April 2022: Victory!
I received an email called “Prêt pour Visa” (“ready for visa”), saying that the IRCC is ready to issue my visa. I just have to send some identity pictures and it’s all good!
A few weeks later, I received the holy grail document: the COPR (Confirmation of Permanent Residency), which is basically a sheet of paper with our photo stamped, allowing us to move to Canada.
To be continued…
The day I’m writing this article, a moving company has just taken all our stuff to send it to Canada, and we are in the last preparations for moving. Stay tuned for our next adventures settling in Toronto!
How expensive is it?
The application cost us 2250 Canadian dollars, but you don’t need to pay for the 1st step. The language tests, medical exam, and diploma certification cost some money too, but it’s still cheaper than the actual application (less than 1000 € I would say).
But you need to prove that you have enough money to live there, with 2 people they ask you to show proof that you have the equivalent of 16,570 Canadian dollars. You need to show that you had this amount for the last 6 months, so you need to spare some money in advance.
Why not go to Quebec?
Something that surprised us was that the federal procedure to apply for immigration in Canada actually allows you to settle anywhere in Canada except in Quebec (at least in theory, because once you're settled in the country, they can't prevent you from moving there).
So we applied in parallel for the Quebec procedure. But after 1 year they told us our application had expired. It expired because they did not do anything with it (not because some documents were missing). But they told us we could reapply. So we did. After 1 year, it expired again, so we reapplied again. And it expired again. And too bad, we could not apply any more because our English and French tests were too old now!
Why not Vancouver?
There is no definitive reason, Vancouver is a really wonderful city. One was that I have family there. We also thought that with our family still being in France, it would be easier for us to communicate and travel to France with Toronto being closer. Also, Toronto is less "isolated" than Vancouver, it's just hours away from Niagara Falls, Ottawa, Quebec, and even New York if we have a long weekend in front of us!