On the Move
The inaugural publication of this column, On The Move, was warmly received and we would like to thank you, the readers of the Philippine Canadian Inquirer who reached out to us with your comments and questions. We invite you to continue forwarding your comments and questions on what you’d like to see written in this column on matters relating to Canadian immigration or citizenship.
What is Permanent Resident status?
Recently, we received an excitedly composed text message from a friend. He received news via email that Citizenship and Immigration Canada is requesting his passport and photos so that he could receive his visa, along with timelines and further instructions for landing in Canada to receive his PR status. As you might imagine, this was an exciting moment of his Canadian immigration path.
He was so excited to share the news with family and friends, after all his hard work, including completing his post-secondary education in Canada, finding a qualified full-time occupation, and applying under the BC PNP International Graduates program. As we reflect on our friend’s experience, we wonder what it might feel like to finally achieve a permanent resident status. To fully appreciate this milestone in one’s life, let’s review the meaning of permanent residency.
A permanent resident means that you have met the respective requirements of the immigration class or program that you applied under and that you have now officially immigrated to Canada. You remain to be a citizen of your country of origin but not yet a citizen of Canada. As you call Canada your new home or place of residency, you have many rights similar to a citizen, such as, social benefits including health care coverage and you no longer need to apply for visas or permits to live, work or study across Canada. You also have the right to apply, when eligible, to be a citizen. Likewise, you have responsibilities like a citizen, for example, paying taxes, obeying the laws of Canada. As a permanent resident, you cannot participate in the electoral system of voting for your local, provincial or federal representatives. Also, if convicted of serious criminal offense you could loose your permanent resident status and be told to leave the country.
Maintain your eligibility
Perhaps, some of our readers are currently working towards the goal of permanent residency in Canada. You might have come to Canada as a student or temporary foreign worker. Now that you are in Canada you must keep yourself in good status and check from time to time that you continue to be in compliance with the immigration path that you have chosen towards being eligible to become a permanent resident.
Whether you had help coming to Canada or you independently went through the application process yourself, it is a good idea to continually review and monitor your intended immigration path in the class or program that you are planning to apply under. Immigration is a shared responsibility under both federal and provincial/territorial jurisdictions and so there are numerous classes and programs for you to consider applying under and to monitor on what is the right immigration path for you.
In particular, when it comes to Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), these programs tend to change frequently and vary between province to province, and such changes could significantly impact your plans.
For example, last month, the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program opened a new category, the Alberta Work Experience Category, allowing eligible workers with at least two years of Alberta experience in a list of key occupations to apply to be nominated for permanent residence. Knowing this might allow you an additional path to becoming a permanent resident.
Keeping track of time
If you are a temporary foreign worker, you should be aware that there is a four-year cumulative limit for foreign nationals working in Canada and this regulation came into effect April 1st 2011. This means you should fulfill your requirements and submit your application for permanent resident status before your four-year limit is reached. This four-year limit is not retroactive which means only the days going forward from April 1st 2011 is counted towards the four-year cumulative limit. You will not be eligible to apply for a work permit until another four-year has passed since you last worked in Canada.
It is important that you keep track of your period of work and document any valid breaks from work such as extended unpaid leave, parental leave, and periods of unemployment. Some workers are exempt from this regulation and if you are not sure you should visit the CIC website or consult with an immigration professional.
On a different note, and if, for instance, you are an Information Technology student who recently completed your study of an eligible 2-year diploma program and you are now wanting to work in Canada, you would qualify and must apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) within 90 days of receiving confirmation of your program completion in order to receive a 3-year open work permit. If you do not submit your application within the 90-day timeframe you will loose your chance to apply for the open work permit under the PGWPP.
Please keep in mind that if you have a co-op work permit, that this is different from an open work permit. A co-op work permit is specific to giving you permission to work as part of your period of study. Having completed your school program and being ready to enter Canada’s workforce you must ask permission again from the government to legally work in Canada. Under the above scenario you would apply for an open work permit under the PGWPP that will allow you to work at essentially any job in Canada without restrictions for a period of three years.
Need help navigating the immigration process?
If you are not comfortable with the immigration process or have questions specific to your situation then you have several options to choose from.
The best resource for keeping track of changes is directly from the websites of Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and from the provincial/territorial governments. These pages are kept up-to-date and are the principal means through which the various governments keep the public informed of announcements and changes.
Another reliable source of information about immigration are the highlights and facts presented in the news media. Also, if you conduct online research, again keep in mind that immigration information and laws change frequently, and so you should always check that what you are reading is indeed current and valid.
For a list of the Federal immigration programs see the following link: http://goo.gl/HgmscC
For a list of the provincial/territorial immigration programs see the following link: http://goo.gl/D9s8N
As well, you might have a local settlement agency or other not-for-profit group that might offer immigration services for low to no cost. Some organizations might even host free legal clinics for eligible individuals and often immigration professionals will volunteer their time to speak and advise at these sessions.
If you wish to seek paid assistance with matters relating to immigration then be sure that he or she is a regulated immigration consultant, lawyer, notary (Quebec) or paralegal (Ontario). Licensed Immigration consultants are regulated by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC). The ICCRC has been given the authority by the federal law granting eligible members to provide immigration services in Canada or abroad. A licensed immigration consultant RCIC requires completion of educational programs and each year must continue to upgrade their skills through professional development.
Review Review Review
In general, the idea is to keep yourself aware of the options available to you and to review your specific situation from time to time to ensure that you are following your planned path or be aware of the new rules or regulations that may have affected you. Don’t take requirements such as timelines lightly as these are important and may have consequences if for example you misunderstand or missed a deadline. You also have a lot of resources available to assist with your immigration process from the various government websites, local not-for-profit resources, to possibly retaining an immigration professional.
Grace and Leo are licensed immigration consultants and members of the ICCRC. For questions or comments, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected questions may be answered in this column.