Are you considering migrating to Canada with your family? Are you wondering what are the steps needed to apply? Here’s a quick guide of the over-all application process through Express Entry based on our experience and with some help from Google.
Disclaimer: I don’t represent the Government of Canada in any way. The information in this post is based both on our own application experience and internet research. I also intentionally rephrased some terms from the original source just to make it easier to understand. And lastly, this post is meant only as a friendly guide, and sharing it with others is your choice.
In my previous post, I talked about the reasons why my husband and I considered migrating to Canada.
If you’ve already read that and you’re now considering to apply for a permanent residency (PR) visa, one of the things you’d probably ask us is:
“What agency did we hire?”
Before I tell you which, I’d like you to know one thing: you don’t really need an agency to apply for a PR visa. I’ll explain it further in one of my future posts, but just to quickly tell you, it’s because Canada made it so easy for everyone to apply online that all you need to do is go to their website and follow their step-by-step guide.
You’ll save tons of money, I bet.
But with those kids and everything else, you probably don’t have the time to go through all the information online (though you can manage your time better at home so that you have time to do this). And you also realize you don’t have enough savings yet to pay for an agency or whatever fees are required.
I’ve got some good news for you then…
This post will give you a quick guide on how to apply for a PR visa through Express Entry. It’d be real quick (just a 10-minute read) because it’s only going to cover some basic information you need to know before you start applying.
So how do we apply for a permanent residency visa?
There are different ways to get a PR visa to Canada, but the most common and easiest one is through Express Entry.
Express Entry is Canada’s online system used to manage permanent residency applications from skilled workers. There are three programs, but I’ll only talk here about the Federal Skilled Worker Program. For more details on the other programs, you may check them here.
For the purpose of this quick guide, I broke down the steps into 3 stages and they are:
- Taking an IELTS exam and getting your education assessed by World Education Services
- Signing up for Express Entry, and
- Applying for the PR visa
Before you go ahead and schedule your IELTS exam, you need to know first if you meet the minimum requirements for…
- education, and
- work experience
…before signing up for Express Entry.
Take this online assessment from IRCC (the actual website where you can apply for PR visa through Express Entry).
Or go to an agency offering a free assessment (but don’t rush to signing a contract with them).
You can also use this free online Eligibility Calculator tool. Whatever score you’ll be getting here will only determine whether you qualify to apply through Express Entry. A different pointing system will be used once you get past Stage 1, which is what I’m about to explain next.
Stage 1: Taking the IELTS exam and getting an Education Credentials Assessment (ECA)
I’m sure you’ve heard about IELTS — it’s an exam to test how well you speak and understand English. The exam has four parts that would test your ability in
- writing, and
You’ll get a score for each, and you need a minimum score of 7 (9 being the highest) for each of these four abilities. If you get anything below 7, you can’t sign up for Express Entry. You can, however, improve your English and re-take the exam.
After you take the exam, you’ll usually get your results back after 2 weeks. IELTS result is only valid for up to 2 years. So don’t take an IELTS and then delay your application.
Aside from taking the IELTS exam, you also need to have your education credentials assessed by an organization called World Education Services (WES).
Basically, you must send them your college diploma and transcript of records, then they send you back an ECA report (usually not more than a month after sending your documents) of what your education level is equivalent to Canada.
For most college graduates from the Philippines, the Canadian equivalent is a two-year post-secondary diploma (the case with my husband). In my case, I only took 6 units of Master’s Degree but when WES assessed my education, I was considered as a Bachelor’s Degree graduate.
I can’t tell much about how WES do their assessment, but as long as you have a Canadian equivalent of a high school graduate, then you qualify to sign up for Express Entry.
DURATION: More or less 2 months, or even more (depends on your IELTS exam date, and how early you can submit your documents to WES).
APPROXIMATE COSTS INVOLVED: AED 1,000+ for IELTS, AED800+ for WES, courier charges to WES, plus other fees. You’d spend at least AED 4,000+ (PHP 56,000+), plus other possible costs involved for both you and your husband. You can get the most updated fees from the respective websites (I’ve linked them above) for a more precise cost.
Stage 2: Signing up for Express Entry
Once you have your IELTS result and ECA report, then you can sign up for Express Entry by filling up and submitting an online form to Canada’s immigration website. You won’t be submitting any document yet as you’ll only need to fill up the information required in the online form. This information would come from your:
- Passport or travel document
- IELTS results, and
- ECA report
Once you’ve signed up and you’ve proven to meet the minimum requirements, then you’ll be included in what they call “pool of candidates”. You’ll also get a score based on the information you’ve provided. This score is different from what you might have got from the eligibility assessment because in this stage, IRCC uses a different system called the Comperehensive Ranking System.
Now, this isn’t a bar exam where you either pass or fail. But all candidates will be ranked based on their scores. IRCC has a regular schedule of what they call “round of invitation” around 1 to 3 times a month where they send out a number of invitations (say 3500 invitations), and those who will make it to the Top 3500 will be invited to apply for permanent residency.
So the higher your score, the better the chances of winning… or getting a PR visa.
Hint: The lowest scorer in the last round of invitation dated March 6, 2019, had 454 points (1200 points is the highest possible score). This isn’t the score you need to beat, because in September 2018 the lowest scorer only had 284 points. But of course, you don’t want to take the risk, do you?
Also, note that the score that you’d initially get is NOT YOUR FINAL SCORE. Meaning, while waiting for the next round of invitation, you can still do something to improve your score.
It’s either you apply for jobs in Canada and get a valid offer (through Jobbank), or contact provinces or territories to consider you as a provincial nominee (some provinces like Ontario uses the Express Entry pool to invite candidates to apply for their Provincial Nomination Program).
If you get a valid job offer, that’s additional 200 points if it’s for a senior management position (50 points if not). And if you get a provincial nomination, that’s a whopping 600 points!
You can also improve your score by getting a higher IELTS score, upgrading your education level, or gaining more relevant work experience while you wait. Just note that your Express Entry profile expires after a year so you need to resubmit your profile after that.
Since we hired an agency, they submitted our Express Entry profile on our behalf. But if you’re doing it by yourself, you just need to visit Canada’s government’s official website and create your own account. The website itself provides a step-by-step guide on what to do so with time and patience, you can do everything by yourself without an agency.
DURATION: Depends how fast you can complete the online form. You might also need to wait for a few days before you receive an email from IRCC confirming your submission and your initial score. Waiting time to get to Stage 3 also depends — if your score is low and you don’t make it to the round of invitation, keep on applying for a job (through JobBank) or try getting a provincial nomination. In our case, we waited for one year before we got invited, and that’s only after I got a provincial nomination from Ontario.
APPROXIMATE COSTS INVOLVED: There’s no fee required to sign up for Express Entry. If you get invited by a province to apply as a provincial nominee, there may be fees involved and you need to provide proof of settlement funds, or more commonly known as “show money”. It depends on how many family members you have, but for a family of four, you need around AED 64,360+ (PHP 900K+), though the amount may change from time to time.
Stage 3: Applying for permanent residency
Getting to stage 3 usually takes a long while. For us, it took us about a year after we signed up for Express Entry. And it’s after I got a provincial nomination from Ontario.
But once you’ve been selected to apply for permanent residency, that’s probably going to be the greatest news of all time (but no, not without the visa yet). Now, once you’ve received an invitation to apply (ITA), you can still use your Express Entry account to submit your application for PR visa.
This stage is the most crucial one. This is where you’ll need all the documents required to complete your application. In the Express Entry system, they’ll tell you exactly what documents you need to scan and upload.
Once you get invited to apply, you have 60 days to submit your application. According to IRCC, they’ll process most complete applications that have all the supporting documents in 6 months or less.
DURATION: You have 60 days to submit your application after you receive the ITA. After that, you need to wait maximum of 6 months. But in our case, since I was pregnant, it took us more than 6 months because I couldn’t undergo X-ray while pregnant, and then after I gave birth, we added our 2nd baby to the application and submitted my X-ray result. It took us another year before we received our PR visa.
APPROXIMATE COSTS INVOLVED: Around AED 2,800+ (PHP 40,800+) each for you and your spouse, plus around AED 1500+ (PHP 21,500+) for each dependent child. So that’s a total of AED 8,600+ (PHP 120K+) if you’re a family of four. You also need another proof of settlement funds (or “show money”).
You may now realize that you can do everything online and that you don’t need an agency to apply. As long as you follow the step-by-step guide and you submit all your documents and provide complete information, you’d be just fine.
But if you’re still thinking that hiring an agency would put your mind to ease, as long as you have the money to pay for them, there’s also nothing wrong. Besides, we used an agency ourselves.
Just to give you a rough idea of how long it would take and how much money you’ll need for the entire process:
TOTAL DURATION: From stage 1 to 3, the duration it might take you truly depends. But if I have to guess, it would be more than 6 months — it’s safe to assume you’d take around 1 to 1 1/2 years (perhaps if you’re lucky, even less). In our case, it took us a total of almost two years to get our PR visa because I got pregnant along the way which made the process longer.
TOTAL ESTIMATED COST (without an agency): Assuming you’re a family of four, you’d probably spend at least AED 12,600+ (AED 176,400+) from Stage 1 to 3 plus other miscellaneous fees (you may also need to pay the province if you’re applying for provincial nomination). I couldn’t say exactly how much you’d spend in total, but you’ve just got to be prepared financially if you’re really considering applying for PR visa. Besides, you don’t have to pay for everything all at once since it’s stage by stage.
On top of this, you also need AED 64,360+ (PHP 900K+) in your bank account possibly for Stages 2 (if you’re applying for provincial nomination) to 3, and that same amount once you arrive in Canada. (Remember, this example is only for a family of four, and the amount changes from time to time).
If you’re going to hire an agency, add the agency fee to this amount. Agencies charge differently so I can’t tell you how much to expect.
Now, if you’re really serious about applying for a permanent residency visa, you may go to Canada’s government website for the step-by-step guides.
Use my free eligibility calculator tool to find out if you’re eligible to apply through Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Workers Program (available until April 30 only). For more details about finding out your eligibility, you may read my post on how to find out if you’re eligible for Express Entry’s Federal Skilled Worker Program.
Do you have further questions about how to apply for PR visa through Express Entry? You can visit the Government of Canada’s website or we can have a chat in the comments section below and I’ll try my best to answer your question.
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