Can I move to Canada if my boyfriend is offered a job there?
December 6, 2010 7:37 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend was recently laid-off from his job in a competitive industry where companies are concentrated in certain areas -- he can't find another job in the industry just anywhere. He is looking for a new job in the industry. We (both US citizens) plan to go together to whatever place he finds a job, and there are a good number of opportunities in Canada (relatively speaking), so we are trying to decide if he should apply for jobs there. If he were hired by a Canadian company, would I be able to move with him there, and work after a certain amount of time?

I searched MeFi and didn't find a relevant previous question -- though I definitely found some basic 'Moving to Canada' Q's that were pretty helpful, such as this this and this, but none of these questions addressed our specific case.

I looked at the CIC website and I think I have a decent idea of what the plan of attack would be, though I'm not sure I've/we've totally understood everything correctly and any help would be really appreciated!

From what we can tell, he would be hired by a company that would 'support his permanent immigration'. From there it looks like he would need to sponsor me as his 'common-law partner' (which sounds incredibly romantic). This rule states that we have to have lived together for 1 full year before he can sponsor me to officially immigrate to Canada. We have currently been living together six months. The job market everywhere is tight, and there is a chance that we will have been living together a full year before he gets a new job anyway (gulp). But, if he were to be hired by a Canadian company before then, would I be able to go with him and just not work? Is it a problem for me to be in Canada at all, or is it just a problem (illegal) if I work? Also, would us living together in Canada work toward that 1 Year minimum? Say if we went to Canada after living together 9 months, and I lived with him for 3 months in Canada, would I then be eligible for immigration? And would I need a visitor/some other visa for those 3 months? Assuming everything went smoothly and he could sponsor me for immigration, how long would the process be before I could start actually looking for a job?

Some of the past MeFi's I looked at suggested that some people go up to Canada on a student visa -- that's something I wouldn't totally rule out since there are certainly things I would like to study, but I'm not sure it would be very cost-effective way to get me in Canada legally.

I noticed that Quebec has some different immigration policies and there are some companies in Quebec, so Quebec-specific advice would be welcome as well.

YANA[Immigration]L; and I'm sure we would have to consult one to be sure of the laws if we got to that point. This case is definitely very specific! But it would be wonderful to have a general picture of what would lie ahead if we followed this path. It will help us decide if he should apply for a job up there or not.

Thanks everyone!
posted by imalaowai to Law & Government (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you taken the immigration qualification test yourself? You may well qualify for immigration independently, especially if you have some additional qualifications.
posted by bonehead at 7:46 PM on December 6, 2010

Where are you coming from by the way? The answers are different depending on what your country of origin is.
posted by bonehead at 7:47 PM on December 6, 2010

Depending on your area of work, it may be very hard to find a job without being a fluent French speaker -- or it could be you would be at a disadvantage by not being a French speaker. If that is where you would be headed, and you are not fluent,

Living in Montreal without French is easy enough, if you are not looking for work, but as you can imagine you do want to learn the local language no matter what.

Overall, getting a work permit in Canada is easy enough. My girlfriend went through the process and it was straightforward once she had a job. As you can come into the country without a visa for a limited period of time (3 months), you might be able to look for a job during that period and then go through the work permit process. Basically, my point is that you can look for a job without a work permit, and then obtain a work permit more easily (even without sponsorship from your partner) with that offer.

I would not let the paperwork keep you from coming -- it depends more on the availability of work in your area and all that.

But here is a suggestion: why not get marries? I realize that is a whole other ballpark, but it is something to consider, since it seems you guys are committed and happy together.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 7:53 PM on December 6, 2010

bonehead: we're both US citizens. I just took the qualification test -- I got the basic 67. If I add the thing about my common-law partner having a bachelor's degree I get 71, though I guess he doesn't really qualify as a common-law partner until 1 year of living together.

TheCallItPeace: maybe we should focus on the English-speaking provinces -- I hadn't even thought about how hard it would be for me to find a job in Quebec! If I could stay for 3 months without a visa and look for a job that would definitely be great, though it takes so long to find a job in the US these days and I'm sure it's no walk in the park in Canada either. I don't really have a career 'area' -- I've kind of just done jobs that have been available, though I like the industry I'm in now and would definitely look for something similar if I had to leave.

We definitely have long term plans for the future :) But we don't really want to feel rushed into it because of a job, you know?
posted by imalaowai at 8:17 PM on December 6, 2010

I did not mean to discourage you about Quebec. I just wanted to emphasize that the language is something you should consider. Remember that there are a few English-only universities in Quebec (McGill, Concordia, Bishop's), so people do get by without the language, but it is much trickier to find a job without it (although it does vary with the area/profession).

Also, it does not hurt to try anyway. No harm, no foul.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 8:31 PM on December 6, 2010

You may want to look into the provincial nomination immigration programs too. They have different and sometimes easier qualification schemes. Quebec has theirs, but most of the others do as well. Here's Saskatchewan and Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario's . The downside is that these programs will usually require residence in that province for a while. Each one is different, so you may want to read those small prints carefully.

Quebec is unusual in a number of ways. It can be a great place to live, but be careful of things like the language of instruction of children, for example. Unless you are well to do and can afford at least a year of private school, any children you would have in Quebec would be educated in French only. That's not such a horrible thing at all, but it does catch people off guard if they're not expecting it. On the other hand, they have a lot more social programs than other provinces. $5/day daycare, for example.
posted by bonehead at 8:31 PM on December 6, 2010

What are your educational backgrounds or your boyfriends career? If you can come in under nafta (TN Visa) the process is Very easy.
posted by saradarlin at 9:48 PM on December 6, 2010

As someone who went through this with a partner, I want to be the sober voice of reason, hopefully without discouraging you too much.

Without a university education or a post-secondary qualification in a field for which there is established demand in Canada, you are going to find garden-variety immigration very difficult, if not impossible.

Without French language skills, "choosing Quebec" won't improve your chances any. The role of Quebec's "immigration department" has been overstated -- you're still starting with CIC as the gatekeeper.

Where does that leave you?

Your options

1. Moving with your boyfriend

Some myth-busting is in order here. The fact that you have been with your boyfriend for six months means nothing to CIC, and in fact even being married means almost as little. The notion that getting married somehow improves the partner's chances of getting in has been the source of much misery, so waiting until you have common-law status isn't going to help. Here is the truth:

As far as CIC is concerned, the "dependent partner" has no rights. One of the official policy goals of the department is the reunification of families, but this happens at their pleasure and whether it happens depends on who your case officer is and the strength of your partner's status. In other words, "the more we like your boyfriend, the more we like you."

I hate to say it, but your odds sound extremely long on this one.

2. Finding employment

This is a possibility if you can find an employer willing to go to bat for you. CallItPeace said:

Overall, getting a work permit in Canada is easy enough. My girlfriend went through the process and it was straightforward once she had a job.

but this does not reflect my personal experience at all. My wife (you read that right!) was unable to work for 18 months. (If your relationship survives that, you are probably made for each other.)

What kind of work permit did CallItPeace's girlfriend have? The term-limited student permits don't count -- they expire, and can't be renewed. Temporary work permits are job-specific and are invalid the moment the job is terminated. The only "permanent work permit" is the Permanent Residency Card (something like the "green card" in the US, and essentially means you have successfully immigrated). Did she have an education, and if so, what kind?

First, the employer has to be prepared to sponsor the work permit, which costs them time and money, which means they have to really, really like you; next, the application has to be submitted to Human Resources and Skills Development for a "Labour Market Opinion", where they assess whether you are taking a job away from qualified Canadians. Unfortunately, the bar on that one is high, and your education only helps you if it is relevant to the work you are doing. If you have an English degree and are working in a position that doesn't require a university degree, your chance of getting a positive LMO are close to zero.

3. Student visa

Honestly, based on your age and your situation, this is probably your best shot. It offers you the chance to improve your qualifications, which will give you a better chance at immigrating on your own merits (and improve your overall career prospects, no matter where you live); it also allows you to work a limited number of hours without requiring individual permits, and the only bar is admission to a certified post-secondary institution.

The snag here is that you will be paying visa equalization on your tuition, which will make it expensive...

3a. The Student Work Visa

This is the visa I referred to in 2. This is risky, but could work. You could be lucky and find somebody willing to sponsor a work permit before this permit expires. You could be unlucky and have to leave the country, and only be allowed to return as a visitor.

4. TN status

TN status is a pipe-dream. It only works for skilled temporary workers who are still working for their US employers in Canada.

If your boyfriend is highly qualified and can walk on water, something can probably arranged to allow you to stay legally in the country, but employment is tricky and the stress this puts on a relationship can be enough to kill it. Don't underestimate the challenge you are undertaking. Moving is stressful enough, moving to another country is whole other thing entirely.

If, after all that, you still want to try, get good advice, be serious, work hard, and plan well. Above all, be patient. This will take time.

Canada is a lovely country, and I wish we would let more people discover it, but we've got a screwy immigration policy and a government with a pine cone up its ass. It's my hope we'll be showing them both the door soon!

Best of luck -- and keep us posted!
posted by rhombus at 3:08 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

As you mentioned working under the table I thought I should let you know that is very uncommon in Canada compared to the US and the few cases I personally know of have all between Canadian citizens/PRs. There is not really much of an upside for an employer to hire someone under the table and risk CIC getting interested on top of all the other laws being broken, certainly not at any livable wage.

With your Chinese Language skills you would probably have most employment opportunities in Vancouver with Toronto a distant second. There are a lot of fluently bi-lingual people though, so it isn't too rare a skill. As a public librarian, I should let you know the job market isn't much better that the US, especially entry level positions. If you pounded out your MLS quick though it is a NAFTA job that means you have a lot less hoops to jump though. I believe foreign tuition for an MLS in Canada is around $10,000 at the various schools.
posted by saucysault at 8:10 AM on December 8, 2010

It's been awhile but I just wanted to jump back here and thank everyone for all the advice. Based on what rhombus said, we've decided that he shouldn't apply for jobs in Canada at this time. It sucks, though, because there's really a better job market up there for his industry, and we'd both be interested in living in Canada. Oh well, maybe in a few years.

Thanks again everyone!
posted by imalaowai at 6:26 PM on January 6, 2011

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