Canadians are so friendly I'd like to be one...
February 22, 2006 1:25 PM   Subscribe

On my sister's behalf: What is the best chance for my husband (and therefore me) to immigrate to B.C.? He is 53 (not good according to the Canadian point system), and has a great offer of work from a friend in Victoria who is a designer/builder of homes. My husband would be hired as a foreman, as he's a highly skilled and experienced carpenter, and is capable of managing and training crews. His formal education doesn't go beyond high school, his English language skills are good (but not his French), he has no criminal record, and he's in very good health.

We have a corporation, for tax purposes, through which he's been paid for the last several years, but haven't had any employees, and we don't have the $100,000+ I'm told we would need to enter as an entrepreneur.

Our options seem to be: a) to apply as a Skilled Worker to Canada, with an offer of employment, although even with the offer in hand, he wouldn't do that well with the point system assessment; b) to apply as a Provincial Nominee, to B.C., as I'm told (by some) that there is a shortage of highly-skilled carpenters in B.C.; or c) to apply somehow under the umbrella of the corporation—setting up a satellite office in Victoria, or something in conjunction with our friend's business. Can anyone tell us which approach is more likely to be successful, if any? Or, is there an approach that we don't know about yet? And, what are the odds of being accepted?

In any case, any thoughts on whether it is beneficial or detrimental to one's case to hire a lawyer to help with the application process?
posted by bricoleur to Law & Government (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know much about the immigration process, but I can tell you that new construction in Victoria is insane. There is work aplenty, I'd say.
posted by Savannah at 1:32 PM on February 22, 2006

Your best bet is to get help from both a professional immigration lawyer (avoid the 'agents' who are not lawyers, even though they cost less; they often have no training or relevant skills and take advantage of their clients) and have your Canadian relations enlist the advice of their local MP, or more realistically, the MPs constiuiency office staff. Those people will know best what local programs are currently in place (for skilled workers in high-unemployement job classifications). We're not talking about getting the file through faster via political pressure, but getting some advice from people who deal with these cases on a daily basis. Those staffers are your best realistic source of advice, since it's unrealistic to get the Immigration staffers themselves to tell you the best way to use the system.

Anyone who tells you the odds of being accepted is randomly guessing, there are too many factors to make an informed guess (unless you work for Immigration and have had a look at the full file and scoring).
posted by tiamat at 1:47 PM on February 22, 2006

It is a very, very good idea to use an attorney. I used Lorne Waldman, who is one of the best-known immigration attorneys in Canada and deals with a lot of high profile cases. Despite that, he was very affordable and extremely helpful and efficient.

The point system is horrible if you don't have family here. My strong advice would be to scrape up the $100,000 you need to enter as an entrepreneur, even if you have to open up lines of credit with friends, family etc to do so.

My experience of the Canuck immigration authorities was extremely good. They are helpful, polite and cheerful. You do not have to be afraid of them.
posted by unSane at 1:49 PM on February 22, 2006

You might want to look at temporary work permits under NAFTA. Usually these don't have very high requirements, and are infinately renewable.
You also might want to look into getting a university degree in the long run. There are schools that will give credit for previous work experience (think Univ of Phoenix, etc). A Bachelors degree will help and often can be done in 2 years or so.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:58 PM on February 22, 2006

Might it be relevant to mention what country you would be leaving?
posted by fish tick at 1:59 PM on February 22, 2006

If you don't come in as an antrepreneur, you may well have some difficulty, as the kind of work he's doing is not specialized enough. That is, there are thousands of locals who could take that job; there really isn't any lack of journeyman carpenters (or journeymen in most trades) in BC. There is, however, a lack of apprentice tradespeople who will work for peanuts, which is what the gubmint really means when they tell us that tradespeople are desperately needed.

I knew several underemployed carpenters in Victoria, and know several more in Vancouver.
posted by solid-one-love at 2:02 PM on February 22, 2006

A TN visa is probably out of the question. You need a specific job title and it covers primarily clerical/professional/science occupations. I don't think you can get over on one if you're self-employed.
posted by GuyZero at 2:05 PM on February 22, 2006

I don't know re: immigration but for sure there is a severe shortage of skilled construction workers here in Victoria. Unemployment is at a 30 year low. The new arena was delayed for 6 months because of labour shortage (well, that was partly because they went non-union and in a labour shortage there is no incentive to work non-union), also our new building on campus is millions overbudget because of delays caused by not enough labour. I suspect with the new Conservative government they might loosen up the skilled worker category to tradesworkers but who knows. Maybe the prospective employer can contact their MP.

On preview -- what our government means, s-i-l, is that there is a shortage of workers for non-union sites. Right wing governments hate low unemployment rates.
posted by Rumple at 2:31 PM on February 22, 2006

Rumple writes "I suspect with the new Conservative government they might loosen up the skilled worker category to tradesworkers but who knows"

They'd have to loosen it up a lot as Fort McMurray is sucking up all the skilled trades available. I attended a presentation last year that showed the oil sands projects are raising the wages of trades people (especially electricians, pipefitters and plumbers) as far away as Georgia by 1-3 dollars an hour.
posted by Mitheral at 2:58 PM on February 22, 2006

Talk to an immigration lawyer and review all the options you mentioned above. We considered emigrating to BC a few years ago and contacted a lawyer. She understood exactly what was needed to maximise our chances. Eventually we decided against it but the money was well spent--or maybe the first consultation was for free, I can't remember.

This was before NAFTA. The poster who suggested a work permit may have the best advice of all. Keeping things as informal as possible until you know whether you want to stay there isn't a bad idea.
posted by thayerg at 3:08 PM on February 22, 2006

You don't have to immigrate to work in Canada. You can apply for a temporary work permit, and if granted, you can come to Canada and work legally there (if the husband is granted a work permit, his wife can then apply and be fast-tracked for a work permit too, so they can both work). They would be living temporarily in Canada, not able to vote, not able to get free medical care, still U.S. residents, but legally employed and working. The "temporary" status and work permit might last a long time and be renewable. It might also come to a rather sudden end if the husband's company couldn't employ him any more.

While in Canada on the work permit, you can apply to become permanent residents. I frankly don't know what the odds are, as several of the Skilled Worker factors are against him, but having a steady job in Canada will certainly help.

Note that this is how you would have to do it anyway. If you just applied to immigrate (without applying for a work permit), you won't even hear back from them for 9 months or more. If you want to go work in Canada NOW, the work permit is the only way to go.

I can't advise you as to whether an immigration attorney will be helpful. I believe that the forms necessary are well-explained on Immigration Canada's website - there are a LOT, it's a pain in the ass, but an attorney isn't going to make things easier - the easy part is pencilling in the forms, the hard part is gathering all the info and sending off for documents and getting photos fingerprints and so on - and the attorney isn't going to help you with all that. If you are of average or better intelligence and read English natively I don't think an attorney will be necessary unless you are trying to apply for asylum or the like. Immigration is a bureaucratic process until they refuse you and you try to fight it, and only then does it become a legal process.
posted by jellicle at 3:10 PM on February 22, 2006

What does your sister do?

Re lawyers: Myself and th'other half had a fairly straighforward skilled worker application but we hired a lawyer because we were applying as a common law couple and because we were worried that our differing nationalities would cause some trouble. Well worth the money. She was thorough, supportive, friendly and still available to us for any and all questions. Email me if you'd like her name.
posted by jamesonandwater at 3:52 PM on February 22, 2006

The value of an attorney is that they can lay out all the options for you. You can fill in your own paperwork.
posted by unSane at 4:47 PM on February 22, 2006

If one of you has a job offer, things won't be too tough.

Go Canadian. It's not a perfect county, but I swear you'll never look back.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:32 PM on February 22, 2006

Yes, Canada is a fantastic place to live.
posted by unSane at 8:48 PM on February 22, 2006

Since nobody else mentioned this: If you want to stay in B.C., French won't be an immigration issue. It's only if you wanted to move to Quebec, which has its own separate immigration requirements, that French would matter.

There are pockets of French speakers across Canada and it's not inconceivable your husband might find himself foreman over a worker whose first language was French, but nobody would be expecting to work in French in British Columbia.
posted by zadcat at 10:15 PM on February 22, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the helpful answers so far. Kind of late for adding info, but since people asked: They would/will be coming from the US; my sister can turn her hand to anything but she's basically a designer and is starting up a specialized design firm.
posted by bricoleur at 11:25 PM on February 22, 2006

Not to hijack the thread, but I wonder if I could toss in an ancillary question to the folks who have mentioned getting a lawyer to help with Canada immigration: what kind of fees might someone be looking at, ballpark, to retain one to handle their immigration paperwork for them, assuming there were no bumps in the road? Within an order of magnitude would be good enough...
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:27 PM on February 22, 2006

Are lawyers really needed? I have family friends who have imigrated from India and Britain with no trouble. The only issue is the ammount of time it took for the process to complete. What is your job? Is it specialized in anyway? That might help also. I think if you have a firm job offer that also helps.

Also, Canada is awesome.
posted by chunking express at 7:29 AM on February 23, 2006

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