Yank needs advice on settling in Montreal
June 24, 2006 8:43 PM   Subscribe

How to settle in Montreal?

I have decided to move to Montreal this summer. It has been my dream to live there since I first visited four years ago. However, after months of job hunting I am still without a job offer and working permit and am concerned about my chances of finding long-term employment once I arrive there.

I will be in Montreal next week interviewing with an agency that specializes in Internet marketing, the field I currently work in. If they hire me and HRSDC confirms the job offer I am home free. If not, I will still move and instead work odd jobs (i.e., off-the-books) to pay the rent until I find long-term employment.

I need advice on the following:

1. What kind of temporary employment can a foreign national without a work permit easily find in Montreal (or in any big city)?
2. Will wages from temporary, service-level work, be enough to cover basic living expenses like food and rent in Montreal?
3. How might working off-the-books affect my future chances at permanent residency?
4. Should I start by subletting an (studio) apartment from someone? Also, can I expect to find reasonably priced apartments that are not far from the city centre?
5. Other than personal identification, do I need to show Canadian border officials specific documents when entering Canada for an extended visit?
6. Assuming I do not have a work permit by the time I cross the border, will border officials be suspicious if my car is carrying more 'gear' than average for a visiting American? (I would like to bring basic supplies for the apartment but can otherwise buy what I need in Montreal.)

Further background: I am 24 and live in Chicago, I have a Bachelor's degree in Marketing, five years of professional work experience in Internet marketing and marketing research, and limited (but slowly improving) French language skills.

(Also, if any Montreal MeFites are interested in grabbing a drink or checking out the Jazz Festival with me next week send me an email.)
posted by concourse to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Just so you know, you're asking how to break Canadian immigration law. If the question is even kosher, allow me to answer a few of those.

1. Legally? None.
3. If they find out? Badly. Really badly.
5. Are you an American citizen? Then not really, no. You will need to have reasonable proof that you are a visitor, don't plan to work, and plan to leave before your 6 month valid stay is up. This is up to the border officer.
6. Probably, yes.
posted by generichuman at 9:09 PM on June 24, 2006


Clarification on number 5 and 6. They might wave you through, or they might ask you some very uncomfortable questions. (Uncomfortable if you aren't being honest.)

The question is, do you feel lucky? Especially in regards to ramifications in number 3.
posted by generichuman at 9:11 PM on June 24, 2006


6. Absolutely

2 stories:

1. I used to work for a company that was based in Vermont but had a teeny tiny office in Canada, north of Montreal with no tech support. We're talking 500 people in the US, 8 in Canada.

Once or twice a year, as the IT person, I'd have to go up there to look at a server or something.

The border guards, if I had a bunch of computer junk in the back, would certainly stop me.

Eventually the company got in trouble for this as I was "working illegally in Canada" -- and we had to stop going up there.

2. I flew to Vermont to move there. My parents brought a trailer-load of stuff to me across the Canadian border in Michigan and again in Vermont a month or 2 later. They had their entire car and trailer searched and I had to fax proof of my new residence in Vermont and old residence in Michigan!
posted by k8t at 9:18 PM on June 24, 2006


Not a helpful reply, but I am also interested in moving to Canada. Although, I am interested in much further west, like British Columbia.
posted by jxpx777 at 9:19 PM on June 24, 2006


Well if you're looking for a place I have a room to sublet close to downtown (Westmount) that's available in August. I moved here a few years ago but it was from Ontario, so I can't say much about the immigration. You don't need french to get by here BTW. I think under-the-table jobs are as easy to find here as elsewhere.
posted by Napierzaza at 9:22 PM on June 24, 2006


If you are moving a household of stuff you will either have to pay import duties or have a carnet.

The carnet is like a visa for stuff, you will have to check the items back out in a specified time.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:32 PM on June 24, 2006


So you move to Montreal and start doing under the table odd jobs.

What the hell are you going to do about satisfying income requirements on your residency application? Show them a pile of cash you illegally earned in Canada? Make up a fake 1040?

Also, you'll need a backup place in the US where Immigration Canada can send semi-processed paperwork, and near where you can do any interviews that might be necessary. This could be inconvenient and expensive.

Fucking around with immigration people isn't generally a smart thing to do. Fucking around with the immigration people of a country you actually want to emigrate to, and not one you're a tourist in and that you don't care if you get banned from forever? Spectacularly unwise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


More on topic, I suppose:

3. How might working off-the-books affect my future chances at permanent residency?

If they catch you, it appears that under the Immigration and Refugee Act you will be banned from Canada for two years, and you can expect future immigration to be much more difficult, and if you "forget" to be forthright about the previous ban and they notice it, that's another two year ban.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:30 PM on June 24, 2006


Did you check out how hard it would be to apply for immigration? It sounds like you've applied for a temporary permit, correct me if I'm wrong. If you're interested in seeing if you would qualify, take this test. A little info about each section is outlined; scroll down for the self-assessment test. I just tried it and it only took a couple of minutes. (I was curious whether I would be allowed into my own country).

If you are serious about immigrating, don't try to sneak in. Since you are asking how to, I have to assume you're only interested in living here for a little while, experiencing a different culture, then going home.

You can probably find under-the-table work - but it will be unpleasant and low-paying, unless you set yourself up as a "consultant" in your field, insist on cash, and only advertise through friends as a word-of-mouth business.

Montreal is a great city, and while I have only visited and never lived there, I don't think you would have any problems only speaking English. The majority of francophones living there are bilingual, and are very gracious about switching into English in my experience.
posted by meringue at 11:22 PM on June 24, 2006


Do you absolutely HAVE to be in Canada by this summer? If not, why not be patient and do things the legitmate way? Barring Australia, Canada is probably the easiest country in the Western World to immigrate to. It has a transparent points-based system that is a model for immigration reform the world over. Unless you have a criminal record or have absolutely no marketable skills, chances are that you'd get in sooner than later.

If you still insist on going now and are going to work under the table, then go on a student visa and take a course at McGill or Concordia. That will be much easier to explain later down the road.
posted by randomstriker at 11:43 PM on June 24, 2006 [1 favorite]


i second the suggestion to try to get in on a student visa. once you're in canada on a student visa, you can apply for a work permit, which will make getting a job easier. once you have a job, it'll be easier for you to stay.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 1:39 AM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


seriously man, fuck what everyone else says. if you want to live in Montreal, you can make it happen. I did it for five years, spoke no French, did not die, feel a better person for it. You will never regret trying. Everyone who is dragging on about immigration laws, etc, hasn't broken any, hasn't done anything, is advising via the fucking internet not to try. if they had done something sweet, at any time, anywhere, trust me, they wouldnt be on the internet at 2am telling you not to do something. If you feel you must go to Montreal, hell yes go there. I miss Montreal like the high school girlfriend i wish I had married. If you want to make it work, somehow, it will all work out. Good luck, Godspeed.
posted by cascando at 1:56 AM on June 25, 2006 [2 favorites]


All your questions are answered on the website for Immigration Canada and in previous AskMeFi questions.

You can approach it legally, which is not hard but requires a bit of pre-planning. Or you can just approach it illegally, which is actually harder and will cost you more. Why are you approaching it illegally?

Legal approach: apply for permanent residency and (in the meantime) an open work permit. This is pretty much a slam-dunk unless you have multiple felonies on your record. If you had started the immigration process your years ago when you decided to move to Canada, you'd have been living in Montreal for three years now.

Illegal approach: drive up there, lie to the border guards, try to find cash jobs, since non-cash jobs won't be able to employ you. Risk being deported and banned long-term from a country where you want to live. Note that if you try to cross with border with enough stuff to live on, you're not even going to make it across the border, you'll be banned right there.
posted by jellicle at 6:29 AM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Landscaping and other similar jobs are easy to be had under the table around here. If you're willing to persue that type of work let me know and I'll mention it to someone.

Bachelor pads or larger can be had for $500-$700 in the NDG district, which is near Westmount and a five minute bike ride from downtown. Prices will be a bit more if you're looking in the Mile End or Plateau area, but then you're in the heart of things. A metro card is only $65 a month (good for bus and metro all over the island) and if you are at the extreme east metro (Honoré Beaugrand) it takes about 25 min to hit downtown.
posted by furtive at 7:36 AM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


As someone who's going about this process the "legal" way, let me tell you, it's not nearly as easy as the Angry Canadian Immigration Brigade would like to believe. Not only that, but it's expensive.

If you're willing to sacrifice comfort (live in a hovel), convenience (job market, or lack thereof), and safety (always wondering when the jackbooted Immigration Police will pick you up--that's sarcasm, by the way), I'd say go for it. Don't bring too much. Once your in for a while, don't try going back and forth between countries. The border police might notice a large discrepancy between the last time you entered the country and the time you're leaving. Then just find a nice Canadian girl/guy and marry him/her.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:52 AM on June 25, 2006


Do you absolutely HAVE to be in Canada by this summer? If not, why not be patient and do things the legitmate way? Barring Australia, Canada is probably the easiest country in the Western World to immigrate to. It has a transparent points-based system

I think this is worth repeating. It took approx a year for me and my other half to qualify thru Buffalo consulate, you can probably look up the current timelines. If you can get sponsorship all the better.

If you didn't want to actually live there long term, I'd say go for it, pick up some bar & construction jobs, have fun for the summer. But a lot of my Irish buddies in NY did that figuring they'd leave after making a few bucks and they're now dealing with immense headaches given that they've put down roots & want to stay. I sympathize, I know it sucks to feel you're waiting for a new life to begin, but my advice would be to just just be patient and keep chipping away at the legal route.
posted by jamesonandwater at 9:35 AM on June 25, 2006


2. It is very easy to scrape by in Montreal, however, it is very difficult to get a good job if you don't have any contacts or aren't billingual. Good jobs will pay you about 75% of what you would make elsewhere in Canada.

Also, it is not always summer time in Montreal. Just keep that in mind.
posted by dobie at 9:40 AM on June 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Assuming I do not have a work permit by the time I cross the border, will border officials be suspicious if my car is carrying more 'gear' than average for a visiting American?

YES! Don't do this, if at all possible. You can perhaps ship stuff to yourself later (have someone ship it once you're settled). They really do check. I came into Canada on a study permit, and I distinctly remember them asking me what I brought and having to explain why I had so much luggage. I can't imagine how I could have done this if I hadn't had proof that I was staying long.
In the past (late 2000) I've also been in Quebec for 4 months, as part of an internship. For less than 6 months you don't need a work or study permit to come to Canada, but I still had a lot of junk with me, and that time I needed to show an invitation from my boss in Quebec at the border.
They really check and compare your amount of luggage with how long you're staying.
posted by easternblot at 10:30 AM on June 25, 2006


1. What kind of temporary employment can a foreign national without a work permit easily find in Montreal (or in any big city)?

Lots, potentially, but bad french will severly limit your options.

2. Will wages from temporary, service-level work, be enough to cover basic living expenses like food and rent in Montreal?

Although it has gotten pricier, Montreal remains one of the cheapest major north american cities to live in. Rent and food are especially cheap. Of course, with the US dollar so weak these days, its not quite the steal it was five years ago if you're walking in with greenbacks.

3. How might working off-the-books affect my future chances at permanent residency?

Very badly, if you are caught.

4. Should I start by subletting an (studio) apartment from someone? Also, can I expect to find reasonably priced apartments that are not far from the city centre?

Yes. Start by subletting, since more than 3/4 of the leases in Montreal roll over on July 1. This means that April is the month to look for an apartment. Subletting for just the summer is ridiculously easy, since many students will sublet their space while they are away.

Rent is extremely cheap in Montreal (though not compared to when I lived there as a student, where I never shelled out more than 275$ a month rent). You'll hate yourself if you live in NDG, Westmount or points further west -- these are far from the life of the city. Plateau, Mile-End, points north and east are great, but have gotten much more expensive. St. Catherine's east and vicinity has a lot of potential ... starts to get a bit sketchier towards Hochelaga-Maissoneuve (this is by Canadian standards ... there is no comparison with a city like Chicago). I have a sweet spot in my heart for little Italy and around the Jean Talon market.




5. Other than personal identification, do I need to show Canadian border officials specific documents when entering Canada for an extended visit?

I believe you can get a visitor visa/permit that's good for 6 months. You might ask Canadian immigration.

6. Assuming I do not have a work permit by the time I cross the border, will border officials be suspicious if my car is carrying more 'gear' than average for a visiting American? (I would like to bring basic supplies for the apartment but can otherwise buy what I need in Montreal.)


Well, if you're upfront about staying there for 6 months, then they might ask you how you intend to support yourself, or what you intend to do for those 6 months. The idea of taking courses is an excellent one. McGill offers excellent language instruction and other "extension" education. If you aren't completely fluent in French, this is a natural.
posted by bumpkin at 10:56 AM on June 25, 2006


What the hell are you going to do about satisfying income requirements on your residency application? Show them a pile of cash you illegally earned in Canada? Make up a fake 1040?

The under-the-table route is temporary until I get a permanent job offer. The cash from this work is only to support myself while I find permanent employment. That said, I do have a sufficient nest egg saved up.

It sounds like you've applied for a temporary permit, correct me if I'm wrong.

I have not. Ideally I need an employer to sponsor me for a work visa.

If you are serious about immigrating, don't try to sneak in. Since you are asking how to, I have to assume you're only interested in living here for a little while [...]

No, I would like to live in Canada indefinitely.

Do you absolutely HAVE to be in Canada by this summer?

No, but the sooner the better -- I have been living under my parent's roof for two years too long, since finishing university. Anyway, my heart is in Montreal not Chicago.

You can approach it legally, which is not hard but requires a bit of pre-planning. Or you can just approach it illegally, which is actually harder and will cost you more. Why are you approaching it illegally?

I ultimately want to do this the right way by getting a permanent job offer. As I have stated above the under-the-table work is a means to an end, i.e., paying living expenses while I network, interview for a permanent job. It is a stepping stone.
posted by concourse at 12:16 PM on June 25, 2006


As I have stated above the under-the-table work is a means to an end

Yes, but it has a significant risk of preventing you from ever reaching that end, should you get yourself banned from Canada.
posted by oaf at 12:19 PM on June 25, 2006


Well, if you would like Montreal to be your home, I would definitely suggest keeping your activities legal. I know it's frustrating, as I am trying to figure out the best way to move to Australia, and there doesn't seem to be one best route.

You may have a chance even without a job offer; I plugged in what information you gave in your post, and got a score of 67, which is also the cut-off score. So you might just be able to get in. Otherwise, if you have no job offer and your points are too low, I would second the student visa idea, if you can afford it. A second bachelor's is often only two years - perhaps you can take French as a major? You would accumulate extra points that way, and probably make a lot of contacts, making getting a job offer when you're done much easier. Plus you would be already be living in Montreal!

Anyway, best of luck with your interview; hopefully you won't end up needing any of this advice.
posted by meringue at 2:11 PM on June 25, 2006


You can easily find a bachelor pad for ~300$ in areas near downtown, especially in the area around the Berri-UQAM metro/bus station (I believe the area is called the Latin Quarter) as well as many other 'hoods both close and farther from downtown. I've never heard of anyone I know in the student/low income bracket having trouble finding a place to stay.

I believe I heard Montreal is the telemarketing capital of North America (or the world?) and I do not doubt it. I have a friend who has married into Canadian citizenship, but won't be able to work for some months yet. He is from Belgium, speaks no french whatsoever, and is working a telemarketing job until then. He and his wife are living fine on that money combined with her low paying job. It is a good way to live until you can get a legit job.

You might shy away from telemarketing, but given your background, perhaps not. Regardless, if you have marketing training, working at a place that pays on commision will probably bring in a lot of money for you. And many of these places will pay under the table and you won't need any French. Just be SURE you check the place out first and try to get a handle on how honest the operation is (maybe impossible for a telemarketing place), I've had a few friends get stiffed for pay at some of the seedier operations in town.
posted by The Wig at 4:09 PM on June 25, 2006


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