Advice on applying for Canadian citizenship in BC?
May 20, 2008 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Asking on behalf of an American friend, who's been working in Canada (BC) for the last 3+ years: does anybody have advice on how best to get started on applying for citizenship?

My friend has been working as an artist (on a work visa) in Vancouver for over 3 years now, but because the studio she's at will soon be closing she'll be in need of a new job. She'd like to stay where she is, and so would like to apply for citizenship (or permanent residency, or at least another work permit - something that will keep her there long-term). The Citizenship and Immigration Canada website is obviously the go-to source for this, but getting started has been a little overwhelming so it'd be great to hear from someone with experience who could offer advice on questions like:

- The takeaway message we gleaned from this thread is that she needs to get an immigration lawyer; does anybody have a recommendation for a good one in Vancouver?
- Can anybody give a ballpark figure on how much an immigration lawyer typically costs to help someone with a citizenship application?
- How long does the process generally take, and can she remain in the country while it's going on?
- She's heard that the process should be relatively simple for someone who's already been working/living there for 3 years, but is that the case? Are there things she could do to help make sure it is the case?

I know there's no way to get concrete answers on any of this given the immense number of variables involved, but if anybody can offer anything general it would be highly appreciated - getting started is hard when you don't quite know what your best first step would be. If there's any additional information that would be of help please let me know; finally, if for any reason you'd like to remain anonymous please email Thanks!
posted by zeph to Law & Government (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
She cannot apply for citizenship. She must become a permanent resident first.
posted by oaf at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2008

To elaborate: unless she's immediate family of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, she'll need to apply to become a skilled-worker immigrant. She will need to make sure that she scores enough points on the questionnaire. From what I've read, skilled-worker applications for permanent residence take about two years to process. You cannot decrease this processing time by hiring a lawyer. I believe she will need to leave Canada while it's being processed.
posted by oaf at 11:24 AM on May 20, 2008

Seconding oaf: one becomes a Peramnent Resident (PR) first. after spending 4 out of 5 years residing in Canada, one can apply for citizenship (days in canada prior to having PR count as half days, so if one's lived in canada continually for 2 years prior to becomming a PR one can apply 3 years after).

To apply for PR, consider getting married, and cohabitate with the spouse, and do some partying and joint bills/accounts to make it legit. Going the marriage route, it was about 9 months from submitting paperwork to getting my work permit, and another 3 months until getting my PR card. Granted, mine was an actual marriage, so it made things easier. I resided in Canada several years illegally (her divorce was tied up by her spouse, so we couldn't get married), but was granted amnesty with the application for PR, and was allowed to continue to reside in Canada while the application was considered. However, if one left Canada, one would not have been guaranteed re-entry. If you don't have proof of current address in a non-Canada country, or a decent sum of non-Canadian money, or bank accounts in non-Canada, they can and will (sigh, personal experience), deny you at the border for suspicion of plans to live illegally in Canada. Re-entering via bus attracts less attention, but one may in theory get bad consequences re-attempting. My one simple denial did not detract from my application too much.

I went with a lawyer to submit the paperwork and everything I think for $1500-2500 not counting expenses. We had to do all of the work (literally, they sent us the standard forms, and we had to fill in our birthday, etc several times. I think optimally, they would make a custom form that had all of the information once that they'd use to complete the forms themselves), and they merely double checked for consistency, submitted to the gov, and gave a bit of warm fuzzies. If I could redo it, I'd probably push for the non-lawyer route, but as it's fairly important, I think that Ms. nobeagle would have pushed back hard against me. All of the forms and info can be found at:

As a note, family sponsorship doesn't have to be a spouse: if she has a cousin or other relative who is a Canadian PR or citizen, they can sponsor her too. But whether cousin or spouse, the sponsor will have to pledge that if the new immigrant loses a job, or has trouble acclimating, that they will financially support her for about 5 or 10 years (I can't remember) after gaining PR status, and she's not eligible for Employment Insurnace (but she'll still need to pay into E.I.).

If you don't go with a family sponsorship, you need 10K CAD in a savings account, and pretty much have to be skilled worker in demand in Canada. I don't think artist will work, barring her finding a new job where they're willing to sponsor her. Being able to speak/read/write both french and English fluently is 15 points; either one of the languages alone is only 10 points.

As I was looking at the skilled worker route (being a skilled worker), it seemed like much less of a sure thing, more work, and if my memory serves, one does have to apply from outside Canada, and remain outside of Canada (barring visitor's Visa) for the remainder, and get one's PR card on entering Canada. One needs medical tests performed for the PR tests; being in Canada, it cost me $100 to get the blood workup, physical, urinalysis, and chest x-ray done. I don't think one'll get that price at a US hospital.

I didn't remember anything about having lived/worked 3 years increasing PR likelihood. If one were legally living/working in Canada, I could certainly understand how it would help in the "suitability" category of the skilled worker points tests (it's 0-10 points which is semi-arbitrarily decided upon by the immigration worker).
posted by nobeagle at 12:50 PM on May 20, 2008

after spending 4 out of 5 years residing in Canada, one can apply for citizenship (days in canada prior to having PR count as half days, so if one's lived in canada continually for 2 years prior to becomming a PR one can apply 3 years after).

You only need three out of four years, and it doesn't have to be contiguous.

I advise you against a fake marriage for the purpose of defrauding Canadian authorities.
posted by oaf at 1:29 PM on May 20, 2008

3 out of 4 years, holy cow - how did I misremember that. Thanks a lot oaf; someone should be becoming a citizen this year instead of next!
posted by nobeagle at 2:10 PM on May 20, 2008

Best answer: Your friend does not need an immigration lawyer. An immigration lawyer might make the process simpler, but it's not necessary by any means. I'm an American who moved to Vancouver for graduate school. I decided to stay after graduation last August and applied for permanent residency. Just last week I received my final confirmation letter from Customs & Immigration Canada. My US passport is currently on its way to the Canadian Consulate General in Seattle for my permanent resident visa. I filled out all the paperwork myself, and while it was a bit annoying, if your friend is diligent and conscientious, it's quite manageable.

I immigrated via BC's Provincial Nominee Program. If your friend meets the requirements (unfortunately, one of these is having a job offer first), she should definitely take advantage. It makes the process much faster; total time for my application will be about 10 months end-to-end, and that's with a two-month delay having to wait for police certificates from the RCMP. Additionally, she doesn't have to worry about the points system. Only certain types of job are eligible though, so what type of artist she is and in what sector may be disqualifying. Does she have a university degree?

She does not need to leave Canada while applying for permanent residency. With a job offer, she can get a NAFTA work visa (I forget it's designation, maybe TN-1?) that's good for a year. She can work in Canada on this visa while she's applying for permanent residency.

First thing your friend needs to do is find another job and get a work visa. Once that's done, she can investigate whether or not she meets the requirements for the BC PNP. During that time, she can determine whether she'll be able to fill out the paperwork on her own or if she'll need an immigration lawyer to check it over. This is where the lawyer is most useful- CIC is typically bureaucratic, so if even one field on a form is filled out wrong, they send it back and you have to resubmit.

The application cost me about me 1700-1800 CAD. BC PNP fee was around $500, CIC fee was around $1000 and there was a couple hundred in miscellaneous fees for mailing the forms with tracking/insurance, birth certificates, police checks, medical screening, etc. Honestly, the process wasn't that painful. It's just a lot of paperwork and even more waiting.

Feel free to hit up my MeFiMail if you/your friend want more details. Good luck to your friend!

On preview: I advise you against a fake marriage for the purpose of defrauding Canadian authorities.

Absolutely, positively do not enter into a sham marriage for immigration purposes. One of the few circumstances where Canadian citizenship can be revoked is if one is found to have defrauded CIC during any stage of the immigration process. If they find out, even years after being granted PR or citizenship, they'll almost certainly revoke any status, deport the offender and refuse them entry into Canada ever again.
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:19 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Make that Citizenship & Immigration Canada. Heh, the entire time I've been up here, I thought CIC stood for Customs & Immigration Canada, even though all my correspondence with them. Guess you learn something new every day ...
posted by Nelsormensch at 2:22 PM on May 20, 2008

Best answer: Another American who moved to Canada. (And everyone kept saying we were bluffing...)

I came on a student visa and went to film school. I'd applied for permanent residency right off the bat, though, and spent most of that process actually living in Canada. You don't HAVE to leave the country for that, but my experience is that applying for permanent residency while already resident in Canada confuses people and they seem to pull your application at every stage and double check things.

At least that's my guess as to what happened. It took us just shy of two years from submitting the forms to PR Card. We met some other Americans who did the process from the states and blew through it in like eight months. We were sent to get our medical tests in December of 2004, and that's usually a sign that you're just about done. But we didn't get our cards until March of 2006. They even had to grant us a waiver because the medical tests we'd taken had technically expired by then. They're only good for a year.

As for a lawyer, you can indeed get by without one, but we considered ours money well spent. We found one online. They were in Winnipeg, and we were moving to Vancouver. We never met them in person. We spent about $1000, but I'm pretty sure that without that we would have messed up something on the forms - it's a fairly involved process. And they could tell us immediately whereas CIC would have taken six months, then informed us of our minor mistake by bouncing us and making us resubmit everything.
posted by Naberius at 11:22 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much for all the helpful advice, everyone - it sounds like a new work visa will be my friend's best bet for staying in the country for the present while she concurrently begins the process of applying for something more long-term. Towards that end, looking through the CIC site (and based on my experiences with other countries ... plus just plain ol' common sense I suppose) I'm assuming that one must have a job offer in order to get a work visa or an extension on an existing work visa, but if you know of a (legal) way to get an extension on a work visa so one can -look- for a new position, please chime in.

Well at any rate, it sounds to me like consulting a lawyer really would be my friend's best first step, if only to ensure all the bases have been covered and the right option is being pursued. If anybody has anything else to suggest, or can recommend a lawyer they really liked, by all means please speak up. Thanks again, and best of luck to those of you still going through the process yourselves (argh, I'm so jealous of -all- of you ;)
posted by zeph at 8:18 AM on May 21, 2008

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