Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Becoming an Immigrant

A lot of people have been asking me about how I applied for permanent residency in Canada. I know a lot of people who have gone through a lot of stress to get theirs and they wonder why it was so easy for me to get mine. I have gotten so many personal messages from people asking me about it so I thought it might be good to blog about it.

For the benefit of my friends who aren’t familiar with the Filipino diaspora, I’d like to give a little bit of a background. Since the ‘70s, Filipinos have been immigrating to the United States and other Western countries in search of a “better” life. I put the word in quotes because leaving their country does not necessarily mean they would live a better life. It just means they would earn more money than they would have, had they stayed where they were. It also means they would have the means to support their families back home because even the minimum wage salaries in Western countries would become a great deal of money when converted to the Philippine Peso. The immigrants themselves usually suffer because they’d spend years away from their families in jobs that the people in that country just didn’t want.

Most Filipinos who immigrate go through the circuitous route to residency. They come in as workers and then wait to qualify for residency which would eventually lead to citizenship. The whole process usually takes years and sometimes decades. The waiting is so stressful and it could cost so much money in lawyer's fees. I'm not a very patient person and I don't like uncertainty. When I set my heart out to immigrate to Canada, I decided early on that I didn’t want to go the long route. I have already applied to be an immigrant previously but I withdrew that because LIFE happened. This time, I hired a CIC-recognized immigration consultant in Makati to help me with my application. Their services cost a lot of money but they are totally worth it. They helped me with every step of the application process. All I had to do was pay them, submit everything that they asked for and they did the rest. Everything cost about US $6,000 but I got my Confirmation of Permanent Residence in 10 months. I highly recommend them.

Now, the process. First of all, people who want to immigrate to Canada as Federal Skilled Workers have to pass qualifying factors. Each factor gives an applicant a certain number of points. An applicant in Canada has to have at least 67 points out of 100 on the six factors:
  •           English or French Language Skills (28 points maximum)
  •           Education (25 points maximum)
  •           Experience (15 points maximum)
  •           Age (12 points maximum)
  •           Arranged employment in Canada (10 points maximum)
  •           Adaptability – extra points for having family in Canada or families with children immigrating at the same time (10 points maximum)

I had so many things working against me. I was disadvantaged in the last 3 factors. First of all, I was already in my late 30s so I only got 9 points for age. I did not have arranged employment in Canada so I got zero on that one. I also did not have any first degree relatives in Canada, nor was I immigrating with a husband and children. I have aunts, uncles and cousins galore here but they’re not considered first degree relatives so I also got zilch on that category. That meant I had to make up for the lost points in the first 3 categories.

To prove my language skills, I had to take the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test. IELTS is the preferred English language test by Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. I got 9, the highest possible score on the test so I got the maximum points for that category.

To prove that I had adequate education, I had my credentials assessed by World Education Service (WES) in Toronto. I paid to have them contact my school to get my credentials, verify my transcript, course by course, and provide a certificate to the CIC that my education would qualify as a Bachelor’s Degree. I am very fortunate that they have certified my degree from the University of the Philippines as a Bachelor’s Degree so I also got the maximum points for that.

For my work experience, I had to prove that I would be useful to Canadian society by submitting proof that I was employed in a field that is in the list of the National Occupation Classification (NOC). Each year, Citizenship and Immigration Canada releases a list of the NOCs that they will accept applications for in that year. In my case, I submitted my application for NOC 0112 – Human Resources Manager because of my extensive experience in Human Resources and Learning & Development. I had to give them a 5-page curriculum vitae, certificates of employment from previous employers and supporting letters from my previous managers. I am just so fortunate that I have worked for reputable internationally recognized companies so a big thanks to American Express, HSBC and Accenture.

After compiling all of the documents I needed, I got 74 points. Here’s my final tally:
  •           Language Skills - 28 points
  •           Education - 22 points
  •           Experience - 15 points
  •           Age – 9 points
  •           Arranged employment in Canada – no point
  •           Adaptability – no point

The last thing that I had to prepare for the application was my proof of funds. The amount required for proof of funds vary according to the number of people immigrating at the same time. A single immigrant has to have at least CAD 12,164 but a family of four needs CAD 22,603. I submitted my bank certificate along with my other documents.

My immigration consultant filed my documents and after only 7 months, I got my notice for medical examination. This is a very important date because the immigrant visa will only be valid for one year after this letter is received. I got my visa stamping notice a month later and I arrived in Canada as an immigrant the next month, so I’m here.

This blog is just based on my personal experience. I'm not saying this is the only way to do it or this is the best way to do it. I chose to pay a consultant because I was employed full-time at the time of application and I just didn’t have the time to do everything on my own. If I had the time, I probably would have been able to save a lot of money by doing some research and applying on my own, but I would not have had the expertise to know what specific things they would be looking for in my application. For instance, the checklist says to include a resume but it doesn’t say what needs to be on the resume. My consultant knew that and was able to advise me to include what they are looking for, with supporting documents of course. Every point counts so knowing little things like that helps your application. I’m not saying that hiring a consultant will guarantee an approved application. It just increases the chances of getting approved.

There you have it, my immigration experience. I hope it helps anyone who is planning to immigrate to Canada. Let me know if you have any questions and I'll try my best to answer them.