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The first year of Express Entry (2015) was generally seen as a success with 31,000 ITAs (invitations to apply) being issued (that’s out of a pool of just over 191,000 applications) and 80% of cases processed within the target six month time frame. However, I have to admit to being surprised when I saw the list of top occupations for successful applicants:

food service workers and cooks
information systems analysts, software engineers, computer programmers and interactive media developers
university professors and lecturers
retail sales supervisors
graphic designers and illustrators
financial auditors and accountants, and financial investment analysts

With the exception of IT, these don’t immediately strike me as areas where Canada is lacking in job applicants. Where are the engineers, trades people, or medical professionals? It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s a big difference to the make-up of this list in a year or two after the latest changes to Express Entry.

The new rules which took effect on November 19th, are aiming to “better attract some of the best minds in the world, including former international students, experienced professionals and talented workers who will strengthen Canada’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.” Let’s take a look at the changes and what they might mean for you.

Job offers

The biggest change is in the area of job offers. Previously, a job offer supported by an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) would gain you a hefty 600 CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System) points towards your application. This has now been drastically reduced and depends on what NOC category the job falls into. Anything classed as 00 qualifies for 200 points; 0/A/B just 50 points.

Previously, all applicants with a job offer had to provide an LMIA. Now if you’re already working in Canada on an LMIA-exempt work permit, you’ll qualify for job offer points without the LMIA, so long as you’ve been working for your employer for at least a year. And your job offer no longer has to be for a permanent post, just a minimum of a year’s contract.

Education gained in Canada

Anyone from outside of Canada who has gained a qualification here higher than high school level, from 1 and 2 diplomas up, will receive extra education points. A one or two year diploma gains you an extra 15 points. If you have a bachelor’s degree or higher, it’s 30 points.

More time!

You’ll now have longer to complete your application after receiving the invitation to apply – 90 days instead of 60. Remembering how long it took me to organise police checks from 2 countries and the very long wait for medical checks, more time is definitely a good thing!

Good or bad?

The new changes are great news for temporary workers in Canada, especially those in more contract-based professions such as the trades, and for Canada’s international students too. And it makes complete sense that Canada would want to retain them. They are already settled here, have built connections and have the language skills. During the first year of Express Entry, almost 80% of successful applicants were drawn from people already living in Canada, so this figure could well increase.

But what about the thousands of skilled workers trying to move here from outside Canada? Will it now be even more difficult to get in? Certainly the job offer is not going to help you as much. However, if you don’t have a job offer and have specialised skills that are in demand in Canada, you’ll now stand a better chance of acceptance. The prime focus now is on bringing in highly skilled individuals to fulfill specific demands. So if you have skills that Canada desperately needs, the lack of job offer is not a deal breaker.

For official details of the changes, go to

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/department/media/notices/2016-11-19.asp

We’ve been enjoying amazingly warm temperatures for the time of year, but sadly that’s coming to an end this weekend. So I figured it was time to update my winter prep post from 2013. As I pointed out back then, I don’t remember ever making any special preparations for winter when I lived in England. But here it’s a very different story! If this is your first winter in Canada, here are some of the things you might need to think about.

Snow removal
Get those shovels ready by the front door and if you own one, make sure your snow blower is working. Be prepared for icy windshields (windscreens) and have an ice scraper ready. You’ll also want a container of ice melter to make your paths less treacherous to walk on. You may prefer to hire someone to clear your snow. If so, start looking early as many people who offer this service are fully booked very quickly. I’ve been lucky enough to find someone local to take of our plowing the last few years. As we have a gravel yard, after the first major snowfall we drive back and forth over the snow to pack it down and make it easier for plowing. We didn’t do this the first time we used our snow blower and we had gravel flying everywhere! If you live in a rented apartment, snow clearing should be taken care of for you. And if you get little or no snow where you live, feel free to  ignore this section!

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Digging out: my first Canadian winter

Keep warm inside…
Have your heating system inspected and serviced. Heating contractors get very busy at this time of year. Our propane contractor told us he’s just done 60 installations in one month! This is probably people switching over from oil heat, as we did in September. We live in a rural area without natural gas.

and outside…
Dig out the winter coats, boots, scarves, gloves, thermals… If you don’t own any (or can’t find them!), prepare for a shopping trip. It’ll soon be time to bundle up.

Getting around…
Winter vehicle maintenance is extremely important. Have your winter vehicle fitted with proper winter tires. I was late calling to make an appointment for a tire change this year so I’ll be negotiating a week or so of winter weather with my summer tires. Check tire pressure, oil levels and make sure your windshield washer fluid is winter grade. You’ll get through a lot of this very quickly. Also consider fitting your vehicle out with an emergency kit: food supplies, blankets, flashlights (torches), emergency flares, plus a shovel and tow rope in case you ever need to dig yourself out. If your area has really cold temperatures and you have to park your car outside, check to see if your vehicle is fitted with a block heater. You can plug this into an electrical outlet overnight to help protect the engine and make your vehicle easier to start. My car is housed in a heavy duty canvas garage, but I still plug in. And if I’m going to be at home for a while and not driving anywhere, which usually happens over the Christmas vacation, I run the car engine every other day to try and avoid flat batteries.

Winter driving

Don’t try and drive anywhere when it’s like this! (Insane British tourists near Algonquin Park, winter 2004)


…or staying parked

If you have vehicles you don’t plan to drive this winter, call your insurance company to remove the collision portion of the insurance. Then it’s time to “winterize” them. This also applies for garden equipment such as lawn mowers. If you still have gas (petrol) in the tank, add some fuel stabilizer such as Stabil, which you can buy at Canadian Tire and other auto stores. Remove vehicle batteries or keep them on a trickle charge. There’s nothing worse than trying to start up your pride and joy in the spring only to discover the battery is flat.

Outdoor clean-up
Clear any supplies from outside that might not survive the cold temperatures– car cleaning products, deck stain, paint etc. I’m no gardener, but I notice that lots of people protect their trees and shrubs with burlap or special tree wrap. I’ve also seen temporary “screens” used to shield trees that are close to the road.

And once all this is done, put your feet up, grab a Bailey’s and give yourself a well-earned break. Now you can start planning for the spring!

Here in Northern Ontario, we’ve had record temperatures for November! In past years there would usually have been snow on the ground by now and we’d be settling into the long winter. But last weekend I was on the road with my husband in our Corvette, for our final trip of the year.

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We took one of our favourite scenic routes via Field, stopping off for a quick peek inside Marten River Provincial Park. Sadly it’s all closed up for the season now, so we parked by the gate and had a quick stroll down to the water.

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Then it was on to one of our regular eating spots – Average Joe’s, overlooking Trout Lake in North Bay. It was beautiful looking out onto the water with the sun streaming in. I had delicious flatbread with roasted veggies (with enough to take home for Monday’s lunch!) followed up by a “Peppermint Patty”–peppermint schnapps with hot chocolate. Mmm!

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The next day we managed to fit in a final car wash before putting the vette away for the winter. So this year for once I’m actually fairly organised and have most of my winter prep jobs done before the snow and freezing temperatures arrive! There’s nothing worse than fumbling with numb fingers to finish outdoor jobs in below zero. Sadly I’m less organised with Christmas gifts as I’ve missed the surface mail deadline for Europe by a long way.

Now Hallowe’en is over and the clocks have gone back, we’re full swing into the Christmas season. Sudbury has its annual Santa Claus parade coming up–always held in November to avoid the worst of the weather. Plus there’s the Festival of Lights at Science North. I hope to get to at least one of these events this year. We also have many local craft fairs, ideal for gift hunting.

As an immigrant, it can definitely take a while to adjust to the shifting seasons and the change in routine this brings. But I’ve found that learning about and participating in those seasonal rituals and traditions is part of what makes you start to feel really at home here. More than ever, I feel very lucky to be living in Canada. If you’re reading this and interested in moving here, but have no idea where to start, please get in touch. I’m happy to try and help point you in the right direction.

If you’ve been thinking about applying to move to Canada, now could be a good time to start that paperwork. The Canadian government recently announced its immigration targets  for 2017. The overall figure is the same as 2016, but over half of new immigrants (172,500) will be brought in through economic immigration. This is a 7% increase on 2016 levels. We continually hear about Canada’s declining labour force and aging population and in fact it won’t be long before immigration accounts for all the net labour force growth in Canada.

It’s interesting to look at the breakdown of numbers for the different economic programs. Out in front, not too surprisingly, is the federal economic program with 73,700 projected immigrants in 2017. That’s still how the majority of economic immigrants–myself included–make it to Canada. But coming a fairly close second is the Provincial Nominee Program with 51,000, reflecting the attractiveness of this route both to applicants and Canada’s provinces.

The Quebec skilled worker and business programs are projected to account for almost 17% of the total (29,300), making that province a good bet if you have the language skills. A surprisingly large number of immigrants are likely to come here through the Federal Caregiver program–it’s that aging population again. Lastly, the Federal Business program should account for 500 applicants.

The overall figure for immigration targets is expected to grow to as much as 450,000 for 2021, so it’s likely that opportunities for economic immigrants are only going to increase. Definitely a good news story! For full details of the 2017 immigration plan, go to http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=1145379

 

I love this time of year when the days are long and hot here in Northern Ontario and the pace of life has slowed up for the summer. This weekend I’m hoping for some road trips with my husband in our Corvette–something we’ve not been able to do in a long time. So that will make this Canada Day holiday extra special.

This last week has made me reflect how lucky we are to have moved here. Canada may not be perfect, but compared to the turmoil in some other countries right now, I think we have it pretty good. You can read about my top ten best things about living here and my best moments so far.

Lake of the Woods trail - the newest trail at Killarney Park

In my post about Canadian immigration changes for 2016, I mentioned the spike in “Move to Canada’ searches from people in the US. With Trump now the official Republican candidate, US interest in moving north will surely only increase.

And now we have the Brexit effect. Apparently Google statistics showed at one point that moving to Canada was a hotter topic in the UK than even David Beckham. I thought the vote would be close, but really wasn’t expecting that result. It makes me sad, especially as the West Midlands, where I’m originally from, had the highest percentage vote for “leave”. I didn’t vote. Perhaps I could have done as I still hold a UK passport, but didn’t feel I had the right to now I no longer live there.

Canadian and UK passports

Brits or Americans considering moving here will be in good company.  The UK and the US are in the top ten source countries for Canadian immigrants and the US is also one of the top ten sources of international students in Canada. Sharing a common language and similar culture definitely helps ease the transition during those first weeks and months.

Immigrants mostly settle in large cities within Ontario, B.C., Quebec, and Alberta and almost two thirds opt for the big three: Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Calgary and Ottawa are the next most popular choices. But don’t feel that these are the only options. Canada’s smaller provinces and smaller towns can also provide a fantastic quality of life (I can testify to that!) and are keen to grow their immigrant populations.

So will we see a big influx of Canadian immigrants from the UK and US in the next few years? I think it will depend in large part on how political events unfold. For anyone thinking of making the move, best of luck in your research and Happy Canada Day!

It’s the May long weekend, the beginning of cottage/camping/boating season, and for once the weather has cooperated! Everything is greening up here and there’s plenty of wildlife out and about in my garden: a grouse, fox, and rabbits (and blackflies… ). Not to mention the squirrel that’s found a way into the house more than once. We’re still trying to work out where it’s getting in.

And this week, for the first time since we moved here 11 years ago, we had a visit from a black bear. We’ve seen them before at a safe distance away, but never so close to the house. I instantly had visions of bear claws ripping through screens and destroying my screen room. But no–this bear just ambled around to the front of the house and settled down under the washing line to chew some grass. We watched him for a little while (safely from inside), then my husband figured he’d better yell at the bear to move it on–and it obligingly did so. No return visits–so far…

Our house is in the country and surrounded by crown land. So it’s not that much of a surprise that a bear would find its way into our yard. But with so much new construction taking place on what was previously green space, bear sightings can also be a concern if you live in more built-up areas in town. So it’s good to be aware of some of the “bear wise” basics:

Always clean up your barbecue thoroughly

Keep your garbage stored securely, and only take it to the curb the morning of collection, not the night before.

Don’t leave bird food–or pet food–outside during bear season.

For more information, including what to do if you encounter a bear, read the updated advice on the Ontario government web site. Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources & Forestry no longer traps and relocates bears. So residents here are now instructed to call the police if a bear is displaying threatening behavior. Guidelines vary across the different provinces, but most have similar “Bear Wise” programs, such as Alberta BearSmart.

I’m happy that my screen room stayed intact as I plan on spending plenty of time in there during this beautiful sunny long weekend, as well as visiting Windy Lake Provincial Park. Hopefully I won’t encounter any bears!

Spring may have officially arrived on March 20, but it’s not felt too spring-like here until this week. Now the last stubborn patches of snow have vanished, most of the ice has melted on the lakes, and it looks like warmer temperatures are finally here! So it’s time to start working though the springtime checklist. Always more fun than prepping for winter, here’s a quick run-down of some of the things to consider.

Hopefully you put winter tires on your vehicle. Once the daytime temperature is consistently seven degrees or more, it’s time to switch them out  for summer tires. This is also a good opportunity to book a service and oil change on your vehicle. After negotiating all the new pot holes that appear each spring in Sudbury, our car always needs a bit of TLC. Not sure if your tires are still roadworthy? Canadian Tire has a helpful guide.

It’s time to bring out the lawnmower and put away the snow blower. Follow any recommended maintenance tasks, and if your mower has a battery it’ll need a charge after being stored all winter.

If you have vehicles you use just during summer, you’ll need to add collision coverage back on your insurance policy and check that the batteries are in working order. The May long weekend is traditionally the time to get your “summer toys” back on the road. But we were always impatient to get out in our Corvette or camper van as early as possible! Here we were camping at Killarney Park in March 2010.

Camping at Killarney Park in March 2010

Snow plows can leave your yard looking the worse for wear. Now is the time to remove all the sand off your lawn, or hire someone else to do it if you can. If you have a gravel driveway or yard like I do, the worst spring task is clearing all that gravel that’s  been thrown up onto the grass . Well, maybe not the worst…. I’m a former dog owner after all :-)

You may want to start planning your garden. It’s a little early here for planting, although the temporary garden centres at the grocery stores are almost ready to open up for business. If this is your first year in Canada, it’s a good time to take stock of your new yard and landscape. I’m not much of a gardener, but I like to have a few hanging baskets and pots around the place. If you’re a newbie Canadian gardener, Canadian Gardening is a helpful resource.

Be prepared for the bugs. I’ve already heard our annual frog chorus late at night, so I know the bugs won’t be too long in arriving. Check your supplies of repellent and anti-bite. Deet repellents are the only ones I’ve found to be effective around here, although there’s a wide range of alternatives to try.

Bug free!

If you’re thinking of putting up a gazebo or temporary screen room, now is a good time to work on that. We had a permanent screen room built last year, and I have to say I’m so happy we made that decision. Once the warm temperatures hit, dust down that patio furniture and barbecue (I still don’t have one!), set up your deck for the season, and treat yourself to a well-earned drink.

Cheers!

Unusually for Canada, we’ve been much in the international news over the last couple of weeks. Justin Trudeau with those pandas, then his visit to the US. Not to mention the huge spike in “Move to Canada” searches from Americans scared at the impending prospect of a Trump presidency. (I’m with you on that one!)

Here at home, there were plenty of splashy headlines about the Liberals’ new changes to immigration. More immigrants to be welcomed this year and a more open, more pro-immigration attitude. This is reflected in the ministry name change from “Citizenship and Immigration Canada” to “Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada.” But how does this impact on economic immigrants, on those of you stuck in the Express Entry pool. Will any of these changes have a positive effect for you?

For 2016, the government is planning to bring in up to around 300,000 new permanent residents. This would be a 7.4% increase on 2015 levels.  However, the emphasis is firmly on family reunification. So less than half of that number are expected to be economic immigrants. Targets are set at 58,400 for skilled worker categories (Federal skilled worked, Skilled trades, and Canadian Experience), plus 26,200 via the Quebec skilled worker stream. And 47,800 via provincial nominee programs.

A couple of measures that will be of interest. If you’ve applied through Express Entry and have a brother or sister already in Canada, you’ll now qualify for extra points. The new rules also help if you have older children as the maximum age for dependent children is now 22 instead of 19.

So it seems that now more than ever, Express Entry applicants will need plenty of patience and persistence, not to mention that all-important job offer. You can find full details of all the changes at the CIC site (which hasn’t caught up to their name change yet) as well as a breakdown of 2016 targets for each immigration stream.

To finish on a more cheerful note, have a look at the stunning site that’s been put together by radio announcer, Rob Calabrese. (Story here.) And be warned: if you weren’t already thinking of moving to Nova Scotia, after watching this video you might just change your mind!

Cabot-Trail

 

 

I’m usually fairly organised when it comes to planning for birthdays and other special days. But Mother’s Day–or Mothering Sunday if you prefer–is the one that always seems to sneak up on me. While Father’s Day in June falls on the same date whether you’re in the UK or Canada, the UK Mother’s Day (March 6th this year) is usually a good 2 months ahead of the Canadian one (May 8th in 2016). And unsurprisingly you won’t find it marked on any North American calendars, or see any coverage in the Canadian media.

Locating Mother’s Day cards this early (especially in Northern Ontario) is a challenge. Thankfully my local Hallmark store has always come to the rescue so far, and choosing between the 4 or 5 different designs never takes very long :-) Postage has become so expensive here that I’ve recently started researching ecards too. Blue Mountain has some fun designs. They offer a free trial and inexpensive membership.

If you’re looking for a reliable florist for the big day, I’ve used Flying Flowers and Clare Florist for years and always had good reports on the quality of the flowers.

Whether you’re with your Mum this Mother’s Day, or celebrating across the miles, hope it’s a special day.

ETA

Are you planning to fly into Canada this year? If so, don’t forget to check whether you’ll need an Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). These come into force from March 25th and will affect you if you’re traveling from a visa-exempt country.

Canadian and UK passports

Express Entry a year old

Did you submit an Express Entry profile in 2015? If a year has gone by since you sent it in, you have 60 days in which to re-submit your application. Any longer than that and you’ll have to send in a completely new application. The number of ITAs (invitations to apply) seems to have stayed fairly static at around 3000 per month. However, the good news is that the points requirement seems to have been steadily dropping over recent months and is now down to 453 points as of the last round of invitations on January 13th.

Home down payments

If you’re close to finalising your move (congratulations on getting this far!), you’ll want to be aware of upcoming changes in house down payment rules. Up until now, it’s been possible to buy a house in Canada with as little as a 5% down payment, but from February 15th, anyone buying a home costing over $500k will be required to place a 10% down payment on the portion of the purchase above $500k. The remainder will still require only 5%.

So what does this mean if you’re a new immigrant trying to get established in the Canadian housing market? The good news is that most prospective buyers won’t be affected. However, if you’re trying to get on the housing ladder in Toronto or Vancouver, it will have an impact. In these over-heated markets the average price for a detached house is hitting $1 million, compared to $455,000 for the rest of Canada. Here’s a currently listed million dollar house in Vancouver. Hard to believe, I know…

Million dollar house in VancouverOr maybe some million dollar condo living in Toronto is more your style?

condo

As usual I got distracted looking at house listings :) Hopefully when it comes to buying your new Canadian home, you won’t be having to look in the million dollar bracket.

With the new Liberal government now getting into its stride, and big challenges for the economy, it could be an interesting year in Canada. Look out for more changes ahead in 2016!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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