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It’s been over two years since I first published Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide. Back then, the Express Entry system had just been introduced, and Stephen Harper was still in power.  Fast forward to 2017. Justin Trudeau is everywhere, and CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada) is now IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada)–not to be confused with the ICC (International Cricket Council). Okay, I might be the only person who muddles those two up :-)

So definitely time for a refresh. All the content and links in the book have been updated, and there’s expanded coverage of Canada’s eastern provinces. Plus I’ve added a mini dictionary to help you out with some of those awkward Canadian words and phrases that might have you scratching your head. Even though my first language is English, I still found there were plenty of those. Here’s a look at the brand new cover, designed by my talented author/graphic artist husband.

Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide

For a flavour of the many Canada150 celebrations taking place around the country, log on to the Passport 2017 web site or download the app. In June, this included events to mark other important days in the Canadian calendar:

National Aboriginal Day – (June 21 – to be renamed Indigenous People’s Day for 2018)
Saint-Jean Baptiste day in Quebec (June 24)
Canadian Multiculturalism Day (June 27)

Locally, Science North in Sudbury is hosting its annual family-friendly celebration for Canada Day, culminating in a fireworks display just after 10pm. Cross fingers for good weather! I’m all set at home with my new huge Canadian flag and my hanging basket of red petunias. And in Ontario, everyone breathed a sigh of relief this week when they heard that disaster had been averted– the LCBO (Ontario’s official retailer for wine and spirits) won’t be on strike!

Whatever you’re doing for Canada Day, whether it’s attending an event, relaxing at home, or maybe even preparing your immigration application :-), have a fantastic weekend!

May was a busy month with rounds of invitations taking place for specific immigration categories as well as the usual Express Entry draw. Here’s the breakdown of the number of invitations to apply issued.

Provincial Nominee Program: 143
Federal Skilled Trades: 400
Express Entry: 3877

The CRS (Comprehensive Ranking System) score of the lowest scoring candidate was 413, making this the lowest ever Express Entry points requirement. It’ll be interesting to see whether this figure keeps on tumbling, but right now it’s great news for  applicants.

The Ontario government has recently announced some changes to its Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) including a brand new Express Entry Skilled Trades Stream. This is specifically targeting people working in construction and agriculture but may be expanded in the future. The Employer Job Offer stream (for international graduates and those with a job offer within Ontario) has been modified with the onus now on the applicant instead of the employer in terms of preparing the application. There are also a couple of changes to the Entrepreneur stream. Surprisingly perhaps, language requirements have been lowered. Less surprising–you’ll qualify for more points if you aim to establish your business outside the GTA.

If you’re looking for somewhere a little smaller and quieter to settle in Canada, perhaps Prince Edward Island would fit the bill. It’s just released a new population action plan with an emphasis on recruiting new immigrants and encouraging immigrants to move there from other provinces. A revised PNP and improved settlement support for immigrants seem likely as a result of this.

Onto the big 150th birthday celebrations and excitement is building! Although plans went a little awry at the Memorial University Botanical Garden in St John’s (Newfoundland & Labrador) when a hungry moose decided to feast on their carefully planted Canada 150 tulips. And in a throwback to the fake lake debacle of the G20 summit a few years back, we now have the rubber duck controversy. A “six-storey tall, 13,600kg yellow duck” will be the star of the show at the Redpath Waterfront Festival, paid for in part by a large Ontario government grant.

I’m not sure how I’ll be celebrating Canada Day yet, although I want to catch the special Big Nickel display celebrating 150 years of Sudbury history. And I definitely have to replace my sad, faded Canadian flag on the deck. This year’s must-have item is the special Canada 150 flag, and with Canada Day now so close, it’s time to go flag shopping!

Canada 150 flag

Express Entry update

3687 Invitations To Apply were issued in yesterday’s Express Entry draw, with the minimum Comprehensive Ranking System points standing at 415. As with the April 19th draw, this is the lowest number of points required by applicants since Express Entry started. So your chances of receiving an ITA are looking better than ever! And for the most part, applications are being processed within the promised 6 months.

Atlantic provinces

If you’re still undecided about where to settle in Canada, it’s certainly worth considering the eastern provinces: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland & Labrador, and PEI. With huge labour shortages looming there over the next decade, these provinces are now being much more proactive in their efforts to attract immigrants. This is reflected in the introduction of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program. And recently New Brunswick has been holding job fairs in the US, seeking to capitalise on the understandable uncertainty that many Americans are feeling right now.

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

Ontario house prices

For people choosing to move to Ontario, southern and southwest Ontario remain popular destinations. So it’s disappointing to see that the crazy Toronto house market is driving up prices in those areas. Places like Hamilton, Windsor, London, and the Waterloo-Kitchener area have seen house prices increase by between 20-30% within the last year. Even somewhat less built-up areas like Peterborough, Barrie, and the Niagara Region are seeing the same effect. The average house price in Canada is now almost $550,000, although if you take Toronto and Vancouver out of the equation, this would drop to around $390,000.

Hopefully the recent measures brought in to calm the Toronto market will have an impact. And it’s good to know that the new 15% “non-resident speculation tax” won’t affect new immigrants. Rebates will be available for temporary foreign workers, international students, and people who later become permanent residents or Canadian citizens.

Niagara River

Manitoba

Heading further west, Manitoba has announced a renewed commitment to its Provincial Nominee Program. After clearing a massive backlog, it’s now promising 6-month completions for new applications and additional pathways to permanent residency for international students. It predicts that immigrants will be needed to fill 25% of its likely 170,000 job openings between now and 2022. And with news that seniors now outnumber children in Canada, it’s a safe bet we’re going to see some serious competition between the provinces for skilled immigrants in the years ahead.

Crow Cottage at Wawanaisa Resort

Playtime

It’s finally here! After the long winter, we’ve reached the Victoria Day long weekend. This is the unofficial start of summer when Canadians open up their cottages, dust down classic cars, RVs, and boats, and barbecue/beer/deck time starts in earnest. I’m looking forward to getting our Corvette on the road and doing some hiking. I’m also finishing up a revised version of Moving To Canada. More details coming soon!

 

 

There’s a lot to get through this month! Let’s start with some economic news. Latest results show better than expected economic figures in Canada with growth across manufacturing, wholesale trade, the retail sector, construction, mining, and oil and gas.

Innovation and job creation are the watch words right now with federal and Ontario liberals announcing new projects and dispensing big sums of money this week. More IT and engineering jobs could be on the horizon in Windsor and Ottawa with huge government investment in research and engineering. Meanwhile, Ontario is establishing the futuristic-sounding Vector Institute, a centre for AI research. I’m pleased that some money is coming to Northern Ontario too with an engineering and sciences research centre in the works at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay.

Express entry

On to Express Entry and yes, it’s being tweaked again.  They aren’t huge changes compared with last year’s. This time the emphasis is on adaptability factors such as language and family, with the aim of bringing in more French speakers to strengthen Francophone minority communities in Canada.

Currently, you can score up to 136 points for your first official language and up to 24 for the second. This won’t change, but as of  June 6th you’ll qualify for extra points if you have “strong French language skills” plus ability in English. This will be judged via the standardized language tests that all Express Entry candidates have to complete. If your French is assessed at intermediate level or better and you have basic level English you can gain an extra 15 points. Those French skills combined with intermediate level or higher English? That can net you up to 30 extra points.

Another change–and somewhere simpler to follow–if you (or your spouse) have a sibling who is already a permanent resident or citizen in Canada, you’ll gain an extra 15 points. Your sibling must be 18 or older.

Finally, if you’re applying to immigrate but don’t have a job offer or provincial nomination, you’re no longer required to set up a Job Bank account. This will become voluntary.

The number of Invitations To Apply (ITAs) issued in the latest Express Entry draw was down on the previous one–3749 compared to 3884, and the points requirements went up slightly to 441 from 434. But overall, total ITAs are up by over 50% for the first 3 months of this year as compared to last–a very positive sign.

Canadian flag

Atlantic Canada

New Brunswick perhaps isn’t always top of mind when deciding where to settle in Canada but it’s definitely out to attract more immigrants. The province and the federal government have just signed the first ever Canada-New Brunswick immigration agreement. The aim is to bring in more skilled workers to address their labour shortages, and they are especially keen to attract French speakers.

In fact, there is a strong push to bring in more immigrants to all four of Canada’s Atlantic provinces and IRCC is reporting strong employer interest in the Atlantic Immigration Pilot program.

Ontario

In other news, Ontario is expanding its Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) with the number of nominees increasing this year to 6000. If you work in ICT you’ll be interested to know that a quarter of Ontario provincial nominees are working in this field. Although things have perhaps declined a little from the Blackberry/RIM heyday, the IT sector is still thriving especially in the Kitchener-Waterloo region.

If you want to get an idea of what Ontario’s top public sector employees are earning, take a look at the annual “sunshine list” published on Friday. It lists the salaries of all public sector workers who earn more than $100k. As salaries surge higher with inflation, there’s much debate as to whether the 100k threshold is meaningful anymore. But it’s still interesting to browse and see the types of jobs in there. And if you live in Ontario, it’s fun to be nosy and look up people that you know :-) The list is no longer just directors and managers but also teachers (elementary and secondary), professors, registered nurses, firefighters, IT team leads, and police constables.

And finally…

And speaking of sunshine (did you like that link? :-) ), it’s the time of year when Canadians are done with winter and looking ahead to spring. Spring is officially here, although it’s been a little difficult to tell. Sunday and Monday were hazardous with freezing rain. My yard was an ice rink and I had to battle my way into my frozen canvas portable garage with little icicles flying everywhere. Thankfully I didn’t slip on the ice, but I know many people who weren’t so lucky. Since then, temperatures are up, and a lot of snow has melted. I’m sure the barbecues and patio furniture have already been wheeled out in Canadian Tire, and apparently a few people have already been spotted wearing T-shirts :-)

As a Canadian immigrant, it’s natural that you’ll want to hold on to your history and the culture of where you were born, and where you probably still have family. But when you move here, you’ll also want to fit in and feel at home in your new country. As Canada approaches its 150th birthday this year, it got me thinking about how Canadian I now feel and the things which have contributed to that.

The call of the loon

I arrived in Canada not long before the 2006 federal election. At that time I had no interest in, or understanding of, the Canadian political system – and of course wasn’t yet eligible to vote. Politics? Forget it! I was far too busy just navigating everyday life.

But one thing that did grab my attention was my local CBC radio morning show. From my earliest days here, the call of the loon that featured as part of their theme music, and the now familiar voice of the presenter, provided a sense of comfort and familiarity–of being “home.”

“Morning North,” “Up North” on the drive home, and “As It Happens” while I’m cooking dinner–all quickly became a part of my life here. I didn’t (and still don’t) have TV, so I relied a lot on the radio, gradually learning more about the local news scene and eventually the national picture.

Learning the lingo at Tim’s

Double double? Roll up the rim? Timbits? Despite now being owned by the American burger chain, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s is a Canadian institution and you’ll feel extra Canadian once you decipher the lingo at “Tim’s” as it’s known.

I have happy memories of “Everything bagels” with cream cheese during our many house hunting trips over here. Having just flown in from England, which is 5 hours ahead on time, we were always up ridiculously early at the beginning of Canadian holidays. Since those days, the Tim’s menu–along with the calorie count–has expanded. I don’t tend to stop in there now unless we’re on the road, but I still enjoy a Tim’s steeped tea now and again.

Tim Horton's coffee

O Canada & hockey bewilderment

Attending my first and *embarrassed cough* only hockey game as a brand new immigrant was certainly an experience. Hockey–never “ice hockey”–is THE sport in Canada, so my husband and I figured we should turn out to see our local team in action – the Sudbury Wolves. I had no clue what was happening and knew none of the rules. I remember being astounded by the random violence that broke out on the ice on a regular basis–and this from two “junior” teams. The most emotional moment was the singing of the Canadian anthem before the game. I think I cried a little. We’d made it–we were finally here.

Room to roam on crown land

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, less than 11% of Canadian land is privately owned. The rest is classed as “Crown land,” controlled by either federal or provincial government. Despite the name, crown land is yours to roam through as you please, although non residents will need a permit. Moving here from a country full of private/keep out signs where everything is owned, being able to hike across crown land was a revelation. This sense of freedom is something I felt from my very first visit here. Now I’m lucky enough to have a house that backs onto crown land, I can walk out of my front door and wander for hours where I want.

Wanapitei River,

Shoveling all that snow and a real white Christmas

After all this time, it’s very easy to get jaded about winter. But during our first winter here, we enthusiastically bought shovels at Canadian Tire and rushed outside with excitement after the first major snowfall to begin clearing! We even took pictures! And every Dec 25th was a guaranteed white Christmas! Well okay, not quite. I think we’ve had two green Christmases since I moved here. But our first proper white Christmas was magical. And even now, when there’s fresh snow on the trees and the sun is shining, I still get that Canadian winter wonderland feeling.

Joining in the summer fun with our “toys”

Canadians love to play in summer, and after the long hard winter, who can blame them? We’re talking boats, RVs, classic cars, the cottage/camp/cabin (depends where you live). We’ve been lucky enough to get a taste of this on road trips and camping trips with our Corvette and camper van, as well as the occasional cottage rental. It’s been very special to be able to share in the typical Canadian summer lifestyle.

Camping at Killarney Park in March 2010

Those are some of the experiences that helped me very quickly feel at home here as a new immigrant. The moment when I felt most Canadian? Without a doubt, my Canadian citizenship ceremony–an emotional and very proud occasion. These days more than ever, Canada feels like a good place to be, and hopefully many more newcomers will get to discover Canada for themselves in its 150th year.

There have been lots of Canadian good news stories this week.  The New York Times voted us as the top country to visit in 2017. Book your flights now for the biggest party of the year in July when Canada turns 150. Party budget: over $200 million.

There was also a surprisingly positive employment report released for December. 50,000 new jobs were added in Canada, out of a total of 214,000 for the year, apparently making 2016 the “best year for job creation” since 2012.

If you speak French and are thinking of moving here, you’ll be interested in this video. It highlights success stories of immigrants who came here from France, Belgium, Congo, and Benin and settled in French-speaking communities outside of Quebec.

On to the weather report… Even Vancouver, known for its mild, if wet, winters, is getting one of its worst in a long time. I hear from relatives there that people are fighting over free buckets of salt and even going so far as to steal salt. Definitely not typical Canadian behaviour. And in Nova Scotia, they’re digging out today after a huge winter storm – up to 40cm of snow in some areas and more on the way.

Here in Northern Ontario, normal service has resumed after a late start to winter. Today is a high of -20, but at least it’s clear and bright and the snow-covered trees look beautiful . This week will be warming up, bringing with it more snow and no doubt some interesting driving conditions.

View of my back yard

View of my back yard

Many towns and cities have their own variation of a winter carnival to break up the long season. The Fire and Ice Festival happening in Bracebridge, Ontario later this month is a little out of the ordinary—complete with “The Fire Guy” and a tubing hill right on the main street, set up with specially imported snow.

For something a little less frenetic, I’m excited that we have a new park in Sudbury offering more opportunities for winter hiking, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing. Check out a dog’s view of Kivi Park or look at some fun winter photos including a snow horse and a snow husky!

That’s all for now. Stay warm!

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

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.

20161106_122258

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.

20161106_122055

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!

20161106_142118

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!