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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 :-)

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!

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

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today’s the day… ten years since I first became a Canadian immigrant and permanent resident! So in honour of that momentous day, I thought I’d share some of the most memorable moments of my life in Canada to date.

Welcome to Canada!
I became a Canadian permanent resident in July 2005. My husband and I landed at Pearson airport and were amazed at how quickly all the formalities were dispensed with. The immigration officials were more interested in the fact that we were moving to Sudbury rather than anything else!

My first glimpse of Canadian wildlife
If only I’d had my camera with me… not long after we moved into our Canadian house we took a walk up the bank behind the house that leads to a rocky ridge. From there we watched transfixed as we saw a bear lumbering around  in the bush below. Then just when we thought the show was over, a pair of moose galloped by. On a smaller scale, here’s Charles the chipmunk, a constant visitor during our first Canadian summer.

Sir Charles

Sir Charles

Corvette fun
We’ve had some fantastic road trips in our Corvette and met some wonderful people, both locally and further afield. But the moment that will always remain with me is seeing the look on my husband’s face when he took finally possession of his dream car in the winter of 2007. Yes, that’s right… winter…

1991 ZR-1 Corvette

My wedding!
My  husband and I were married in a gazebo overlooking Ramsey Lake in Sudbury. It had been a really wet September that year, but amazingly the sun came out to make it the perfect day. My Dad, bridesmaids, and I were driven to the park in a 1960s Chevy Impala, and our own classic car had to get in on the action too. Once we’d said “I do,” the nerves disappeared and I couldn’t stop smiling for the rest of the day.

Wedding day in Bell Park

Camping in March!
2010 was the only year since I’ve been here that we’ve ever been able to camp so early. Killarney Provincial Park was taken by surprise too. The shower block wasn’t even open when we first arrived, but due to popular demand they opened it up earlier than normal.  Being able to enjoy breakfast by George Lake in complete peace and quiet was a magical experience and definitely one of my best camping memories.

George Lake, Killarney Park

George Lake, Killarney Park

 

Some Superior moments…

Introducing three generations of the Kelly family to camping at Lake Superior Park
At various times we’ve camped at Rabbit Blanket campground with my husband’s siblings, nieces, and his Mum.  Superior was my Mum-in-law’s first ever camping holiday and she was a bit apprehensive about the bears, so she was given the luxury berth in the camper van. It was really special to be able to share the Superior experience with them.

Swimming in Lake Superior for Thanksgiving…
When I returned to work after the Thanksgiving long weekend in 2011, people couldn’t believe I’d swum in Superior in October! It was a really warm fall that year following a very hot summer, so the water temperature really wasn’t too bad. The six-foot waves were an added bonus!

…and getting drenched on the Towab Trail
On one of our May camping trips to Superior, we hiked part of the Towab Trail as far as Burnt Rock Pool. We heard the thunder before we arrived there, but didn’t want to turn back. Burnt Rock Pool is a really picturesque spot on the Agawa River surrounded by towering cliffs. Sitting there on the rocks while the storm broke around us was an amazing experience. After that, it was a very long, wet walk back!

Becoming a Canadian citizen
Oh Canada! It was a really proud and emotional moment back in the summer of 2010 when my husband and I took the oath of citizenship at a ceremony in Sudbury.  We’d had to wait for this for several months after passing the citizenship test; apparently the citizenship judges don’t like coming up north too often :)

Summer in the screen room
I posted recently about our wonderful new screen room. Let’s just say the novelty hasn’t yet worn off and I’ll be spending as much time as I can in there this summer. And it’s fairly safe to say that tonight I’ll be sitting in there, raising a glass to the last ten years–and to the next ten. Here’s hoping they’re even better!

Bug free!

Bug free!

 

July 10th 2015 will be a really special day. It’ll be ten years since my husband and I became Canadian permanent residents and heard those magic words “Welcome to Canada!”To celebrate, I’ll be running a series of “Top Ten” posts across the month of July. Discover my top ten best things about living in Canada and my top ten best moments in Canada – so far!

Plus – I’m also excited to announce the launch of my new ebook “Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide.”

New ebook: Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide

Dreaming of moving to Canada? Not sure where to start? “Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide” is your quick reference guide to successfully moving to Canada and making the most of your new life. You’ll discover:

• The information you need in a clear, easy-to-read A-Z format
• Latest changes to the immigration rules
• Confusing acronyms explained
• Why you don’t need to hire an immigration consultant
• How to get the most out of your first few months in Canada

Whether you’re looking for information on immigration starting points, house hunting, finding a job, or daily life in Canada, “Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide” has it covered. Start making your Canadian dream a reality!

Moving to Canada: an A-Z guide is now available through amazon.com (http://amzn.to/1FkCAGq) and amazon.co.uk (http://amzn.to/1QBkyf8) or your local Amazon site.

And on top of all that, Wednesday will be Canada Day – giving us a mid-week break this year instead of a long weekend. Happy Canada Day!