After deciding we wanted to emigrate to Canada, the logical follow-up would be how to actually do that. There are quite a few visa possibilities available, though fortunately, the selection isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
While there are quite a few specific visa options available, including for caregivers, family reunification, or agricultural immigration (to name but a few), most of these simply don’t apply to us. By and large, it seems there are two main visa options: federal and provincial visas. As you can imagine, federal visas seem to be Canada-wide, and the provincial ones are limited to specific territories.
The main advantage so far seems to be that I personally qualify for something they term “Express Entry”, which is a set of programs (both federal and provincial) that focus on individuals with higher education degrees and several years of experience. I am, however, slightly over their intended target-group (they prefer people under 35). The great news about this is that Express Entry offers a far greater chance of acceptance than most generic programs—particularly if you have a job offer lined up in Canada (how even do you do that from abroad?! I have no idea yet).
One thing that I greatly appreciate about the Canadian visa system, comparing it to our experiences with both the US and Dutch visa systems, is the clarity. There’s a clear point system (for instance: high school diploma? 5/25 points. Master’s? 23/25 points. PhD? 25/25 points) for multiple clear categories, with full explanation of how what points are awarded. This results in a final score out of a 100, with at least 67 points needed to qualify (and preference given to higher points).
By using the online tool and trying a few different values, we could explore our eligibility and see what we could work on to improve chances. The clarity is lovely! The American system is opaque, to say the least—every form has just a code. “Submit an I-130, and possibly I-130a, but check if you meet DCF exceptions allowing time for DCF-EC and DS-260” This is not hyperbole, but only a small selection of advice I was given; check it out:
The advice is accurate, and I am grateful to the kind help of the poster, but this reflects my experience with US bureaucracy (yesterday, my wife and I did her taxes—form overkill).
By comparison, the Dutch system seems to be in-between the two, when it comes to clarity. All Dutch visa forms we had to fill in to bring Tracy over here were clearly named, with titles such as “Form 2: Evidence of Financial Means” or “Form 5a: Declaration of Sponsorship for Spouse”. There are also plenty of guides and explanations written in clear Dutch on how to fill these in, and what the terms mean. The only thing they lack in clarity compared to Canadian forms is that point system; you can hand something in to the IND (Dutch immigration service) but you won’t get an indication of your odds.
So, after filling in the forms on the Canadian immigration site, we know we actually stand a really good chance of getting a visa. Apparently, based on comments online, if we have a job offer, it’s almost a sure thing.
Oh, before I forget: funny thing we discovered. We will both have to pass an English-language test. Yup, the native US English speaker and the person with an MA degree in Literary and Cultural Studies in English Literature, who together run a company doing editing and revision of English-language texts will have to pass a general English exam. I get it, though; I mean, how else can you be sure as a state? It’s still funny, though!