Top 10 Dos and Don’ts of Immigrating to Canada

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So you’ve discovered what a great country Canada is, and you could see yourself making a life here. You’ve made a solid choice. Canada has much to offer, from beautiful scenery to one of the most culturally diverse societies in the world. Before you pack up and make this exciting journey, be sure you are prepared for the transition so that you can avoid the common mistakes listed in this article

Updated for 2020

Top 10 Immigration Dos and Don’ts for Canada

Welcome to Canada

by Unknown via Vince Alongi / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

So you’ve discovered what a great country Canada is, and you could see yourself making a life here. You’ve made a solid choice. Canada has much to offer, from beautiful scenery to one of the most culturally diverse societies in the world. Before you pack up and make this exciting journey, be sure you are prepared for the transition so that you can avoid the common mistakes listed in this article.


Do: Know Before You Go

Canada is a big country with a diverse population and many opportunities. Don’t assume that you can just show up and immediately find housing, transportation, and a job. As a matter of fact, if that is the extent of your planning, you may not even make it across the border. Efim Cheinis, author of Your First Year in Canada: How to Overcome Immigration Barriers and Successfully Settle in Canada in 52 Weeks, lists 12 common barriers on his website. Some of those include licensing for employment, language barriers, culture shock, and the multitude of questions that will come to mind in the first days after you arrive.


Don’t: Assume the Immigration Process is Quick

Canada has established an “Express Entry” program for skilled immigrants. According to the government’s official Immigration, Refugees, Citizenship Canada (IRCC) website at, as of January 1, 2015, “Our goal is to process most complete applications received under Express Entry in six months or less.” Six months for the Express Entry program. What happens if you are not applying under this program? IRCC’s website has expected processing times for temporary residence applications based on type of application, location where you applied, or whether the application was submitted in Canada or another country. Processing times vary anywhere from around one month to over one year.


Do: Establish a Support Network

Put simply, your whole life is about to change. You are not just moving into a bigger house in your neighborhood, you are moving into an entirely different country. Not having a network of family and friends in place before the move relates closely to failing to plan. With family or acquaintances already in Canada, your adjustment will be much smoother. You will have people who can help you find somewhere to live, find a job, and acclimate you to your new surroundings. Fortunately, there are a multitude of resources available. Immigration consultants may be able to refer you to support groups, or you can search the internet for immigration-specific message boards where topics such as networking are discussed.


Do: Speak the Language

Canada has two official languages, English and French. Being fluent in one or both of these languages will give you a tremendous head start when you arrive. The inability to converse with citizens of Canada will make the transition to life in your adopted country much more difficult. Speaking English or French may also be required for your chosen profession See this page to learn how to improve your language skills after you’ve landed in Canada.


Don’t Fail to Provide Proper Work Documents

As an immigrant, working legally in Canada is not as simple as answering a “Help Wanted” advertisement. The Canadian government requires that certain documents be provided and the appropriate permits issued. For example there is a form, IMM5488E (or IMM5488F for French speaking people), that is a document checklist to be submitted when applying for a work permit. Failure to omit one of the documents from this form can cause delays in the issuance of your work permit. The IMM5488E form lists over 10 different documents that may need to be submitted before you can legally work in Canada.


Do: Meet Criteria for Specific Jobs or Programs

In addition providing proper documentation, as mentioned above, there are criteria that must be met to qualify for specific jobs or programs. Failure to educate yourself about these criteria beforehand can result in your ineligibility. One example of programs requiring specific requirements to be met is the Federal Skilled Worker program. Under this program you must meet minimum requirements in the areas of skilled work experience, language ability, and education. Other programs requiring specific conditions to be met include the Federal Skilled Trades Program and the Canadian Experience Class. In addition, these programs may have caps on the number of applications accepted.


Don’t: Arrive With Insufficient Resources to Get Established

Moving to Canada requires that you bring the resources necessary to sustain you until your new life is established. If you have trouble finding a job or suitable housing for the first few weeks or months after your arrival, you will need sufficient financial and logistical resources to support you until you are settled. While the website at is owned and operated by the Indo-Canadian Community of Professionals, it contains useful advice for people of all nationalities who have decided to settle in Canada. Some things their website recommends considering are applying for a Social Insurance Number, securing groceries sufficient for a couple of weeks, andensuring your prescription medication will last the three months you must wait until health insurance coverage takes effect.


Do: Apply for Permanent Residence once you are eligible

If you plan on moving to Canada and establishing a new life you should apply for permanent residence once you are eligible. The Canadian government defines a permanent resident as “someone who has been given permanent resident status by immigrating to Canada, but is not a Canadian citizen.” Why should you apply for permanent residence? As a permanent resident you are eligible for most benefits that Canadian citizens are eligible for, including health insurance. You can live anywhere in the country you like, and you can apply to become a Canadian citizen. More information on permanent residence can be found throughout this site. See our News Section and our Forum.


Do: Present the Proper Credentials for Entry into Canada

Canada’s borders are secured by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Ensuring travellers present the proper credentials to enter the country helps to keep its citizens and visitors safe. Possessing the proper documentation also makes your entry into the country a smooth one and streamlines the process to apply for employment and services once you are in country. See our full list of Border Dos and Don’ts.


Don’t: Commit Citizenship Fraud

The Canadian government has increased its efforts to investigate citizenship fraud. Reforms to the Citizenship Act were approved in June of 2014 and took effect June 11, 2015. Under these reforms, persons convicted of citizenship fraud face a fine of up to $100,000 and/or a five year prison sentence. Those found guilty of citizenship fraud may lose their citizenship and could also face the possibility of expulsion from the country.


The decision to immigrate to Canada is an exciting one, full of possibilities. Avoiding these 10 common mistakes will make your new life much more fulfilling and enable you to enjoy all the wonderful experiences Canada has to offer. Additional resources can be found by visiting or by consulting with a qualified immigration consultant.


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