Below are the top 5 tips I provide to clients who are preparing for their landing in Canada for the first time as new immigrants:
1) Plan your landing date and location
You do not become a PR when you receive your approval of your immigration application. When your permanent residence application is approved you will receive a “Confirmation of Permanent Residence” and a visa sticker in your passport allowing you to enter Canada to land. The visa sticker will provide a time frame during which you can land. You must make arrangements to land in Canada before the expiry date of the visa otherwise you may lose your visa and have to restart the whole immigration process. You only become a PR when you cross a Canadian port of entry with your passport and Confirmation of PR documents and you are processed as a new immigrant to Canada.
Once you know the date you have to land you should also determine where you want to land. You can enter Canada through any airport or border crossing to undertake your landing process. All Canadian Permanent Residents and Citizens have mobility rights that are part of Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms, allowing them to move freely between the provinces of Canada.
However, you should not that you may have obligations to comply with if you applied for immigration through a provincial program (either Quebec or one of the provincial nominee programs). Typically if it is not possible to land directly in the province of your destination you then can land in one airport and then fly to your province of destination after the landing process has been completed.
There is currently a pilot program in place for applicants who are living in Canada when their immigration application is approved that allows them to undertake the “landing process” in a telephone interview with an Immigration officer rather than having to travel to a border. This program makes it much simpler and faster for you to achieve PR status when your immigration application is approved. As it is a pilot program it is only available to applicants in Canada and we will have to wait to see if this program will be extended to other applicants as well.
2) Understand who has to land first
When you have a family that needs to land, you can either all land at the same time or the primary applicant in the immigration application must land first before the other family members can land separately. It is not possible for dependants to land before the primary applicant but there is no requirement that everyone must land together. Therefore, as long as the primary applicant lands first, the other family members can land separately before the expiry of their visas.
It is also very important to note that you are required to update the information related to your status up until the time you land in Canada. For example if there is any change in your marital status or you have a new child between the time your visa is approved and the time you land you should inform Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) immediately. At the latest, you must declare such a change at the time of you land in Canada.
This is extremely important because witholding such information may be determined to be a misrepresentation that could later result in the loss of your PR status. Further, in some cases where new family members are not declared in can result in a situation where the family member (new spouse or new child) becomes an excluded family member and cannot be later sponsored to join you in Canada. If your situation is complicated it is best to seek legal advice before you make plans to land to ensure you provide complete and accurate information and avoid potential misrepresentation or exclusion of family members.
3) Documents to bring with yourself
There are a series of documents that you must have with yourself at the time of landing:
- Confirmation of Permanent Residence – these are in duplicate and issued to you at the time your immigration application is approved
- Proof of funds (if your immigration application required this)
- Lists for Customs - “Personal Effects Accounting Document” - this consists of two lists: goods that accompany you and goods to follow later
In addition you may also prepare and bring the following documents with you that may be needed after you land in Canada. If any documents are not already translated you can obtain official translations before you come or have them translated after you arrive in Canada:
- Family records: Birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificate or divorce papers
- Immunization Record for dependent children – this will be required to enrol your children in school
- Official school records for children
- Educational diplomas, degrees and transcripts as well as any qualification certificates or trade licences
- Work reference letters from previous employers
- Driver's licence or international driving licence
- Health and dental records
- If you are immigrating to Quebec you will need your Quebec Selection Certificates to access services in Quebec
Make sure that the documents you are bringing with you are in your hand bag and not checked into luggage. There is always a risk that your luggage may be lost or delayed which may prevent you from being processed by the Immigration officers when you arrive in Canada.
Finally, before you leave for Canada you may consider preparing and signing a power of attorney with a trusted family member or friend to follow up any outstanding matters after you leave.
4) Find temporary accommodation
While you may choose to stay in a hotel for the first few days after you arrive you can try to find furnished apartment rentals for the short term for your first few months. This will allow you to get to know the areas in the city before you enter a long term rental agreement or buy a house. You can use online websites such as www.airbnb.ca or www.kijiji.ca to try to find suitable short term accommodation.
5) Address in Canada for Permanent Residence Card
If you already have a place that you will be staying when you arrive in Canada (a short term rental or a family or friend's home) you can provide this address at the time of landing for your permanent resident card (PR Card) to be mailed to you. Make sure that you have the complete and correct address including apartment numbers and post codes. One of the main problems that causes delays in obtaining your PR Card is an incorrect or incomplete address so check the address and make sure it is correct. If you do not have an address at the time of landing, you will need to inform Immigration of your new address after you have obtained accommodation so that your PR Card can be processed.
Once you receive your PR Card you will be able to use it to re-enter Canada after any trip that you take overseas. It will be your responsibility to ensure that you meet the conditions for keeping your PR Card and being able to renew it in the future. I advise all clients, particulary those who travel a lot, to keep a complete list of all their travels after they become landed in Canada (and if possible copies of tickets and boarding passes). This accurate list will be invaluable when you later want to renew their PR Card to apply for Canadian citizenship as the stamps in your passport may not fully document the dates that you have entered and left Canada.