How to become a permanent Canadian resident

Canada on the world globe

Over 200,000 people become Canadian permanent residents every year.

So here’s the conundrum. You loved your working holiday in Canada and you want to stay there. But now your visa has expired.

How can you transform Canada from the holiday destination of a lifetime to your long-term place of residence?


Canadian permanent residents enjoy almost all the same rights as regular citizens including healthcare coverage and the right to work, study, and travel anywhere in Canada.

But how can you become a Canadian permanent resident?

Here’s our guide to applying for permanent residency in Canada!

Before we begin, there are some preliminary factors to consider!

1 – Check if you are already a Canadian citizen!

Toronto Landscape, Canada

First things first! Why waste timing applying for permanent residency when you’re already Canadian? Yes, there’s actually a test you can take to find out if you qualify as a Canadian citizen!

Perhaps you inherited the status, through a parent or grandparent, without realizing it. Take the test!

2 – Are you over 18?

If you’re not over 18, it will be more difficult for you to gain permanent residency in Canada.

You’ll need your parent or legal guardian (a Canadian permanent resident who is either a Canadian citizen or applying to become one) to fill out an application for you.

3 – Beware! The application may take some time!

Don’t count on achieving permanent residency during your working holiday. It’s difficult to determine exactly how long it will take to complete the application process and become a permanent resident.

Understandably, this uncertainty can be frustrating if you’re in Canada on a working holiday and you want to keep working in the country after your current visa expires. Plus, there are never any guarantees that your application to become a permanent resident will be successful.

OK, now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at the various options available for you to become a Canadian permanent resident.

Express Entry

application fees
Canada’s fast-track program for immigration is called ‘Express Entry’. The system was designed specifically to help skilled workers to move into a role in the country.

Applications for Express Entry are all done online. Once you create your profile (valid for one year) you will be given a score (you must achieve a minimum score of 67/100) based on your language proficiency, education, and work experience.

Your score is then ranked against other applicants via a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) and those at the top of the rankings are invited (Invitation to Apply (ITA)) to become permanent residents.

case study image

Jane is 25 and from Ireland. She is fluent in English and has a basic knowledge of French. In 2014 she graduated from a university in Dublin with a Master’s Degree and she now has 2 years of paid work experience.

She also has a spouse who has studied, lived and worked in Canada. Taking all of these factors into account, it is likely that Jane would receive a score of 80 points or higher.

red line

Once you receive an ITA, you will have 60 days to complete your application (which includes health and security checks) for permanent residency. If you are not invited to apply, don’t worry. You can renew your profile and return to the candidate pool for another 12 months.

The majority of applications are processed in under six months. Applicants may also be selected by a Canadian employer for a position, as long as the employer can show they can’t find a suitable Canadian or permanent resident.

There are three separate immigration programs under Express Entry – ‘Federal Skilled Workers’, ‘Federal Skilled Trades’, and ‘Canadian Experience Class’.

1) Federal Skilled Workers

This program is for applicants who work in one of the top occupations (graphic below) that are in demand in Canada.

This program is limited to 25,000 visas per year (all nationalities). Although, if you have a job offer, you can still qualify even if the quota has been filled.

To apply you must have at least one year of paid work experience and fulfil certain criteria (such as a language test). You must also have your qualifications assessed by an independent accreditor (for an additional fee).

Federal Skilled Workers Program

2) Federal Skilled Trades

Each year 5,000 visas are available for individuals who are trained in one of 90 skilled trades that are in demand (graphic below).

To apply under this program you must have at least two years’ paid work experience (in the previous five years) and have either a job offer for a full year or a certificate of qualification.

Federal Skilled Trades Program Canada

3) Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

This program offers 8,000 permanent residency visas to applicants who have at least 12 months’ skilled work experience in Canada in the three years before they apply.

To qualify you must pass a language and medical test.

It takes six months to process but it is possible to get a bridging visa until the CEC is issued.

Express Entry not for you? Here are some other options to consider

1) Provincial Nominee Programme (PNP)

This program is a great option if you have a province in mind that you would like to immigrate and settle in.

Applicants must contact the representative immigration office within their preferred province and apply for a nomination to that province.

2) Family Class Immigration

If you have any members of the close family that are permanent residents in Canada, they may be able to help you obtain permanent residency. In fact, approximately 30% of all immigrants that come to Canada are sponsored by family members.

3) Business Immigration Programme

This program is open to self-employed, experienced investors and entrepreneurs.

If you are a self-employed applicant, you must have the experience, intention, and ability to establish a business that will create an employment opportunity for yourself and that will make a significant contribution to cultural activities or athletics in Canada.

Or alternatively, you can choose to purchase and manage a farm.

Investors must demonstrate a number of requirements including their business experience, a legally obtained net worth of C$800,000 and their intention to invest C$400,000 in the Canadian economy.

Entrepreneurs are also required to demonstrate business experience in owning and managing businesses or in owning a share or percentage of an enterprise.

Their net worth must also be C$300,000, and they must be willing to manage and operate a business and create at least one full-time job (in addition to their own) within three years of becoming a permanent resident.

Canada Permanent Residency FAQs

Q: I have just become a permanent resident of Canada. Do I now need to apply for a permanent resident card?

Canadian Permanent Resident Card

A: No! This will be sent to you automatically. However, you must submit your Canadian mailing address within 180 days of the day you become a permanent resident in order to receive your card.

Q: How much does it cost to become a Canadian permanent resident?

A: There are a number of fees to consider when you apply for permanent residency through the express entry system.


  • Your application – $1,040
    Processing fee ($550) and right of permanent residence fee ($490)
  • Include your spouse or partner – $1,040
    Processing fee ($550) and right of permanent residence fee ($490)
  • Include a dependent child – $150(per child)

Q: This application process sounds difficult. Wouldn’t it just be easier if I married a Canadian citizen? Then I would become a Canadian citizen myself!

couple enjoying their time in the mountain

A: No! This is incorrect. Marrying a Canadian citizen doesn’t give you citizenship, or even permanent residency. Also, there isn’t special citizenship or permanent residency application process for spouses of Canadian citizens.

However, your Canadian spouse can sponsor you to become a permanent resident if you:

  • don’t live in Canada or
  • aren’t a permanent resident

Q: What happens if my Canadian permanent residency application is refused?

A: You can apply again! There is no waiting period before you can reapply. However, you should make sure you meet the requirements for Canadian permanent residency before you reapply.

Q: How long must I stay in Canada to keep my permanent resident status?

Residency requirements

To maintain your status as a permanent resident in Canada, you must live there for at least two years (not necessarily continuous) within a five-year period. During this time you must be physically in the country.

Time spent outside Canada may also count if you are:

  • travelling with your spouse or partner who is a Canadian citizen,
  • a dependent child travelling with your father or mother who is a Canadian citizen,
  • an employee of (or under contract to) a Canadian business
  • travelling with your spouse or partner who is a permanent resident and works full-time for:
    – a Canadian business, or
    – the public service of Canada or a province
  • a child travelling with their father or mother who is a permanent resident and who works full-time for:
    – a Canadian business, or
    – the public service of Canada or a province
  • an employee of (or under contract to) the public service of Canada or a province and you are on a full-time assignment to:
    – a position outside Canada,
    – a partner business outside Canada, or
    – a client of the Canadian business or the public service outside Canada

Losing your status

There are some acts that could result in you losing your Canadian residency status including committing a serious crime

Permanent residents are not afforded the same protections and privileges under Canadian law as Canadian citizens. In other words, you may be subject to removal if you commit a criminal act.

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