English Language Skills: What can I do to qualify?

English Language skills

Mary Keyork
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My English language skills are not strong but I want to apply for permanent residence. What can I do?

If you are interested in moving to Canada, or applying for permanent residence, it is important to have skills in English or French (or both)! Many permanent residence application categories require you to demonstrate that you can speak, read, write and understand either French or English at a level that will allow you to work in Canada and integrate into the community.
First, it is important to understand your goal. For Canadian immigration, the accepted English and French language tests are:
English: CELPIP (Canadian English Language Proficiency Index Program) or IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
French: TEF (Test d’évaluation de français)
These tests all have listening, speaking, writing and comprehension components, so make sure you prepare all areas when you are brushing up on your language skills.
How can you improve?
Take a course – since you will be tested on speaking, understanding and writing in your test, we recommend taking an in-person class where you will get to practice speaking and have the opportunity to have a teacher help you.
If you cannot attend in-person classes, some online or self-study language programs can also be useful. If you are going to study alone, try focusing on your weakest area and pick the study guide or program that matches what you need.
Get a language buddy – lots of people want to learn, or practice, another language. If you need help with English but are fluent in another language, find someone to pair up with. They can help you with your English reading and speaking while you help them with to learn your language and improve their vocabulary and pronunciation.

Do some practice tests – if you are not sure where to improve, it might be a good idea to take a practice test. You might be able to find practice material through an in-person language institute, a self-study book or program or online. Once you have take a practice exam, you will know your strengths and weaknesses and can spend your time studying up in the areas where you need to improve.

Read English or French books – if you have basic skills but want to improve, reading books written in French or English can help you. It is a good way to practice reading and comprehension skills. If you read aloud, you can also improve your pronunciation. There is no shame in starting with books for children or young adults and working your way up to adult reading when you are more comfortable.

Read English or French newspapers or magazines – just like books, newspapers and magazines are a great way to improve your reading comprehension and keep up with relevant news and issues.

Watch English or French television and movies –watching television shows, movies and listening to music in French or English can help you improve your language skills, especially your listening comprehension. You will become familiar with common terms, phrases and pronunciation. Listening to music in another language can help your brain adjust to the different pronunciation as well, which may make it easier when you are practicing speaking and reading.

Consider a language app – there are some excellent apps available on a variety of platforms, including mobile devices, tablets and computers. Check out the relevant app store to see if any of these systems is right for you.

Start a vocabulary book – start to write down words and phrases as you learn them and refer back to it often in order to refresh your memory.

Practice, practice, practice – it is important to practice consistently. As we age, it becomes more difficult for our brains to grasp a new language. Practicing every day and immersing yourself in the language can help your brain adjust and pick up the new words and sounds. Tell people in your life that you are trying to learn French or English – if they know the language too, they can help by only speaking to you in that language, instead of your native tongue.

Don’t forget – everyone has their own learning pace. We suggest identifying your goals, the areas where you need to improve and not giving up. Do not be afraid to make mistakes. They will help you succeed!

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How do I proof English proficiency for Canadian Citizenship application?



Confirming Permanent Residency over the phone; a New pilot program!

Permanent Residency

Mary Keyork
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Government Pilot Project will Confirm Permanent Residence over Phone: Selected Participants will not have to Travel to Confirm PR Status

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (“IRCC”) announced a pilot project last month that will test out a new way for selected foreign nationals who are already in Canada to be confirmed as Canadian permanent residents – over the phone.

Currently, foreign nationals who are approved to become Canadian permanent residents must confirm permanent residence in person Under the regular process, applicants receive an approval letter in the mail along with a document called a Confirmation of Permanent Residence, or CoPR. In order to confirm permanent residence status, depending on the type of application, applicants must either schedule and attend an in-person interview at a local IRCC office, or leave Canada and return through a port-of-entry. In-person interviews can take a few weeks, or more, to schedule and leaving/re-entering at a port-of-entry can be costly and time-consuming. The current process is inflexible and cannot accommodate individuals who face difficulty traveling to a port-of-entry or in-Canada office.

Of course, if you already have travel plans when you receive your CoPR, you can simply take it with you (along with other documents you may need to confirm your status) and confirm your status when you re-enter Canada by air, land or sea, but many in-Canada applicants do not have travel plans, and prefer to confirm permanent residence inland.

How the Pilot Project will Work

The pilot project may alleviate some of these issues by allowing selected individuals already in Canada who have been approved for permanent residence to confirm their status through a telephone interview. CoPRs will be either mailed or uploaded online into the individual’s IRCC account (for those who applied online under an eligible program). During the telephone interview, the same questions that would normally be asked in an in-person interview will be asked, and the process is expected to take approximately 15 minutes.

Selected applicants will receive a notification through their IRCC application portal, if they applied through the portal, or they will get an email from an address ending in “@cic.gc.ca.” If you receive a positive decision on your permanent residence application but have not been notified that you were selected for telephone confirmation, then you must either schedule an interview or attend in-person at a port-of-entry.

IRCC will select candidates for participation in the pilot project. Right now, clients cannot request a telephone interview but depending on its effectiveness, the project may be expanded in the future. The results of the project and the experiences of its participants will be taken into consideration by the government in determining whether to roll this program out for all applicants in the future.

The government has not indicated how long they will run this pilot project or how many individuals will be selected to participate.

Issues Not Addressed by the Pilot Project

One issue that still exists in the process of becoming a Canadian permanent resident is Permanent Resident Card issuance. As many new Canadian PRs know, there is a significant lag time in the date that PR status is confirmed and the time that a Permanent Resident Card is received in the mail. It can take up to six weeks, or more, from the day you are confirmed as a permanent resident to the day you receive your Permanent Resident Card. This is a significant issue because the Permanent Resident Card is a vital travel document for Canadian permanent residents traveling outside of Canada. Without it, they run into trouble boarding commercial airlines flying to Canada.

The Permanent Resident Card issue has been affecting foreign nationals for many years and is a common complaint. If IRCC is having a look at procedural issues that cost time and money for Canadian newcomers and permanent residents, we hope that they will look at improved solutions for the latter half of the process beyond the confirmation of permanent residence stage.

One girl’s long way home

permanent residence in Canada

Mary Keyork
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Latest posts by Mary Keyork (see all)

    One girl’s long way home – Permanent residence granted on humanitarian and compassionate grounds

    Miriam first contacted us on a sunny and crispy Montreal morning regarding obtaining permanent residency based on humanitarian and compassionate grounds; she sounded anxious and was looking for answers that would essentially determine her personal and professional life.

    A young professional in her mid-twenties, Miriam lived most of her adult life in Canada; however, she had no real status in Canada and had a complicated life story.

    She was born in the family of foreign diplomats in Ottawa. She was born in Canada, but she was not a Canadian citizen!

    Her parents, people of Belarus, were stationed in Canada for five years. During those five years, they had Miriam, who was completely immersed in Canadian culture and thought of herself as a Canadian.

    Unfortunately, despite being born in Canada and having a Canadian birth certificate, Miriam was not a Canadian in the eyes of the law. As she was born in the family of foreign diplomats during posting, she, therefore, was exempted from claiming Canadian citizenship.

    Of course, at the time, her parents were not aware of this existing rule and only did not give enough thought to how Miriam would feel when they eventually would have to leave Canada.

    While her parents were grateful for the opportunity to get accustomed with Canada and made lifelong friends during that period of their career, they knew that Canada was not their home. Unlike her parents, Miriam didn’t know any other home than Canada.

    It was heartbreaking for her parents to watch their little girl cry during the whole flight back to Belarus, but there was little they could do.

    As a consolation, Miriam’s mother packed a small bag of “Smarties” candies, Miriam’s favorite Canadian snack, and hoped that it would help her daughter’s sadness caused by leaving Canada.

    After returning to Belarus, the family stayed there for a year and then eventually left on another diplomatic mission. Sadly for Miriam, she never quite assimilated in Belarus during that one year, and never felt home in any of the countries that her parents’ career took them to.

    Soon after turning 18, Miriam decided to move to Canada and get her education here. Her parents were back to Belarus and settled, and while they were sad to let their daughter go, they knew she should follow her dreams.

    Canada had always been on Miriam’s mind; she would always read about Canadian news, watch Canadian TV shows, and was always up to date with what was going on in Canada.
    On a beautiful summer day and with just two bags, Miriam arrived in the beautiful city of Montreal ready to build her life in Canada. She was excited to discover the French heritage of Canada and to study at the University of her choice.

    It is safe to say that Miriam thoroughly enjoyed her student experience in Montreal, made friends with locals and discovered how much she loved smoked meat. Four years of intense studies in the marketing field flew by, and Miriam was ready to jump-start her career.

    Just like millions of young Canadians, Miriam started the challenging but eventually rewarding process of a job hunt and finally landed a great entry level position in one of the most reputable marketing agencies in Montreal.

    In the meantime, she also met Andrew, a graphic designer whose studio was in the same building as her marketing agency. Miriam and Andrew made it a ritual to get lunch together every Tuesday and Thursday, and shortly after they both realized that they had romantic feelings for each other.

    Canada had become everything Miriam had ever wanted; she had a job she adored, a man with whom Miriam was falling in love more and more with every passing day, great friends and the never-ending feeling that she was home.

    During one of the conversations, Miriam was telling Andrew how she dreamt of the day she would acquire Canadian citizenship and would become a proud owner of a Canadian passport.

    Naturally curious, she Googled the process of applying for citizenship to get some idea as to what documents she would need for the application and quickly realized that despite being born in Canada and her Canadian birth certificate, it did not entitle her to Canadian citizenship because she was born in the family of foreign diplomats during posting.

    Miriam just froze, and the reality hit her; she was not Canadian, and she was out of status all these years.

    • What is going to happen to her?
    • Would she be asked to leave the country eventually?
    • What about her job?
    • What about her relationship with Andrew?

    They sat there, staring at each, both anxious and not knowing what the future held for them. Andrew cared about Miriam, but he was nowhere near ready to ask her to marry him. In fact, they both wanted to date for a while and get to know each other, travel the world and focus on their careers before committing to starting a family.

    Besides, that was not how Miriam would want her relationship to progress; being proposed out of fear that she would be asked to leave Canada eventually? Being proposed out of necessity?

    No, no, no; there should be some other way. After all, she was so established in Canada, with an extensive network of friends and coworkers, with her employer being euphoric with her performance, with Andrew.

    Right then and there, Miriam knew she had to contact an immigration lawyer and find out what her options would be. After all, all these years she lived in Canada should count for something. That was what Miriam hoped and prayed for when she was getting ready for the consultation with an immigration lawyer.

    Thankfully, there is a possibility to apply for permanent residence from within Canada based on an establishment in Canada as well as compelling humanitarian and compassionate grounds. It’s an exception that allows people who are out of status in Canada but who are so established that removing them out of the country would cause them.

    Miriam gathered all the documents she was asked to provide to prepare her application and waited impatiently for the answer.

    Weeks and months went by; Miriam kept working in the marketing agency and her relationship with Andrew was progressing. They celebrated Canada Day together, took trips to Quebec City, Mont Tremblant, and explored small towns in the province of Quebec.

    Some days she would catch herself thinking about how much she would miss Canada if eventually she would be asked to leave the country. What scared her even more – where would she go?

    Even the thought of that made her sick; she missed her parents and would want to visit them whenever possible, but Belarus was never her home. Leaving Canada would have meant leaving a vital part of herself; leaving Canada would only mean losing herself.

    In early November Miriam received an email from her lawyer; she was excited and ecstatic. The title of the email already revealed the content – “Wonderful news!” she read and quickly proceeded to open the email. Her application was approved!

    Miriam’s voice was shaking because of how excited she was when she finally managed to call Andrew to tell him that Canada officially became her home! It was a long way home, filled with uncertainty and anxiousness, but she finally reached her destination.

    Miriam knows that her story is unique. How many foreign diplomats based in Canada have children while being posted? How many of these kids make Canada their home? Miriam wonders.

    I want to move to Canada. Is it possible?

    Moving to Canada

    Nancy Elliott
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    I want to move to Canada. Is it possible?


    As the dust settles after the hard-fought US presidential battle, many Americans are considering a move to Canada. Of course, threatening to go to Canada in exasperation is not the same thing as analyzing, planning and relocating, and many Americans do not know where to begin.

    Here’s what to do:

    1. Decide that you want to transfer
    Consider all of the advantages and disadvantages of moving to Canada. It’s tough to leave home, and relocating can be both intimidating and exciting. Canada is a beautiful, clean and diverse country with sophisticated political and legal systems, universal healthcare, advanced technology infrastructure and world-class education. Research employment, business and investment opportunities, taxation, housing and education, and consider where you would like to live. For example, the climate is warmer in Vancouver, but Toronto is Canada’s centre of commerce.

    2. Consider the time frame
    Maybe you are ready to move tomorrow, but your kids have just started a new school year. Obtaining permanent residence (a Canadian green card) can take many months and often over a year. Perhaps you are qualified for a work permit that could allow you to relocate within weeks or months. Which would work better for you?

    3. Get proper advice
    Canadian immigration law can seem daunting, as there are many different categories with specific requirements. We can assess your situation and provide you with the best solution to successfully immigrate or work in Canada.

    4. Apply
    Many work permit applications can be made right at the Canadian border. Others require prior approval and consideration at a Canadian Embassy or Consulate in the United States. We can guide you through the process.

    5. Move to Canada!
    Get ready to begin your new life in Canada. Explore places to live, schools and communities.

    So how can you successfully apply for residence in Canada?

    Get a Work Permit

    There are many different types of work permits available to US citizens. They include the following:

    • NAFTA professionals for a large variety of occupations, from scientists to management consultants – the catch is you need to find a job in your profession first.
    • Intra-company transferees – if your company has a parent, subsidiary or affiliate in Canada, you can be transferred provided you are a senior manager or possess specialized knowledge. Your business can even set up a new entity in Canada and send you up to get it started.
    • Owner/Operator – if you are self-employed or an entrepreneur, you can set up your own business in Canada provided you have a decent plan. This category requires careful consideration and planning.

    Spouses of these types of work permit holders can also qualify for open work permits and look for employment in Canada. Kids can obtain study permits to go to school.

    Often, work permit holders can qualify for permanent residence through one of the economic categories, which means that remaining in Canada permanently

    Apply for Permanent Residence

    You have probably heard that applications for permanent residence take quite a while to process. Applicants in the Express Entry system who are invited to apply can have their applications processed in six months, whereas self-employed applications can take years.

    Canada’s Express Entry system allows applicants to apply through an electronic platform that assesses candidates according to a comprehensive ranking system. Those with higher scores are invited to apply and will have their applications quickly processed. The system allows applicants in various categories to apply, the most common program being the Federal Skilled Worker program.

    • Federal Skilled Worker – The program is based on a points system that considers an applicant’s education, experience, language ability, adaptability and whether there is a valid job offer.
    • Federal Skilled Trades – This program targets people in a variety of skilled trades, but requires them to have a minimum of English skills and a valid job offer or a certification of qualification from a province to apply.
    • Self-Employed – This category addresses athletes, actors, musicians, and others engaged in cultural activities which are either highly skilled or have significant self-employment experience. It is also open to experienced farmers who wish to operate a farm in Canada.
    • Start-up Visas – The Start-up Visa Program allows entrepreneurs to be fast-tracked for permanent residence if they can obtain financial support from a Canadian venture capital or angel fund, or from a business incubator. This underutilized program is very suitable for new and existing innovators and entrepreneurs.

    Are you ready to get Started?

    We have over two decades of experience handling all types of immigration applications and have a broad understanding of Canada’s immigration and citizenship laws and procedures.

    We can expertly guide you through the process and assist you to plan your new life in Canada.

    How a permanent residence card renewal could change this man’s life

    Nancy Elliott
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    Mohammed’s epic story of overcoming adversity leading to PR card renewal in Canada.

    He was a Permanent Resident of Canada but left many years ago. Now, his country was at war.

    We first spoke to Mohamed, a citizen of Syria, a couple of months ago. He had been working in Saudi Arabia for almost ten years on a work permit.

    His wife and his teenage daughter lived in Saudi Arabia with him. Mohamed had an excellent position, but he was soon going to retire.

    The problem was that once he retires, his work permit in Saudi Arabia would no longer be valid and he would have to leave. But where would he go?

    Mohamed could not travel back to Syria with his family, as his country was torn by war and almost entirely destroyed.

    Mohamed had become a permanent resident of Canada nearly ten years ago as a skilled worker and lived in Canada for a few years before he moved to Saudi Arabia.

    Even though Mohamed was an experienced professional with almost 15 years of experience in public health, he faced the same obstacles in entering the Canadian job market as many newcomers who arrive in Canada in the hopes of building a better life for themselves and their children.

    Mohamed arrived in Canada with his wife and three children; ready to embrace the new country they all were going to call home.

    Unfortunately, Mohamed was not able to find a job that would have allowed him to take proper care of his family’s needs.

    After struggling with the job search, Mohamed eventually moved to Saudi Arabia with his wife and his youngest daughter.

    It was a hard decision to make: the family was going to be separated from one another as Mohamed’s son and daughter stayed in Canada to continue their education and to become established in Canada in the hopes that one day, their sister and parents will join them.

    Life is Saudi Arabia was stable, and Mohamed could contribute to his children’s education and to help them achieve their best in Canada.

    His devotion to his family was the driving force behind every single decision he made in his life.

    However, life had some unpleasant surprises in store for Mohamed, when the civil war started in his home country.

    Syria made the headlines, but not for good reasons. Not only Mohamed lost all his assets he had in Syria, such as his house and business, he was also always worried about the safety of his parents and siblings.

    The Syrian government became unable to protect its citizens, and many had to seek refuge in neighboring countries.

    Kidnappings and killings were frequent, and the last time Mohamed could visit his aging parents in Syria, was in 2011.

    Given these recent developments, Mohamed realized that when his work permit expired and would not be renewed due to regulations in Saudi Arabia, he no longer could return to his home country.

    Syria was suffering devastating consequences of the war, millions of people were seeking safety in other parts of the world, and those not fortunate enough to leave Syria were trapped in constant fear and death.

    Mohamed once had a dream to build a life in Canada, a country that would have become his second home should he be able to secure a job.

    But the reality was different, and here he was, ten years later, with no prospects of going back to Syria or staying in Saudi Arabia.

    •  Was Mohamed still a permanent resident of Canada even if his card was expired?

    •  Could he possibly apply to renew his card given the fact that he had no other place to go but Canada?

    •  Would Canada accept and consider all compassionate factors that affected Mohamed’s decision to leave Canada?

    Even with a permanent resident card expired; Mohamed remained a permanent resident.

    Of course, being away from Canada for an extended period, he did not meet the requirement for minimum physical residency, which would have allowed him to renew the card without any complications.

    However, given the particular circumstances of his case, he applied for his status renewal and showed that things that kept him outside of Canada were not within his control.

    Canadian immigration law gives a generous interpretation to all possible humanitarian and compassionate grounds that kept the permanent resident from living in Canada.

    While the positive result is not guaranteed, a complete and robust application that encompasses all difficulties that made physical residency impossible to meet is a chance that Mohamed decided to take.

    Parallel to applying for a permanent resident card renewal, Mohamed was anxious to enter Canada and to stay there with his family while waiting for the response on his application.

    • Would he able to travel to Canada with his expired permanent resident card?

    Recently, Mohamed entered Canada by car with his family through the United States without any issues and was welcomed home by Canada Border Services Agency as a permanent resident of Canada.

    Mohamed explained to the border officer his entry story and was completely honest about his intentions to remain in Canada permanently.

    Unbeknownst to many, the Canadian immigration regulations provide that individuals who are permanent residents of Canada remain, permanent residents of Canada until an adverse determination is made.

    Mohamed reunited with his family in Canada and tried to enjoy as much as he can the time with his loved ones, with whom he had to separate many years ago.

    Mohamed currently waits for the processing of his PR card while living in Canada.

    Mohamed and his family are hopeful that they all will be able to build their life in Canada just how they dreamed back in 2006.

    A story to be continued…

    My Permanent Resident Card Expired, Can I Renew It?

    How to renew your expired permanent residence card in Canada

    To renew your Permanent Residence Card, you must meet the residency requirement of two years out of five (730 days) of “residence” in Canada. There are four ways to meet the residency requirement:

    i) be physically present in Canada
    ii) be accompanying a citizen who is a spouse, common-law partner or parent
    iii) be employed full-time by a “Canadian business” or public service, and required by it to travel
    iv) be accompanying a permanent resident who is employed by a “Canadian business” or public service, and required to travel

    If you do not meet the residency requirement, you may still submit your renewal application with a request for humanitarian and compassionate considerations. You will need to provide a detailed explanation as to why you were forced to remain outside of Canada. It is up to the discretion of Citizenship and Immigration Canada to determine whether the Permanent Resident Card will be renewed.

    Will I Have An Issue If I Did Not Mention My Common Law Relationship In My Permanent Residence Application?

    How can I revise my Canadian permanent residence application?

    I am a permanent resident of Canada, having applied through the Ontario PNP program. I would like to sponsor my common-law partner now, but realize that I may have a problem. When I applied for PR, I did not mention that I had a common-law partner because our relationship was inconsistent, and I did not understand whether I should include him or not. Now, I am worried that if I apply to sponsor him, Immigration will think I lied about our previous relationship. Will this be an issue?

    A common-law partner is defined as a person with whom you were living in a conjugal relationship for at least twelve months. A conjugal relationship includes more than only a sexual relationship – it means a degree of intimacy and commitment that one would expect of married spouses. If you were in a common law relationship during your application for PR, or any time before landing in Canada, you had a duty to disclose the relationship to the visa office or immigration officer at the time of landing. Failing to disclose this could lead Immigration to determine that you engaged in a material misrepresentation and took action to remove you from Canada. As you have stated that your relationship was inconsistent, it would be best to obtain accurate legal advice regarding whether or not the facts and evidence demonstrate you were, in fact, in a common law relationship. If you were, you will need to prepare a strategy on how to proceed, and arrange your sponsorship very carefully.