2022-11-03T13:37:30-04:00Jan 13, 2021|

How to move to Canada and get permanent residence (PR)

Canada has specific immigration programs designed to enable individuals with different skills, education, and work experience to settle in Canada and contribute to the Canadian economy. If you’ve been thinking about settling in Canada, did you know that there are many ways you can apply to become a PR? You may have heard of Express Entry and “PNP,” but there are other options as well that may be a better fit for your unique case. In this article, we will provide an overview of various immigration programs that allow you to move to Canada. We will also provide links to resources and tools that can help you get started with your application. 

Guide on immigrating to Canada

Apply for PR through an immigration program

Canada has many federal and provincial immigration programs that can let you move and settle in Canada as a PR. Some of these programs are: 

1. Express Entry

One of the most sought after and popular ways to immigrate to Canada, mainly due to its simplicity and quick processing timelines. Express Entry is ideal for skilled individuals who want to settle in Canada permanently. It has three immigration streams: 

To understand the key differences in these three programs, check out the comparison table provided by the government of Canada. 

Confused about which immigration program you qualify for?
Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) also have an easy-to-use tool to determine the immigration program you qualify for; all you need to do is answer a few questions online, and you will receive your results. 

Note: An immigration lawyer can help identify the best options for you, but be sure to check their credentials to avoid scams.

Tip: Read How Express Entry works for a stepwise approach to apply for permanent residence in Canada.

2. Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)

PNP are primarily aimed at individuals who:

  • Have the skills, education and work experience to contribute to the economy of a specific province or territory;
  • Intend to settle permanently in that province or territory; and  
  • Want to become permanent residents of Canada.

Each province and territory has its own PNP streams (immigration programs that target certain groups such as new graduates, business people, skilled workers in specific professions, or semi-skilled workers) and unique requirements. 

Tip: See Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP): Moving to Canada as a PR for more details and to get a stepwise approach for applying through PNP.

3. Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP)

The AIP program is a pathway to PR for skilled foreign workers and international graduates who want to live and work in one of Canada’s four Atlantic provinces: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick.

Within AIP, there are three programs through which you can apply for a PR:

4. Start-up Visa (SUV)

Entrepreneurs with the skills and potential to build innovative businesses in Canada, create jobs for Canadians, and compete on a global scale, can apply for a Start-up Visa. To be eligible for the Start-up Visa Program, you must:

Foreign nationals who receive a Commitment Certificate and Letter of Support issued by a designated entity can apply for a short-term work permit under the International Mobility Program before submitting their PR application under the Start-Up Visa program. The designated entity, however, must support the request for a work permit. 

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can apply for a work permit. You do not need to apply for PR first. However, note that a Commitment Certificate is valid for six months from the day it is issued. So, whether you apply for a work permit or not, you must submit your application for PR before the certificate expires. Learn more about the Start-up Visa program on the government website

Note: The Province of Quebec runs its own business immigration program. If you plan to live in Quebec, visit Quebec’s immigration website

5. Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP)

The RNIP is a community-driven program designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers who want to live and work in one of the participating communities (North Bay, Sudbury, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, and Thunder Bay in Ontario; Brandon and Altona/Rhineland in Manitoba; Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan; Claresholm in Alberta; Vernon and West Kootenay – Trail, Castlegar, Rossland, Nelson in British Columbia).

To apply under RNIP, you must meet all IRCC eligibility requirements and the community-specific requirements. You will also need an eligible job offer with an employer in one of the participating communities. Get instructions on how to apply through RNIP on the government of Canada website.

6. Family Sponsorship

Family sponsorship provides a route for spouses, partners, children, parents, grandparents, and in certain cases, other relatives to live, work and study in Canada as PRs. 

Tip: Read Family Sponsorship: Moving to Canada as a permanent resident (PR) to learn more about this program, evaluate if it’s an option for you, and get details on how to apply. 

7. Quebec-selected Skilled Workers

This immigration program is meant for skilled workers who want to move as PRs and intend to live and work in the province of Quebec.

Quebec has a special agreement on immigration with the Government of Canada. To immigrate to Canada as a Quebec-selected skilled worker, you have to apply in the following two stages:

  • Apply to the Government of Quebec for a Quebec Selection Certificate (Certificat de sélection du Québec [CSQ]).
    • The Province of Quebec will assess you, using its own rules.
    • The CSQ will show that the Province of Quebec has accepted you as an immigrant.
  • If the Province of Quebec chooses you and gives you a CSQ, you can apply to IRCC for PR.

Find out more about this process on the IRCC website

8. Caregivers

As a caregiver, you have options to come to Canada to become a PR or work temporarily. Those wanting to apply for PR have two options: 

  • Home Child Care Provider Pilot and Home Support Worker Pilot
  • Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP)

The Home Child Care Provider Pilot and the Home Support Worker Pilot are five-year pilot programs (initiated in 2019) that let qualified caregivers and their family members come to Canada with the goal of becoming PRs. If you’ve been offered a job in Canada as a caregiver or have experience working in Canada as a caregiver, you may be able to apply for PR through one of these pilots. The application process will be different depending on your situation and how much qualifying work experience you have.

You can only apply for PR through the LCP if you have at least two years of Canadian work experience in the program. 

Note that the caregivers’ program has an annual cap. The government stops accepting applications once the quota is met. Refer to the IRCC website for the latest updates and detailed steps on how to apply through this category. 

9. Self-employed

The Self-employed Persons Program allows individuals with relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics to immigrate to Canada permanently as a self-employed person. To be eligible through this program, you must be willing and able to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada. Learn more about it on the government website.

10. Agri-Food Pilot

The Agri-Food Pilot helps address the labour needs of the Canadian agri-food sector. It provides a pathway to permanent residence for experienced, non-seasonal workers in specific industries and occupations. It will run until May 2023. 

To apply under this program, you primarily need eligible Canadian work experience in one or more of the eligible industries and occupations and a full-time, non-seasonal job offer from a Canadian employer in one of the eligible industries and occupations (outside of Quebec). Find out more on the IRCC website

Study in Canada

To study in Canada, you need to apply for a study permit. A study permit is a document that allows foreign nationals to study at a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. Many students also see this as the first step in becoming PRs, and eventually, Canadian citizens. 

A study permit is not a visa; it doesn’t let you enter Canada. Depending on your passport, you may also need a visitor visa or an electronic travel authorization (eTA) to enter Canada. Once your study permit is approved, the Government will issue a study permit approval letter and, if required, an entry visa in your passport, authorizing your travel to Canada. 

Tip: Read Study Permit: Moving to Canada as an international student to learn more about study permits and how to apply for one while the article, An international student’s guide to permanent residency in Canada, will guide you through various pathways to becoming a PR.

Get a work permit

A work permit allows you to work in Canada. Most people need a work permit to work in Canada. If you’re not sure whether you need one, find out if you need a work permit. Depending on whether you need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), you may be eligible for a two-week processing under the Global Skills Strategy. For many professionals, a work permit is often the first step towards PR. 

There are two types of work permits:  

1. Open work permit

An open work permit allows you to work for any employer in Canada, except for an employer who is listed as ineligible. You can only get an open work permit in specific situations.

2. Employer-specific work permit

An employer-specific work permit (sometimes called a closed work permit) allows you to work according to the conditions on your work permit, which includes the name of the employer you can work for, how long you can work, and the location where you can work (if applicable). 

International Experience Canada (IEC) – Working Holiday Visa

IEC allows eligible individuals to apply for a Working Holiday Visa. To apply through this program, your country or territory of citizenship must have an agreement with Canada that allows you to apply for an IEC work permit. Learn more about IEC and get information on processing times and fees on the government website

Work in Canada as an international student

You can work as an international student in Canada if your study permit lists a condition that says you’re allowed to work on- or off-campus. Once you complete your studies and graduate, you need a work permit to work in Canada. Graduates of certain designated learning institutions can apply for a Post-graduate Work Permit (PGWP). If you’re not eligible for a PGWP, you may still be able to work in Canada after you graduate by applying for an open or employer-specific work permit. The work experience you gain while working may help you qualify for permanent residence.

Immigrate as a refugee

This is an immigration option for those who genuinely need help and protection. Note that seeking asylum is not a shortcut to get around normal immigration rules and procedures. It is only granted for legitimate reasons. Asylum claimants face a rigorous process to determine whether they have a legitimate claim according to Canadian and international laws. Learn more about refugees on the government of Canada website


There are many ways to move to Canada as a PR. As you review all options and decide which one would be best for you, it’s important to consider specific criteria that may apply to your unique case and situation. If you’re uncertain or have a complex situation, you may wish to consult an authorized immigration consultant or lawyer.