Canadian Permanent Residency – What Are The Options?

January 14, 2020

Moving to a new country for work can be incredibly exciting, but raise a lot of questions. Will my work visa be renewed? Will I stay with my sponsoring employer? Will I settle comfortably in my new home? Will my family be happy there?

This uncertainty usually hinges on the fact that workers who move to a new country usually do so based on a temporary basis, usually with a work visa. Whether an H-1B visa in the US, a Tier 2 work visa in the UK or a Temporary Worker visa in Canada, the entry point is typically temporary.

But the longer-term goal of most foreign workers is to stay indefinitely and become a permanent resident (PR). Permanent residence is a coveted status that enables foreign workers and their families to confidently root themselves in their new country, start planning for the future, and eventually apply for citizenship.

Today, obtaining permanent residence in the US is harder than ever, especially for high-skilled individuals from India and China. So this article will focus on Canadian permanent residence, which has never been easier.

What are the main Canadian permanent residence categories?

Broadly speaking, there are four ways to get permanent residence in Canada: find a job, invest in or start a business, get sponsored by a family member, and “other” (a catch-all for a few other methods that don’t fall nearly into the first three).

Let’s expand on each of these a bit.

Find a job

A permanent job offer is one of the most common ways to obtain permanent residence in Canada. Today more than ever, if you have skills, Canada wants you.

And the way to apply is through an online system called Express Entry, which consists of four types of programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program. This program most resembles the H-1B program in the US, as it seeks individuals in managerial, professional and technical roles that are in high demand in Canada and cannot be filled.
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program. This program attracts workers to the necessary labor jobs such as construction, electrical, agriculture, food production and more, that allow local communities to continue to grow and thrive across Canada.
  • Canadian Experience Class. This is an interesting category that is open to individuals who have at least one year of work experience in Canada, sufficient language skills, and a desire to stay permanently.
  • Provincial Nominee Program. These are province-specific programs that seek out high-, semi- or low-skilled workers to contribute to specific geographic areas based on what those areas need.

So if you find a job that falls into any of these categories, you may be on your way to becoming a (PR). One of the most exciting and popular programs is the Federal Skilled Worker Program, which features the recently-launched Global Skills Strategy – a recent federal policy enacted to greatly speed up the work visa and permanent residence process for skilled workers in high-demand jobs, including those within science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

If you’re interested in learning more about the Global Skills Strategy, we wrote about it here.

Invest in or start a business

Investing in a business or launching a company in Canada is another way of gaining permanent residence. There are several ways of doing this:

  • Startup Visa Program. If you can launch a startup in Canada, you can move to Canada and become eligible for permanent residence. There are some major criteria to meet, however, to be eligible. You need the support of a Canadian VC firm, angel investor or startup incubator, own a certain percentage of the company, strong English or French language skills and to have a certain amount of financial capital.
  • Self Employed. To be eligible for permanent residence as a self-employed person, you can’t just have any old job. According to the Canadian government’s website, in order to be eligible under this category, you need to “have relevant experience in cultural activities or athletics and be willing and able to make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada.” Some examples include wealthy foreigners who want to open a business, actors, athletes, artisans and farmers.

Family sponsorship

This category is relatively straightforward – if you can get sponsored by a family member who is living in Canada, you can come live in Canada too. There are a few family sponsorship avenues.

  • Traditional family reunification. Generally, a Canadian citizen or PR can sponsor their foreign national spouse, partner, dependent child, parents or grandparents.
  • Non-traditional family sponsorship. There are other, somewhat more complicated ways to sponsor other relatives, including distant relatives, especially where the sponsor doesn’t have anyone else they can sponsor or who they’re related to living in Canada.

So if you have a qualifying family member living in Canada who is willing and able to sponsor you, you may be able to move to Canada and apply for permanent residence.


Finally, the “other” category. This category captures permanent residence avenues that don’t fit neatly into the employment-based or family-based immigration, may be temporary or geographically-limited.

  • Immigration Pilot Programs. This is the newest breed of Canadian immigration programs, there are several pilot programs currently live or launching soon. One such program is the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot that establishes fast-track residence for individuals interested in moving into smaller, rural communities in Canada that have aging populations or are otherwise looking to grow. Another program that’s launching in early 2020 is the Agri-Food Immigration Pilot, which will “help address the labour needs of the Canadian agri-food sector, particularly in meat processing and mushroom production.”
  • Refugees. Individuals who fear persecution or danger if they were to return to their home country may be able to apply as refugees to stay in Canada permanently. This application is made from inside the country. Individuals traveling to Canada with the same fear of persecution or danger can claim asylum upon entering and, if granted, apply for permanent residence that way.

As you can see, this final category of permanent residence options considers non-traditional immigration circumstances, both from the perspective of the individual looking to move to Canada as well as the country and its provinces.

What are the benefits of Canadian permanent residence?

While living and working in Canada on a temporary visa is still a great opportunity, becoming a PR has a number of benefits on top of just the ability to remain and create a permanent life in Canada.

First and foremost, as a Canadian PR, you become eligible for social benefits, most importantly healthcare coverage. Whereas in the US there is no universal healthcare, meaning you have to pay out of pocket, apply for government-assisted healthcare or obtain healthcare through an employer, in Canada you immediately become eligible for national healthcare coverage without having to worry about what your employer provides.

As a PR you are also able to live, study and work anywhere in Canada. While temporary work visas typically bind individuals to a particular employer and geographic location, permanent residence allows you to move around freely and unencumbered.

Finally, after five years, you can apply to become a Canadian citizen. The general requirement is being physically present in Canada for at least three years of the last five, but of course there are other requirements as well, particularly for minors under the age of 18. You can also easily check your eligibility status on the Canadian government’s website.


Canada has always welcomed immigrants with open arms, and now it’s doubling down on that commitment. Particularly with so many foreign nationals living in the US, mostly on H-1B visas, frustrated by the uncertainty of the current US immigration laws, Canada is becoming more and more attractive.

With its close proximity to established US employers, growing Canadian-born tech sector, great quality of life, and a clear, known and simple path to permanent residence and citizenship, it’s no wonder Canada is one of the fastest-growing nations.

Are you thinking about moving to Canada? Are you in the US on a work visa and frustrated? Answer these four easy questions to see if you can easily move to Canada!