Stay Connected

Immigrant Questions and Answers

Immigrants have many questions about living, studying and working in BC. Search here to find answers to hundreds of questions you might have. All answers include information and links to other important sources of information and detail.

NewToBC has collected a list of questions and answers that are often asked by new immigrants and refugees. Look through the list for information about immigration, employment, education health, housing, banking, the BC legal system and transportation.

Search by category to find answers to common questions.

Select a category and a sub-category.

Immigration and Citizenship

Immigrating to BC
Q. How can I immigrate to BC?

A. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) establishes immigration policy and makes decisions about who can enter Canada. There are several programs that can help you and your family come to British Columbia. You can apply for permanent residence under the following categories: Federal Skilled Workers, Federal Skilled Trades, Investors, Entrepreneurs and Self-Employed, Canadian Experience Class, Provincial Nominee, Caregivers, Family Sponsorship, and Refugees. You can apply for temporary residence under the following categories: Foreign Students, Temporary Foreign Workers, and Visitors.

For more information:

Q. How long will it take to process my immigration application?

A. There is no standard time for processing immigration applications. It depends on the type of application, where the application was sent, and how many applications are being processed. You can check application processing times on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s online processing times tool.

For more information:

Q. Do I need to hire someone to help with my immigration application?

A. You do not need to hire anyone to help you with your immigration application. The Government of Canada treats everyone equally, whether you use a representative or not. All the forms and information needed to apply to immigrate to Canada are available for free on the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)’s website. If you decide to work with someone, IRCC has rules about who can help you. Only a paid representative can charge a fee or receive payment to represent or advise you on a Canada immigration application. Paid representatives include lawyers and paralegals (who are members in good standing of a Canadian provincial or territorial law society) and immigration consultants (who are members in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council). Unpaid representatives can act in the same way as paid representatives, but they cannot be paid for the service. Unpaid representatives include family members, friends, non-profit groups and religious groups.

For more information:

Arriving in BC
Q. What do I need to prepare before coming to BC?

A. While you are waiting for your visa or permit, there are some things that you can do to prepare for your new life in British Columbia. You can learn about the region and community where you plan to move. You can find a place to stay when you first arrive. You can gather your documents, such as professional certificates and school records, and get them translated into an official language (English or French) by a certified translator. You can also start to learn English or French. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offers free in-person and online pre-arrival services to immigrants abroad to prepare them for life in Canada.

For more information:

Q. What items can I bring with me when I move to BC?

A. You can bring your personal and household goods with you, or you can send them later, without paying duty. To qualify, you must have owned, possessed and used the goods before coming to Canada. You will have to pay duty on some items, i.e. farm equipment, vehicles you plan to use for business, items that you have bought on your way to Canada, etc. If you are not sure whether you have to pay duty on some items, bring sales receipts and/or registration documents with you. You will need to fill out a BSF186A- Personal Effects Accounting Document, which asks for a list of all the goods and their value. When you arrive in Canada, you will need to give the completed document to the customs officer, even if you are not bringing any goods at that time. You may also bring money, but if you bring more than C$10,000 (or the equivalent in another currency), you will need to declare it and fill out a Cross-Border Currency or Monetary Instruments Report. If you do not declare the money, you may need to pay a fine or face penalties.

For more information:

 

Q. What is the weather like in BC?

A. British Columbia is a large province, and the climate is very different from one region to another. On the South Coast (e.g. Vancouver, Victoria), the climate is mild year-round. In the Interior and Central Regions (e.g. Kelowna, Kamloops), the summers are hot and the winters are cold and snowy. In the North (e.g. Prince George, Fort St John), the winters are long and cold with lots of snow, and the summers are short. On the North Coast (e.g. Prince Rupert, Kitimat), there is a lot of rain in the spring, summer and fall, and the winters are cold.

For more information:

Q. What help is available when I arrive in BC?

A. You should contact your local settlement agency as soon as possible. They can help you and your family set up your new life in British Columbia. Many settlement agencies have staff members who can speak language(s) other than English. If you arrive at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), you should find the Community Airport Newcomers Network (CANN). They are located in the immigration and customs area. They can help you with landing procedures, information and orientation on settlement in Canada, and links to settlement agencies in your new community.

For more information:

Permanent Residence
Q. What is a Permanent Resident (PR)?

A. A Permanent Resident (PR) is someone who has acquired PR status by immigrating to Canada, but is not yet a Canadian citizen. Permanent residents are citizens of other countries. Permanent residents have the right to most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive but are not allow to vote or run for political office. Permanent residents are not allow to apply to some jobs that need high-level security clearance.

For more information:

Q. What is a Permanent Resident (PR) card and how do I apply for one?

A. A Permanent Resident (PR) card is the official proof that you are a PR of Canada. You use this card to show that you can enter and stay in Canada when you return from another country. If you are immigrating to Canada and provide a Canadian mailing address, you do not need to apply for a PR card. It will be mailed to you after you get to Canada. If you do not provide your Canadian mailing address when you become a PR, you must send your Canadian address to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) within 180 days of becoming a PR.

For more information:

Q. What do I need to know so that I don’t lose my Permanent Resident (PR) status?

A. As a Permanent Resident (PR), you may travel outside of Canada. However, you must meet certain residency obligations to maintain your status. You can lose your PR status if you do not live in Canada for at least two years in a five-year period, are convicted of a serious crime and told to leave Canada, or become a Canadian citizen. Losing your PR status does not happen automatically. Unless you have gone through an official process, you have not lost or given up your PR status, even though you may not be eligible to return to Canada as a PR.

For more information:

Q. What should I do if I lose my PR Card?

A. In case your PR card has been lost, stolen or destroyed, you should contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) immediately to report it. To apply for a new PR card, you will have to fill out an application package and pay an application fee of $50 Canadian dollars. If you do not want to apply for a new card right away, you still need to fill out a web form on IRCC’s website to report your PR card lost, stolen or destroyed. If you are outside Canada when your PR card is lost, you should report it to the closest Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) visa office and apply for a permanent resident travel document in order to return to Canada.

For more information:

Q. How do I apply to legally change my name?

A. Some new immigrants to Canada choose an English first name to make it easier for others to pronounce and remember. It is important to know that you are not obligated to choose an English name. Any Canadian citizen or permanent resident can change his or her name legally. Before beginning the application process, it’s important to understand the steps required in a legal name change, the cost, and the effect it will have on your life. To change your legal name, you can apply online, by mail, or visit in-person at the nearest Services BC location. After approval, you will receive a certificate of legal name change. It is your responsibility to contact each and every government department, organization, school and employer to change your legal name on your ID and legal documents, e.g. driver’s licence, citizenship certificate, passport, BC services card, RRSP, RESP, student ID, bank and credit cards, etc.

For more information:

Leaving BC
Q. Do I need a Permanent Resident (PR) card to travel back to Canada?

A. If you are a Permanent Resident (PR), you will need to show that you and your family, including children, have valid PR status when you return to Canada. If you are traveling by commercial carrier, such as a train, plane, boat or bus, you need to have a valid PR card or a valid PR travel document (PRTD) to re-enter Canada. If you are traveling in a private vehicle, such as your own car, you may be able to show other immigration documents. Permanent resident status does not expire. If you still have a PR status, but don’t have a valid PR card, you will have to apply for a PR travel document or a visa to return to Canada.

For more information:

Q. Does the Medical Services Plan of BC (MSP) cover me when I am outside of BC?

A. The Medical Services Plan of British Columbia (MSP) will help pay for unexpected medical services that you receive anywhere in the world. The services must be medically required, provided by a licensed physician, and normally insured by MSP. If you are in another province of Canada, except Quebec, MSP will pay for unexpected medical services. If you are in Quebec or outside of Canada, you will need to pay for the services and apply for reimbursement. Items that are not covered include services by other practitioners (e.g. chiropractor, physical therapist), prescription drugs, ambulances, and transportation of injured people back to British Columbia. For this reason, you should consider getting additional private health insurance coverage.

For more information:

Family Sponsorship
Q. What family members can I sponsor to immigrate to Canada?

A. The Government of Canada allows Canadian citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) to sponsor the following family members: your spouse (person you are legally married to), your partner (person you have a “marriage-like relationship” with), your parents, your grandparents, your dependent children and adopted children (under the age of 19 years and not married or living with a partner) and other relatives. Immigrants who arrive under the family class must receive care and support from their sponsors.

For more information:

Q. What is the Parent and Grandparent Super Visa?

A. The Parent and Grandparent Super Visa is a temporary resident permit that allows parents and grandparents to stay in Canada for up to two years per visit. It is valid for up to 10 years.

For more information:

Q. If I separate from my husband or wife, how will it affect my immigration status?

A. If your spouse sponsored you and you have separated, your right to remain in Canada depends on whether your Permanent Resident (PR) status is conditional or not. If your PR status is not conditional, you cannot be asked to leave Canada. If your PR status is conditional, you could lose your PR status if you separate from your spouse. There are exceptions in case of abuse or neglect. You don’t have to stay in an abusive relationship to keep your status in Canada. If you are a refugee claimant and your claim is based on your spouse’s situation, you might be able to separate your claim. If your sponsorship breaks down and you do not have PR status, contact a lawyer for advice as soon as possible.

For more information:

Refugees
Q. How does Canada’s refugee system work?

A. Canada offers refugee protection to people in Canada who face persecution in their home country or the country where they normally live, or who would face persecution if they returned to that country. The Refugee and Humanitarian Resettlement Program is for people seeking protection from outside Canada. The In-Canada Asylum Program is for people making a refugee protection claim from within Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) makes decisions about refugee claims within Canada. Refugees often do not have the resources to easily establish themselves, so the Government of Canada provides support for a broad range of settlement services to support the integration of refugees.

For more information:

Q. What assistance is available for refugees in BC?

A. Some resettled refugees receive support through the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), including assistance at the port of entry, temporary accommodation and help to find permanent accommodation, money to buy basic household items and clothing, and information and assistance to settle in Canada. They may also get a loan through the Immigration Loans Program to pay for the costs of medical examinations abroad, travel documents, transportation to Canada, housing rental, telephone deposits and work tools. However, loans must be repaid and interest may be charged. Some resettled refugees and refugee claimants are eligible for services under the Interim Federal Health (IFH) Program, which pays for emergency medical services after arrival in Canada, until they are covered by a provincial health plan. Settlement agencies in British Columbia also provide services to refugees to help them adjust to their new life.

For more information:

Citizenship
Q. How can I become a Canadian citizen?

A. To apply for Canadian citizenship, you must meet certain eligibility criteria and complete an application. Eligibility criteria include: have PR status in Canada, have lived in Canada as a PR for at least 1095 days during the five years right before the date you sign your application, and meet your personal income tax filing obligations if required under the Income Tax Act. If you are between 18 and 54 years old, you are required to provide proof that you have a Canadian Language Benchmark Level 4 speaking and listening ability in English or French and you must pass a citizenship test to demonstrate adequate knowledge of Canada and the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship. A person’s citizenship may be revoked if the person obtains the citizenship by false representation, fraud or knowingly concealing material circumstances.

For more information:

Q. What are the language requirements for Canadian citizenship?

A. If you are between 18 and 54 years old when you apply for Canadian citizenship, you must prove that you know enough English or French to understand and be understood by other people. This means that you must be at a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) / Niveaux de compétence linguistique canadiens (NCLC) level 4 to meet the current citizenship requirements. You must be able to understand a conversation on familiar, everyday topics and simple questions, ask and answer simple questions, have enough vocabulary for everyday conversations, and demonstrate an understanding of basic grammar. Applicants under 18 years of age or over 54 do not have to meet this language requirement.

For more information:

Q. What is the Canadian Citizenship Test?

A. If you want to become a Canadian citizen, you must pass the Canadian Citizenship Test if you are between the ages of 18-54 years old. Applicants under 18 years of age or over 54 do not have to take the Canadian Citizenship Test. The test is administered by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and covers many topics from Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship, such as Canada’s history, geography, political system, national symbols, identity and values, and rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

For more information:

Q. How can I prepare for the Canadian Citizenship Test?

A. There are different ways you can prepare for the Canadian Citizenship Test. You can take a free or low-cost citizenship class through a settlement program, community centre or public library. You can also use study tools developed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), CitizenshipCounts.ca or the Richmond Public Library.

For more information:

Q. Does Canada recognize dual citizenship?

A. Canada allows you to hold two or more citizenships, so you do not have to give up your citizenship to become Canadian. However, some countries do not allow dual citizenship and will take away your citizenship if you become Canadian. You should therefore check the laws of the country that you are from to see if it allows dual citizenship. A person’s citizenship may be revoked if the person is a dual citizen and is convicted of terrorism, high treason, treason, spying offences or served as a member of an armed force that is engaged in armed conflict with Canada.

For more information:

Q. What should I do if I lose my Canadian citizenship certificate?

A. The citizenship certificate is a letter-sized piece of paper, which certifies that you are a Canadian. It is an official legal document that proves your citizenship status, but it is not an identity document or a travel document. If your citizenship certificate is lost or stolen, you can apply to replace it. You can apply from inside Canada or from outside Canada.

For more information:

Q. How can I apply for a Canadian passport?

A. After you have received your Canadian citizenship certificate, you are eligible to apply for a Canadian passport. You must fill out an application package, collect the required documents and submit them all by mail or in person at a local Service Canada office with the application fee. If you are an adult applicant (16 years and over), you may choose a passport that will be valid for either 5 or 10 years. The normal processing time is 20 working days. If you need your passport in less than 20 days, you need to apply in person at one of the Service Canada offices. Many offices offer pick up, express and urgent service for an extra fee. You may apply for a Canadian passport that will be valid for 5 years for your child (0 – 16 years old).

For more information: