Settlement, Residence and Citizenship for Expats in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2014

Canada is a nation built on immigration and remains a very popular country for expats. In recent years, the number of immigrants taken into the country has exceeded 200,000 per year. Canada welcomes non-nationals and has made great strides towards its goal of being a truly multicultural, mutually tolerant society. For most people, there are no serious obstacles settling into the country and, in the long term, becoming a Canadian citizen.

As you begin to settle into Canadian life, you will find that the government encourages you to respect the country’s laws and traditions, and to learn English or French (or better still, both.) For more about your rights, responsibilities and a lot of other useful information about settling in the country, the Welcome to Canada booklet is available.



There are several ways to gain permanent residence in Canada. You can gain permanent resident status quickly and while outside Canada by means of a successful application to one of the special schemes, such as the Federal Skilled Worker Program, as detailed in Visas and Passports. Another way to become a permanent resident is to obtain spoonsorship from the province you want to live in; this is done via the Provincial Nominee Program. Note also that we have an article on the recently introduced Express Entry Scheme.

Otherwise, you can apply for permanent residence after arriving in Canada. To do this you need to fill in the permanent resident card application form, and additionally some of the other forms which are available here:

There are also schemes that can help you to gain permanent residence, such as the Canadian Experience Class. This enables some people who have already lived and worked temporarily in Canada to gain a permanent resident card.

Once you have obtained permanent residence, you are entitled to Canadian state benefits such as social security and health care. You are also free to work and live anywhere in Canada and, if you want to, you may apply for Canadian citizenship. To retain permanent resident status, you must live in Canada for two out of every five years.

Permanent residents are not permitted to vote or hold certain high-security jobs. Should you wish to do either of these things, or if you are ready to commit yourself to becoming a Canadian, you will need to apply for citizenship.



Unless you have special status (such as refugee) or existing relatives in Canada, you will need to apply for citizenship by means of naturalisation. To be eligible to apply, you must be aged at least 18, be a permanent resident, and have resided in Canada for at least three years out of the last four (this is a shorter residence period than is required for most countries.) You must also not have certain kinds of unspent conviction.

If you are aged 54 or under, you will also need to send documentary evidence that your speaking and listening in either English or French are up to an acceptable standard (Canadian Language Benchmark 4). How well you speak to the immigration officer during your citizenship interview will also be taken into account. Finally, you will need to pass a citizenship test. The questions in the test are all based on the 68-page booklet Discover Canada – The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship.




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If you are considering moving to Canada or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated Canadian section including; details of immigration and visas, Canadian forums, Canadian event listings and service providers in Canada.


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