This Essay article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
As a former international student, and current worker in Canada, I was determined to eventually make my way to permanent residency and secure some stability to live and work in the country.
I knew that getting a permanent resident card was not an easy feat, but I was willing to put in the work to make it happen. I researched the process extensively — reading up on everything from PR processing times to Express Entry in Canada.
Regardless of which stream you choose to apply under, the process is more or less the same.
Here’s how it works: you create an online profile and get ranked using the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) considers things like your age, language skills, education, hours of work experience accumulated and more, to calculate your score.
Despite my efforts, I’ve made some mistakes in my ongoing journey to permanent resident status in Canada. But, luckily, I had help to be able to catch these errors in time.
Here’s what I wish I knew as a budding applicant:
How to calculate my work hours
One of the key requirements for becoming a permanent resident is to have worked full-time in Canada for at least one year. However, it was only after I reached two years of full-time work that I received an invitation to apply (ITA) to submit all my documents to the IRCC, as my CRS score was now higher.
During my first two years of employment in Toronto, I did several internships and apprenticeships with companies. While I was hired in a part-time capacity, I often took extra shifts and so ended up working several weeks’ worth of full-time hours.
I learned the hard way that you have to keep track of hours worked every week, for each job, and be able to supply sufficient proof of each to prove I wasn’t just a part-time worker.
My failure to do that led to me miscalculating my hours several times, and I eventually needed to hire an immigration lawyer as a second pair of eyes. Thankfully, we were able to sort it out.
What counts as full-time work
This was another rookie mistake on my part. I assumed that any job that had me working 40 hours a week would count as full-time work.
But as it turns out, the IRCC has specific guidelines for what qualifies as full-time work and only calculates work of up to 30 hours per week.
This is why I was only able to count a portion of my hours toward the requirement, which put me behind schedule.
Reference letters need a specific format
To prove my work and hours, I needed reference letters from my employers. I didn’t know that the letters had to meet a specific criterion.
I thought a simple letter stating my start dates, salary, full-time status and brief job duties would be enough. However, I learned that the letters needed specific details and examples of my responsibilities to determine if I was a skilled or unskilled labourer.
I had to eventually ask my employers to provide more specific information about my duties and responsibilities in order to meet the IRCC requirements.
Documents should be collected ASAP
I made the mistake of waiting for an ITA before collecting all my required documents. I should’ve started collecting my documents as soon as I applied for PR and entered the pool.
As a result, I ended up scrambling to gather all my paperwork at the last minute, causing unnecessary stress and delays.
Freelance gigs are not a good idea
I took on several freelance contract gigs during my tenure as a budding journalist. I didn’t realize, at the time, that freelance often means self-employed to the IRCC, and doesn’t count as official employment.
Thankfully, through declaration letters and notes from my employer, I was able to prove that I had an employer-employee relationship and wasn’t working for myself. And since I submitted T4 tax forms, that worked to my advantage too.
But, the amount of stress and confusion it caused to be able to prove that I was actually a worker didn’t feel like it was worth it in the end. If I had known this beforehand, I would’ve geared my time and attention toward different kinds of jobs.