By now you may feel you know Canada well, from surfing the internet, or from travel books and news items you’ve read. You’ve applied for your Permanent Resident (PR) visa and know it could take up to two years to receive it. You’ve been waiting what seems like an eternity and you don’t feel like waiting any longer. So you’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and leave early to start your new life in Canada.
If this sounds like a plan you’re making, then you’re not alone. It would appear there is a strong desire and a growing trend among people who have submitted their visa applications, even if they do not have their PR visa in hand, to get to Canada as soon as possible.
Although the excitement of making your move up to six months earlier than anticipated can be a strong motivator to sell all your worldly goods and go, making your move prematurely could potentially be a costly mistake.
Citizenship and Immigration advise people not to make any major life changes, such as leaving jobs or selling property, prior to receiving visas. Until you actually have the appropriate visa in hand, there is no “100% guarantee” that you will be approved for immigration.
In some cases, individuals purchase property in Canada before securing their visas. Property ownership does not guarantee a visa, and if your application is rejected, you risk investing a large sum of money in a property you are unable to inhabit on a full time basis.
The waiting period can be agonising, but the experience of many immigrants shows that it is a good idea to devote at least one or two years to properly preparing and planning for your move. This waiting period is the perfect time to make one or two exploratory trips to Canada, which may be a more cost-effective and less risky alternative than an early departure without a visa!
Exploratory trips will give you a chance to acquire first-hand knowledge about living, working and doing business in Canada, knowledge which will certainly benefit you when the time comes to proceed with your permanent move.
Here are some suggestions for things to do while you are in Canada on an exploratory visit.
- Plan your trip well to maximise opportunities to make contacts, which will prove valuable on your return visit and when you finally move to Canada.
- Understand the vast size of Canada and be realistic about what you are comfortably able to achieve in the time available to you.
- Plan one summer and one winter trip to familiarise yourself with the weather conditions in your intended settlement destination.
- Arrange meetings with industry/companies to get an overview of the business and employment opportunities in the region you are interested in. Don’t forget to bring along copies of your resumé (CV) and make sure it’s in a suitable Canadian format!
- Meet with service providers such as realtors, settlement services consultants and immigration lawyers. This will give you an opportunity to meet ‘face to face’; and to compare service costs to those at home. A trusted local Canadian contact may prove invaluable to you during the long process when you need support and local advice.
- Explore education facilities; visit schools for the children and universities/colleges for the teenagers/adults.
- Study the Basic Licence Driver’s Handbook, and familiarise yourself with the rules and the experience of driving on Canadian roads.
- If possible, meet with former immigrants. This will give you an opportunity to hear their stories and advice. This can often be facilitated through settlement service providers.
- Practise your language skills, if English is not your mother tongue. Make enquiries about language assessments and find out what free or “fee-for-service” language classes are available.
Resist the urge to “fast track” your arrival in Canada! Don’t leave home without a visa. But if you are considering doing so, ask yourself seriously: Are we properly prepared for our move to Canada? Do we have realistic expectations of what we will face? Are we knowledgeable about the area we will relocate to? Do we know what the job market is like? If you answered no to any of these questions, then you are not properly prepared and it would be more beneficial to you to devote your energy and resources into finding out the answers before making any drastic changes to your life or departing early for Canada.