Moving to Canada – My Experiences

What brought me to Canada in the first place?

This story starts many years ago, 2009 in fact. I had graduated university and had no idea what I was going to do with my life, my degree didn’t lead me to any set career, and I had no yearning for any particular pathway.

That summer I had gone on a Contiki tour of America, the southern states to be precise, where I met some amazing people. One of the people I met had just been living in Whistler for a year, and by the sounds of it she had had an absolutely amazing time, and another girl was heading to Canada for a year following our trip. That was it; the seeds had been planted! I returned home and immediately started researching moving to Canada. From there I contacted BUNAC (who used to have the monopoly on visa’s) and filled out all of the appropriate forms and sent them off. It was all straight forward.

I was accepted, I booked my flights for November and I waited. Then in August, I freaked out … I hadn’t saved enough! What if I didn’t make any friends? What would I do for work? How would I quit the job I currently had? What about leaving my family? I knew I had to enter Canada by January 31st 2011, if I wanted to use this visa, so I moved my flight back to January 11th. It was one of the last group flights (basically, you’re on the same flight as other people with working holiday visas, and get transfers from the airport and the first nights accommodation sorted)  BUNAC had left, and those extra few months gave me enough time to sort myself out, save a bit more money and make peace with my choices.

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The view from the top of Whistler Blackcomb.

My story!

This isn’t as straightforward as I moved to Canada, loved it here and never left, when is life ever that simple? My original plan looked a little something like this; fly into Vancouver, work for a few months save a bit of money, travel across the country, check out some of the sights along the way, end up in Toronto, work there for a few months, fly home. Obviously, that plan didn’t get seen through to the end, in fact I’m still on step one.

I arrived January 11th 2011 and lived in a hostel for three weeks. Then I found an apartment share and moved in there, I was feeling a bit nervous because I still didn’t have a job and I’d spent a lot of money having fun in those first three weeks. The apartment was alright, it wasn’t great, I was living with a stranger I’d found on Craigslist, it definitely wasn’t an ideal situation. Then after what felt like a lifetime I got a job (five years later I’m still there!) it was only part time to start with but it was a step in the right direction, after a month or so I went up to full time. From there I moved into another apartment, it was still a flat share I found on Craigslist, but it was closer to work, with a nicer roommate and just a better fit for me. About half way through the year, I was starting to feel like maybe a 12 months wasn’t long enough. I knew I was able to apply for one more one year visa, so I started the process, only it wasn’t as easy as it had been before, getting access to a printer was a pain, and I was having to ask my Dad to go to the bank and get a letter that I needed, or send out a certificate that I didn’t have with me. Then came the realisation that I had missed the deadline to apply for a new visa … by a day!!!!! I looked into different options to stay in Canada while I applied for a new visa once mine had expired, top and bottom of it is that I couldn’t. So I made the most of the time I had left, and eventually the time had come for me to leave.

On January 10th 2012 I flew back to England, promising my friends and colleagues that I would be back in no time, six to eight weeks tops, after all it had been so simple and effortless last time I applied for a visa. Oh how naive was I? You see 2012 was the first year that the International Experience Canda visa’s came into play, and there was a massive backlog of applications. I’ll admit it didn’t help that I missed a signature on my first set of forms and had to resend them, but all together it took six months there about for my new visa to come through, finally I was heading back to Canada. Ultimately I was lucky with my timing, when I originally came to Canada I came on a Student Working Holiday visa. Then, in 2012 the IEC visa’s came into play, and mean that regardless of having had previous visa’s, applicants were allowed to have two one year visa’s, under the IEC working holiday program. This ultimately allowed me to live and work in Canada for three years whilst I decided that I wanted to become a Permantent Resident.

What kept me here?

It took a while for me to realise that Vancouver was where I wanted to be for the foreseeable future, and I think that that stems from the fact that for me, this was always going to be a temporary experience. It took me going back to the UK for six months to seriously consider that Vancouver could become my home. Don’t get me wrong, I love England, but for me I have a much better quality of life here in Vancouver, and I honestly think I am a nicer, better version of myself living here (that sounds so cheesy!)

The process of becoming a Permanent Resident!

Ugh, I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of forms involved, and I mean A LOT!!!! That said, it is doable, don’t be put off by thinking it’s to hard to do. I did it by myself without the help of a lawyer, and I have plenty of friends who did too. The route I took to becoming a Permanent Resident was through the BC PNP (Provincial Nominee Program) which simply put, is where you apply to the province you live in who then (hopefully) say yes we want you, from there you go on to apply to Canada, and after a lot of paperwork and waiting you receive a letter in the mail that will make you do a happy dance. There was, of course, a bump in the road for me. My final one year IEC visa ran out during my PR application, so I had to apply for a bridging visa, which was another set of forms, but gave me two years to continue living and working in Canada whilst my application for Permanent Residency was being processed.

In all seriousness, I am very lucky that one of my best friends had gone through the exact same process 18 months before me and was amazing at answering all of my niggling questions. The internet was also surprisingly helpful, there are tons of blogs and forums dedicated to immigration, and they are there to help you … use them! If I can do it, anyone can!

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The first photo of me as a Permanent Resident at the Canadian boarder, possibly the happiest I’ve ever been!

Why I love Vancouver!

Where to start? The views! Those days when the clouds lift, the skies are a beautiful shade of blue, and I am walking to work and see the city with the mountains in the background, it is hard to imagine loving a city anymore than I love Vancouver. It is an incredibly easy city to live in, people are friendly and there is an inherent sense of safety that is unusual in cities. Vancouver is also on the small side when compared to other major cities, it is incredibly simple to navigate, transit is (for the most part) painless, and a lot of the time you can walk from A to B very easily. Most of all I love the life I have made for myself here, I am proud of what I have got, and I can honestly say that coming to Canada was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I came on a plane with 38 strangers, and today I have a lovely rented apartment, a steady and fun job, and the most amazing group of friends, I’m definitely in a good place!

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Views from the bus in the summer – what’s not to love?

What’s next?

Now I’m a Permanent Resident I feel as if I have a lot more freedom and opportunities, meaning that I have the option to move to a different part of Canada or live in a difference country for a year or two and still maintain my PR status. At present I’m happy to keep Vancouver as my home base. It’s such an easy city to live in, and it’s so easy to access the West Coast, and most of the States, a definite perk! That said, I’m definitely open to the idea of living in a difference city or even country should the mood take me, I guess only time will tell …

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