Ever wonder if you can apply for a PR visa to Canada without going through an agency? Read this inspiring article written by one of our contributors and fellow Canadian immigrant, Jo Anne Ocampo, as she shares her DIY Canadian PR application story.
2020 is a tough year for the whole world, but allow me to tell you my story of why 2020 is one of the best years of my life.
This is the year I finally realized my life-long dream of moving to the Great White North!
A lot of friends, colleagues, and total strangers have been interested in knowing about my DIY Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) application journey. I’m finally here in Calgary, Alberta and I think this is the best time to tell my story. Hopefully, it will serve not only as a guide but as a motivation and inspiration to all of you dreamers out there.
A lot of people were shocked and surprised that I did everything on my own. In short, my whole PR process was Do-It -Yourself or DIY. My answer to them was, “I was confident that I could handle the process without the help of an agency”. Let me explain my so-called “confidence” with these points:
- If you are planning to migrate in Canada as a skilled immigrant, Express Entry (EE) is the online system that the government uses to manage applications for permanent residence. I found it transparent, easy to understand and follow. This is a points-based system where all candidates are awarded points based on different categories. All the information you’ll need can be found on the official government website, including a tool to find out if you are eligible for any of the programs.
- Everything can be found on the internet within seconds. All information is available to you, if you know how to do a proper search.
- I am an Admin professional – organization, documentation and arranging tons of paperwork are my bread and butter. If I can do it for a company, why can’t I do it for my dreams?
- It is cheaper to “DIY” than to pay a middleman (agency) to process everything on your behalf (enough said right?).
Disclaimer: This is my opinion as an applicant who chose the DIY path. My case was straight-forward as I was a single applicant with no relatives in Canada.
(READ: Should You Hire an Agency or Take the DIY Route? Here are the Pros and Cons of Each)
Armed with a headful of information from months of research and a heart full of hope, I started my journey…
Timeline of things
Language Test: I took my IELTS General Training exam in Doha, Qatar with a goal of scoring a 7 or above in all categories (Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking). As usual, this was also DIY. I prepared by using free online practice tests and materials. By the way, practice is key for a good IELTS exam outcome. It is just as important to understand the structure of the test as it is to show our knowledge of the English language.
After 10 days, the results were in and thankfully I scored 8.5 in all categories, except for writing, which I scored a 7. Nevertheless, I was so happy that I didn’t have to retake it. The IELTS exam cost around QAR 1,025 or PHP 14,000. This was enough motivation to study hard and take the exam seriously.
Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA): Since I was working in Qatar at the time of my application, I sent a request to my university registrar to send my Transcript of Records directly to World Education Services (WES) for evaluation. The WES evaluation fee cost around CAD 220 or PHP 8,000. This fee does not include the cost for the transcript of records request and courier fee which together cost PHP 3,200 paid to the UP registrar.
Note: In order to submit your EE profile, you will require these two main documents – IELTS test result and ECA. Acquiring both of these should be your first step.
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My ECA from WES arrived and I happily got a Canadian equivalency of a four year bachelor’s degree. I’ve read from forums/websites that some bachelor’s degrees were assessed differently so this is a case-by-case basis.
Creating an EE profile: Now that I had the two main requirements, I made a profile (valid for one year) and finally joined the EE candidate pool. What does this mean? Candidates will automatically receive a score based on their profile information and will be ranked against the other candidates. You can read about the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) here.
My initial CRS score was 438 pts., however, after a few days, I turned 30. This caused me to automatically lose 5 pts., bringing my score to 433, because they give higher scores to younger applicants (who said age doesn’t matter, apparently it does for immigration). When Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) conducts a bi-monthly draw, they have a cut-off threshold which is subject to change for different draws. The January and February 2019 draws were always cutoff above 440, so I was a bit disheartened. I kept on praying that the cutoff score would dramatically drop so that my profile will be invited in for the next draw.
But strong hearts never give up! Little did I know, sometimes, prayers are answered in a different form.
- How to Create Your Express Entry Profile: What You Need to Prepare
- How to Create Your Express Entry Profile in 3 Easy Steps (And What to Do After)
Notification of Interest (NoI): Provinces and territories can search the applicant pool to find candidates to nominate. They usually look for occupations that support the province’s economic development and diversification or candidates who indicated that they have relatives in that province.
In my case, Alberta province sent me NoI based on my Administration Officer position listed in my profile. They wanted me in their province! I grabbed this once in a lifetime opportunity and accepted their invitation. This means that once you send them all the required documents, they will award your profile a whopping 600 pts! At this point, I had already resigned from my job in Qatar and gone back home. I prepared all the original documents and sent them to the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Program (AINP) office via courier which cost around PHP 3,000.
Invitation to Apply (ITA): Since my CRS score went from 433 to 1033 pts. due to the Alberta nomination, I was guaranteed an ITA. The receipt of a precious ITA means I was in the position to settle in Canada with Permanent Resident status within a matter of months. This is it! I was getting closer to my dream.
Once getting an ITA, the candidate needs to submit the same documents previously submitted, only this time they must submit them as an electronic submission of files to the Federal government. It is strongly advised for candidates to please review all the documents and prepare them ahead of time because the ITA is valid for only 60 calendar days. You must submit everything before the ITA lapses.
I prepared all the required documents beforehand but ran into some delays while waiting for Police Clearances from all of the countries I lived more than 6 months in. In my case, I had to secure Police Clearances from USA, UAE, Qatar and the Philippines. In addition, all candidates must have an immigration medical exam and must include the results in the online submission. I took my medical exam at St. Lukes Medical Center Extension Clinic in Ermita, Manila. The medical fee cost PHP 11,550.00.
Thankfully, I managed to submit all the documents on time. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of complete and accurate documentation. A lot of candidates I know have been rejected for the littlest of things that could have been avoided if they would have just double or maybe even triple checked everything before submitting online. Upon submission of the online application, I paid CAD 1,150 or around PHP 43,000 for the processing fee and Right of Permanent Residence. I also went to VFS Global in Makati for Biometrics. There was no fee for this service as it had already been included in the processing fee I previously paid.
Now that I had submitted everything, you would think, I would be able to relax and breathe.
But the unknown always terrifies me. If you were to ask me, this was the hardest part of the whole process – the waiting! It was not the IELTS, or the piles of paperwork, or scrambling to submit a complete application. It was during the waiting period. I faced the next six months full of anxiety and uncertainty. I worried that I messed up and my application will get rejected. I buried myself with work, social life and plenty of distractions to pass the days away. I even traveled to “get away from everything” because it all became too much for me.
Then the most wonderful thing also happened – I found peace in the chaos through my faith. I lifted everything up to Him and prayed that if this life is for me, it will have my name on it. I went to church frequently to calm my nerves. I lit a candle every single time, praying for a good news soon.
The usual Christmas and New Year rush came and thankfully it was a good distraction. I spent time with my family and friends knowing that maybe next year I could be far away. At this point, I let go and let God.
New years are always a special time for everyone. It signifies beginnings, fresh starts, new goals, and hope for a better year ahead.
On the 6th of January, God gave me the best Christmas, New Year’s and early birthday gift ever, I received the approval of my Permanent Resident application. I am officially a Canadian PR!
Truly, this moment will forever be etched on my mind. It was a victory, a reminder that our Lord is always faithful to His promises. That what is ours will come, it will find us when the timing is right, when we’re meant to have it, when God knows we’re prepared to accept and use these blessings.
Fast forward to today, I have been in Calgary, Alberta for almost two months. I prayed for this life and now I am living it. Finding my way in my new home as an Immigrant.
This is my message for all of you who dream of migrating to a new country for a whatever reason you have – may it be a better life, better quality services, freedom, or new opportunities. Take it from me. You’re never going to feel 100% ready. That moment will never arrive. So instead, just begin. Begin your journey wherever you are. No matter what comes your way, trust yourself, trust that you will answer these challenges. Believe in your dreams.
I promise you, it will be worth it.
About the author:
Jo Anne Ocampo is a newcomer to Canada currently based in Calgary, Alberta. She’s our resident DIY guru who’s done everything DIY-style so she’ll be able to help you if you plan to go the same route.
Are you dreaming of coming to Canada but don’t know where to start? Download our free guidebook, “So You Want to Come to Canada… Now What?“.
Also stay tuned for the 3rd Edition and for our latest guidebook on Express Entry entitled “Roadmap to Express Entry”.
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