Immigration: Building Relationships for Success

By Kerstin Auer

What does it take to successfully immigrate to Canada? The answer seems simple – it takes relationships. Easier said than done, though, when you’ve just arrived from another country, don’t know anyone and might even be struggling with a new language. The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program (BC PNP) helped my family lay the foundation for our successful immigration to Canada – by building relationships before we even came here…

Mike and Tom Matthias of Nicola Plumbing & Heating in Merritt, BC were starting to get a little desperate. The family business, founded in 1982, had lots of potential. Struggling to keep up with the workload since their father had passed the torch to them in January 2006, they were looking for a reliable and qualified journeyman plumber. After almost two years without results, they were ready to give up.

Around the same time, my husband Roland and I were also starting to get a little desperate. After working for the Bosch Corp. in our native Germany for almost seven years, my husband came home from work one day in August 2007 and told me about the meeting they’d had that day. The Warehouse and Logistics departments were to be consolidated and moved to a central location in Germany. Most employees in his department were going to lose their jobs. I was self employed at the time and even though we were not worried about our financial future in Germany, the wish to move to Canada had been there for a long time. Roland’s separation pay would enable us to take this enormous step – the two of us and our children Pauline and Marius, 10 and 6 years old at the time.

This is where the BC PNP came into play. When researching the different possibilities for immigration, we found that it was the best fit for us. Introduced in 2001, the PNP was designed to attract qualified and skilled workers into Canada, while expediting (speeding up) their applications for permanent residence. The application needs to be filed jointly by the employer and prospective employee, creating a trust relationship from the start: the new immigrant resting assured that there will actually be a job waiting for him/her with an established company, and the Canadian employer knowing he will get the qualified help he has been looking for. According to statistics released by the PNP in April 2011, 1787 skilled trades workers were nominated for immigration between 2001 and 2010 – and luckily for us, my husband was one of them.

Many relationships were created from that little nudge provided by the PNP. To this day I stay in touch with the person who dealt with our PNP case. The PNP is interested in knowing how provincial nominees are doing after they arrive in Canada. Every time we had a change in our status (filed paperwork with the CIC, immigration medical etc.), I wrote an email to our liaison and made sure he was up to date, also asking any questions we had. Being able to directly contact an “insider” and actually getting answers gave us a feeling of security – something that is not easy to find in uncharted territory.

The relationship with my husband’s employer gave us not only security, but friendship. From the beginning of the application process, the Matthias family became our main contact. They provided us with information on finding a place to live, which school our kids would go to and even what the weather and climate would be like when we got there. We kept each other updated on the status of the application and our travel arrangements – when we finally did arrive in Merritt on January 30, 2008, it was like meeting old friends that we hadn’t seen in a long time. A business relationship turned into friendship and made us feel welcome in Canada from Day 1 (of course the lasagna in the fridge of our rental house that was waiting for us after a long trip helped as well).

Another important feature of the PNP is the fact that spouses of nominees obtain an open work permit. Once settled in Merritt, I was not bound to a certain employer or specific job; I could go and find work that fit my schedule and my kids’ needs. And – you guessed it – it was the start of yet another relationship.

The various business and personal relationships have made a big difference for us in our immigration process. Even though those relationships were initiated by the PNP, it was up to us to nurture and grow them. They made our immigration a success. Sure, everybody defines success differently; for us it can be summed up in one word – integration. We wanted to work, live, play, thrive and survive in Canada. Relationships have been an important part that helped us achieve this goal – and that’s what I call a success.