Coming to Canada: Immigration Classes

The four basic immigration categories administered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) are Federal Skilled Worker Class, Canadian Experience Class, Family Class and Business Class.

In addition, Provincial Nominee Programs are run by the provinces and the Quebec Skilled Worker program is administered by the Province of Quebec.

Temporary Residents may visit, study or work in Canada for a limited time.

Visitors from certain countries need a visa to visit Canada. You may be refused entry because of security concerns, human rights violations, criminality, health or financial reasons. If deemed admissible, you may receive a Temporary Resident Visa. Most temporary foreign workers (TFWs) need work permits. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) must supply written confirmation that your skills will help a Canadian employer address skill shortages. Once the CIC receives a positive labour market opinion from HRSDC, they can issue your work permit.

If you are an international student, you need a “temporary study permit” from CIC. More than 90,000 international students come to study in Canada every year and even more come to learn English or French.

After arriving in Canada, some temporary residents can transition to permanent residency, which enables you to settle in Canada permanently.

The Canadian Experience Class (CEC)

International students and temporary foreign workers can apply to the CEC – who must conclude that your knowledge of English or French, familiarity with Canadian society and qualifying work experience make you likely to succeed in Canada’s labour market.

International students who have recently graduated or completed at least two years of study towards a PhD at a recognized private or public post-secondary institution in Canada can apply for the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), which is a route toward permanent residency.

The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) allows Canadian families to hire workers from abroad to provide care to a child, an elderly person or an adult with disabilities when there is a demonstrated shortage of Canadians and permanent residents to fill available positions. Caregivers are obliged to work for two years, or 3,900 hours, and then become eligible to apply for permanent residence.

The Rights and Obligations of Permanent Residents

Permanent residents must pay taxes, and respect all Canadian laws at the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Permanent residents and their dependants have the right to:

  • Receive most social benefits that Canadian citizens receive, including health care.
  • Live, work or study anywhere in Canada.
  • Apply for Canadian citizenship.
  • Receive protection under Canadian law and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Permanent residents and their dependants cannot:

  • Vote or run for political office.
  • Hold most federal government jobs with high-level security clearance requirements.
  • Remain in Canada if convicted of a serious criminal offence and have been told to leave the country.
  • Obtain a Canadian Passport.

Permanent resident status allows you to live in Canada, but there is also a time limit on how long you can live outside the country. To maintain status as a permanent resident, you must live in Canada for at least two years within a five-year period.

Permanent Residents: Economic Class

Skilled workers apply and arrive in Canada as permanent residents through the Federal Skilled Workers Program based on their education, work experience, knowledge of English and/or French, and other criteria that have been shown to help them become economically established in Canada.

Business Immigrants are:

  • Investors who make a financial contribution to Canada.
  • Entrepreneurs who will own and actively manage businesses in Canada.
  • Self-employed people who will make a significant contribution to the cultural or athletic life of Canada, or have the intention and ability to purchase and manage a farm in Canada.

Provincial nominees must be nominated by a Canadian province or territory. Provinces design their own Provincial Nominee Programs, within the parameters of federal immigration law, so qualifications are different from province to province.

Permanent Residents: Family Class

Canadian citizens and permanent residents may sponsor family members to come to Canada as permanent residents. There is one process for sponsoring a spouse, conjugal or common-law partner and/or dependent children and a different process for sponsoring other eligible relatives such as parents and grandparents.

Sponsors are responsible for supporting a relative financially when he or she arrives. Sponsors must make sure a spouse or relative does not need to seek financial assistance from the government.

Permanent Residents: Humanitarian and Compassionate Grounds

People who would not normally be eligible to become permanent residents of Canada may be able to apply on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds. These are considered exceptional cases and applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis. Factors that are considered include:

  • how settled the person is in Canada,
  • general family ties to Canada,
  • the best interests of any children involved, and
  • what could happen to the applicant if the request is not granted.


(see the separate article on refugees)

CIC has two main refugee programs: the Resettlement Program for people seeking protection from outside Canada and the In-Canada Asylum Program for people making asylum claims within Canada.

Refugees must qualify for entry under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, and must pass medical and security screening before they are admitted to Canada.

Government-Assisted Refugees are Convention Refugees Abroad whose initial resettlement in Canada is entirely supported by the Government of Canada or Quebec.

Privately Sponsored Refugees are resettled by Canadian sponsor groups that commit to providing financial settlement assistance to refugees for one year or until they can support themselves.

Canada also offers refugee protection to In-Canada Asylum Claimants who fear persecution or whose removal from Canada would subject them to a danger of torture, a risk to their life or a risk of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

If a CIC or CBSA officer decides that a refugee claim is eligible, it will be referred to the Refugee Protection Division of the IRB for a hearing. If the IRB accepts the claim, the claimant will receive the status of “protected person.” This means they can stay in Canada and can apply to become a permanent resident. If the claim is rejected, the claimant has 15 days to apply to the Federal Court of Canada for a judicial review of the IRB decision.


Intercountry adoptions are a two step process. First, there is the adoption process itself, which involves a province or territory of residence of the parents and the country from which the parents want to adopt. CIC plays no role in the first step of the intercountry adoption process.

The second step is bringing an adopted child to Canada either as an immigrant or a new citizen. This is where CIC comes in. Once the adoption has been approved by the adoption authorities of the province/territory of the parents and the country from which the child is being adopted, the parents can proceed with the immigration process to bring the adopted child to Canada. Depending on the child’s country of origin, it is not unusual for the entire process to take two years or even longer.

Intercountry adoption procedures established by CIC are intended to protect both the child and prospective parents. In some parts of the world, child trafficking is a serious concern. CIC is obligated to ensure the child was not taken from, or sold by, their biological parents and that the adoption is in accordance with the laws of both countries.

The Citizenship and Immigration Canada Help Page is a good place to start looking for answers to questions about the immigration or citizenship processes that are not provided here. The topics A-Z index will help you find answers to such common inquiries as how to renew your Permanent Resident Card and how to sponsor family members for immigration to Canada.

This story is from the "CIC: Know the Rules, Take the Lead" InfoBlock. To read more stories on this topic, click here.