My original idea was to start blogging from the time I actually move to Toronto but as I set up this blog, I realized that there’s just too much context and back stories that as a reader, you would miss out on if I decided to skip all of it. So here I am writing my first blog post.
Ever since my friends, relatives, co-workers, and people I know have heard about my plans to move to Canada, one of the very first questions they’ve asked me is – “why Canada?” I am going to attempt to answer that here by taking the (very) scenic route, so please bear with me.
I first set foot in Canada back in 2014 when I traveled to Vancouver to visit my cousin. It was only a 10-day trip but I made the most of those 10 days by visiting places like Whistler and Penticton. Back then I hadn’t traveled much (I’d only been to Thailand, that too for only a week) and Vancouver was the first North American city I was visiting. I had zero knowledge of what to expect in terms of weather, culture etc. I’d just packed my bags and got myself on to a plane.
I vividly recollect this experience at Vancouver airport. There are two, actually.
Firstly, you have to make sure you get a window seat on the plane. Also, pick a strategic seat so that the wings don’t block your view. The landing at Vancouver airport is nothing short of magical. You fly over the snow-capped Canadian Rockies just before landing at the airport. I mean… just look at the pictures below. Isn’t that breathtaking?!
When I stepped out of the airport, I felt… confused, primarily because of two reasons viz., (a) it was very cold – something between 1 and 5 degrees, if I remember correctly and (b) the air I was breathing in was so clean, like, I could feel it in my lungs. Coming from a place like Mumbai where one is so used to pollution and the hot and humid climate, this felt like an absolute paradise! And thankfully, I was traveling during spring-summer so the weather in Vancouver was exceptionally nice.
During the course of my stay, I had the opportunity to visit Whistler. To this day, Whistler remains my most favorite place on earth! I think I left a piece of my heart there. The sea-to-sky highway is a route you should try and get on if you ever decide to visit Whistler. Here are some glimpses from Whistler…
When we were on the way back from Whistler, we’d stopped at one of the observation points along the way, and somewhere along that ride back home, I’d decided that there will come a day when I’d call Canada “home”. I had no idea how that was going to happen but I knew, with all my heart, that I belonged there.
I’d first attempted to apply for Canadian PR in 2010 and 2011 (yes, I tried twice) when it didn’t quite work out for me because of the way the system worked at the time and I guess, I just had bad luck. I’d gathered most of the documents that were required to file an application when I quit my first corporate job with Ernst & Young with the sole intention of migrating to Canada. It was simply unfortunate that things didn’t go the way I’d planned and eventually, I had to take up a job until I figured out next steps. So the intention to move to Canada was always there even way before I visited the place in-person. And back then, there was no reason, really. I simply wanted to move to another “developed” country and start a new life because quite frankly, I always felt like the odd one out in terms of thought process, beliefs, values, culture, language, etc. I was frustrated and unhappy and wanted to just drop everything and leave. There are reasons that made me feel that way, but I will leave those for another post.
2016. This was when I once again, sort of, started looking into the possibility of moving to Canada. I knew that Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) revised the immigration rules in 2015. Therefore, whatever process I was familiar with did not exist anymore. There were a whole bunch of new elements like the Educational Credential Evaluation, no limit on the number of applications that would be considered every year, and the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points that were introduced. They called this new program – Express Entry. I spent the first half of 2016 just reading up and researching about Express Entry. I also used this time to decide if I really wanted move to Canada. I looked into other options as well; such as USA, Australia, the UK, certain countries in Europe, etc. Considering the prevailing immigration regulations at the time, it would have been difficult to consider those options and so I zeroed down on Canada. I had a stable job and I was doing well in my career. Moving to Canada would mean starting from scratch all over again, leaving behind my parents, and being all alone in a foreign land. After much contemplation, on the 4th. of August 2016, I decided to move ahead with my plans. 🙂
The next four months i.e. from August to November were spent in getting the documentation ready; viz., procuring transcripts from my college, getting them attested from Mumbai University, submitting them for evaluation to World Education Services (WES), obtaining a formal result, taking the IELTS, and awaiting its results. This phase was the most time consuming of all. Once all of it was in place, in the first week of December, I created my Express Entry profile. With a work experience of approximately 8 years, IELTS Listening, Reading, Writing, Speaking (LRWS) score of 7.5/9/8.5/8, and a degree equivalent to a four-year Canadian graduate program, my CRS at the time was 393 – this was very low as per the cut-offs that were trending at the time. Essentially, my score would have been close to 438-440, if only I’d gotten an 8.5 in Listening. With a CRS of 393, there was almost no chance that I would make it unless I was a provincial nominee or if I somehow managed to increase my CRS. And there was only one way of doing that – I had to retake the IELTS. I had decided to do this as a last resort because each time you decide to take the IELTS, it involves significant financial investment.
The months of November-December were pretty tough for me on the personal as well as professional front. My mom was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and was undergoing treatment. This new development made me question my plans to move overseas. I was beginning to think that maybe this is a sign that Canadian dreams are not destined for me. That was also a time when work took its toll on me and everything was going downhill. Owing to the situation then, my plans to immigrate had taken a backseat. At the time, I hadn’t told anyone what was going on in the background with regards to immigration or my mom’s health. It was getting very stressful for me. Eventually, I decided to open up to a close friend who then suggested that I should move ahead in life, think about my future, do what I needed to do, and not let situations dictate my fate. After that conversation and a few follow-up chats, with renewed vigor, I decided to continue where I left off.
2017. By March, my mom’s health was much better and I could focus on my Canadian dreams. That’s when I decided to take the IELTS again and booked the first available slot for April. I worked hard and prepared well for the IELTS this time which led me to achieve the desired score. With the new IELTS results, my CRS had now shot up to 438 from the initial 393. Results were out in the second week of May. The CRS cut-offs at that time were somewhere between 420s and 430s. That meant I had a high probability of making it.
Right enough, in the third week of May, CIC announced a draw and the cut-off was 417. Since my score was 438, I received an invitation to apply for Permanent Residency. And thus began my journey to Canada. I now had 90 days to file my application.
The 90 days passed by really fast. Most of my documents were in order so I didn’t have to struggle much. I was all set to submit my application somewhere towards the end of July but decided to wait for a few more days so that I could submit it on my birthday. My deadline was August 17. And so, I submitted my application on August 4 …exactly one year after I’d decided to pursue the Canadian dream.
The typical timeline for CIC to process Express Entry – Skilled Worker – Outland applications is 6 months. So I was pretty confident that I could sit back, relax and carefully plan out my move to Canada. Those expectations were short lived when my application got processed in a record time of just 24 days! By August 28, I had received a request to submit my passport for stamping and by early September, I had my Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR) and my immigrant visa in hand. Now all that was left was to get on a plane and land in Canada.
And that is how it all began.
I will continue to write other posts regarding my life in Canada; stay tuned for those and subscribe to my blog for updates. Until then, stay happy, hopeful, and positive! 🙂