Canada is apparently the most desired location for young Brits to move to in the wake of the Brexit referendum. Well, who can blame them really? It’s a land of opportunity, wilderness, poutine and one fairly liberal (and not half bad looking) prime minister. I, for one, am proud to call this beautiful country home. If you’d like to join me, here’s the lowdown on the three main ways you potentially can. I also have an eBook all about moving to Canada available, primarily aimed at working holiday applicants.

Moraine Lake Alberta Rockies Canada

International Experience Canada (IEC) working holiday program

The IEC currently offers 5,000 two year Canadian working holiday permits to British citizens between the age of 18-30 (inclusive) every year. This work permit means the holder can work and travel anywhere in Canada for the full time period and (unlike in Australia) it does not restrict how long you can work for an individual employer. Many IEC participants go on to apply for Permanent Residency. British Citizens can only participate once.

The demand for these places on the program is very high and is likely to be even higher with the Brexit situation. The application process is currently based on a random selection procedure. Applicants complete basic eligibility questions online and enter a pool, from which candidates are then invited from over the next 6-8 months. The actual application process , when invited from a pool, an take up to two months.

The 2016 program opened in October 2016 and is almost filled at the time of this update (March 2017).

Based on the last few years, the 2018 program is likely to open October/November 2017, but it could be anytime before or after this.

Check out my application guide to apply for this cycle or get prepared for the 2018 IEC season.

Top tip – if you are lucky enough to have another qualifying citizenship (e.g. Ireland), you can also apply using this passport. Ireland’s IEC program has more places and less demand.

Vancouver near Granville

Express Entry

While the IEC program provides an open work permit, Express Entry offers the opportunity to become Permanent Resident. Being a Permanent Resident of Canada means you can basically come and go into Canada for the rest of your life as long as you live there for a minimum of two years of every five. Pretty sweet hey? Up to 10,000 UK residents a year emigrate to Canada using the Express Entry system.

Express Entry is a points based program that evaluates candidate’s skills, work experience, education and potential to settle in Canada. Eligible candidates are put into a pool and then the highest scoring candidates will be invited to apply for permanent residency. Total potential point score is 1,200. Once invited, the application process takes around six months.

Important score factors

Age – in general, the lower your age, the more points

Language ability – Minimum language ability required, and yes, British applicants do have to be tested

Work Experience – candidates must have skilled work experience (the more you have, the more points). Use the NOC to work out whether you are a skilled worker – candidates must be skill type 0, or level A or B.

Canadian job offer – a very good point scorer (600!) but not easy to get. A job offer has to be backed up by a LMIA – something that proves no Canadian is willing/able to do the job. Without a job offer, your score will not go over 600 points.

Nomination from a Province/Territory (PNP– also a big point scorer. Each province/territory has their own ‘worker shortage’ list and if your profession is one of these, you can apply for the province to sponsor you.

Canadian work experience – if already worked a skilled job in Canada for a minimum of one year you may eligible for the Canadian Experience Class stream within Express Entry (more points!)

The easiest way to see whether you may be eligible is to use the Comphensive Ranking System.

Top tip – Common law partners and spouses can ‘piggy-back’ onto their partner’s application and also gain PR this way.


Family sponsorship

If you have family in Canada you may be wondering whether they can sponsor you to join them. In most cases, they will not be able to – in general, it is only common law partners and spouses that can be sponsored, plus parents and grandparents (and in the latter’s case, it takes a very long time). There are however a few exceptions, notably for orphaned children and for Canadian sponsors who do not have ANY kind of family living in Canada at all e.g. brother, parent, aunt, nephew, grandparent etc.

Spousal or common law* sponsorship is straightforward if you already have a partner who has Canadian citizenship or Permanent Residency. There are two routes to apply for Permanent Residency: inland (within Canada only) or outland (within Canada or anywhere else in the world). Both married and common law couples have to prove the legitimacy of their relationship in the paper application. I received Permanent Residency via this route in 2014 after two years in Canada on a working holiday.

Top tip – The outland application processing time is generally much shorter than inland, but an open work permit is currently being offered within four months of the application process for inland applicants.

*Minimum one year living together “as married” 

driving to yukon road trip


One half of a Canadian/British couple currently living in Penticton, British Columbia. Gemma is happiest with a paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.

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