On 11th April 2014, I became a Permanent Resident of Canada! It was a very happy day for the both of us – it meant we were now able to live in Canada together as long as we like without any visa restrictions. 

Originally posted 2016, updated 2018. 

Becoming a permanent resident of Canada

This is the story of how I became a Permanent Resident of Canada. You are welcome to leave a comment at the end of the post with questions about my experience. 

A Permanent Resident is an immigrant who can live in Canada permanently but cannot vote, run for political office or have a Canadian passport. After a certain amount of time as a PR, they can apply for become a citizen and then do all of the above should they wish.

There is also one very important obligation that PRs have – they have to live in Canada for at least two years of every five to keep permanent residency status (though there are some exceptions).


Gemma at the top of Rake Mountain Tombstone after getting permanent residency a few months beforeClimbing mountains in the Yukon the summer after gaining Permanent Residency

A long working holiday in canada

November 2011 – Jean Robert and I had just finished a three-month road trip around Europe and headed to British Columbia in the hopes of perhaps working in a ski resort for a year or so. Only six months later (after a successful season snowboarding and working at Vancouver Island’s Mount Washington) we were getting into the swing of BC life and started to wonder if we would be both able to stay longer. JR, being a Canadian citizen, could stay forever if he wanted. It was me that was the problem. 

As a British citizen, I could apply (at the time) for two one-year working holiday visas, one of which I was already halfway through, and the other I had already applied for. Once I activated the second, we would then be on a ticking clock for departure. I knew it was very unlikely I would be able to get a visa via work sponsorship as my job was minimum wage and limited to the winter season.

Why don’t you just get married?

As a Plan B, I started to research what options there were for partners of Canadian citizens. I found out pretty quickly that applying for Permanent Residency was an option for both married and common-law couples. And what does ‘common law’ mean, you may ask? According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), it means living with your partner for at least 12 consecutive months in a relationship like a marriage.’

Well, this changed everything. By this point, we had lived together for almost three years so we were set. Throughout the application process, I actually had many people ask me why we didn’t get married to make things easier and here is the answer. It doesn’t necessarily make the process any faster as applications from married and common law couples are considered together.

Desolation Sound in British Columbia - on a paddling trip a few months after receiving permanent residency

Preparing the common law application

Fast forward to the start of winter and we made the decision to go ahead with the application. It is not something to be taken lightly as the costs are certainly not low (we spent $2500 total, fees, paperwork, photos and medical all in) and it takes time to put the actual application together. In our case, it took approximately two months from when I first looked at the documentation checklist on the CIC website to actually putting our application in the mail.

Both married and common law couples have to prove that their relationship is ‘loving, ongoing and genuine’ for their application to be approved. As a common law couple, we also had to prove that we had been living together as if we were married (shared bank accounts, paying bills together, mail at the same address). This means there is a LOT of gathering of documentation that must be done even before any forms could even be filled out. 

Inland vs. outland

Something else that has to be decided before completing any forms is whether to apply inland or outland. When applying for PR via the common law/spousal sponsorship route, the applicant has a choice of ways to file. Outland means the application is processed outside of Canada, in the applicant’s home country or nearest processing office. Inland means processing happens in Canada – for this, the applicant must be living in Canada throughout the application. Outland is usually faster than inland (depends on the visa office) but with the inland process, a work permit can be applied for, allowing the applicant to work while waiting.

I personally decided to apply inland (reasons explained later). I can’t really recommend applying one way or the other because it really depends on your own situation. However, if I had to do the application again, I would apply outland.

Finding proof of our relationship

To prove that Jean Robert and I had a loving/ongoing/genuine relationship we provided:

  • A collection of 20 photos taken of us in various stages of our relationship so far (some from the beginning, middle and a few very recent ones)
  • A few other photos of us with various family members, including a couple from my cousin’s wedding
  • Five personal letters from close family and friends (my parents, JR’s dad, three good friends)
  • Two notarized letters from our managers (also friends)
  • Screenshots of Facebook messages and emails between us – after meeting, before JR moved to the UK, some recent

My top tip: Provide a range of evidence but also be careful not to overwhelm the processing officer. If including Facebook message and emails, they do not need to see EVERY message you have ever sent each other. Choose a selection from throughout your relationship. Likewise, sending hundreds of photos is overkill.

Proving common law status

Proving we had lived together for the length of our relationship was more difficult since we were never really ‘officially’ (on paper) living anywhere together until a few months before we put in the application. Despite sharing our finances and living together for around three years, we had little physical proof of it. I only one tenancy agreement from five different places we had lived, no shared bank account and few shared utility bills. For five months we actually didn’t even have an address as we were living in a van and travelling Europe. When we lived in the UK, Jean Robert didn’t even have a bank account (long story). In end we used:

  • Shared bank account details (open a few months before the application)
  • Copy of current tenancy agreement
  • Signed and notarized statutory declaration of common-law union
  • Copies of our driver’s licenses with the same address

I also included any vaguely official documentation I could find that had both of our names on it as well as some more anecdotal evidence. Here are some of the documents we sent: 

  • Jean Robert’s work health insurance coverage (I was listed as a common-law partner)
  • Joint car insurance that we had for six months
  • Flights to Canada booked together
  • A wedding invitation to both of us
  • Shared utility bill
  • Library cards listed at the same address
  • Matching stamps in our passports from our travels together 
  • Screenshots from the blog I kept about our three month Europe trip

completing and sending the common law application

The actual application forms were fairly straightforward. My advice for applicants is to be patient and thorough.

  1. Read the guide (5525) several times in full before even attempting to complete the forms.
  2. Don’t rush! Trying to save time at this stage may lose you time later if your application is returned or deemed incomplete.
  3. Can’t open the forms? Save them onto your desktop and open from there. If still not working (PC users), right click and select ‘open with’ and then ‘Adobe Acrobat Reader.’
  4. Some forms have to be validated – don’t forget to print out and include the barcode page if one is created after validation.
  5. Do not leave gaps on any of the forms – if a field doesn’t apply to you, write ‘N/A.’
  6. When finished, triple check every document for missed signatures. If you miss one (and I did), your application’s process will be paused and the document in question returned to you. 
  7. Organise your application in a folder (with dividers) as per the Document Checklist for easy reading and processing.
  9. Before sending, go through the Document Checklist again to make sure you have everything required.
  10. Send your application to the correct address – there are different processing centres for inland and outland applicants.

Our application ended up as a one-kilogram paper monster – I wish I had taken a photo.

JR and Gemma in Cathedral Provincial Park, a few summers after receiving permanent residency via common law sponsorship

The long wait and a potentially risky trip home

I applied inland as I wanted the work permit – problem was, processing times were delayed and instead of receiving it six months into the application, I was advised it would be a year or more*. Turns out it didn’t matter so much anyway as the ski resort I was working at experienced the worst winter in years and was closed much of the season. I decided to take an opportunity to go home to the UK, my first visit in over two years. I was taking a risk in leaving the country while having an inland application in process, but by then I had my work permit and felt it was unlikely I would be refused entry.

*Note – With the work permit system changing relatively soon after my application, delays like this are now rare.

decision made – so near and yet so far

While in the UK, I found out that a decision had been made on my application. A little after my return to Canada (I had no trouble getting back in), I received a letter stating that I would be granted PR. The downside was that I had to wait for an interview in Vancouver as I had applied inland. Rather than enter Canada at any border (airport, land or ferry) like an outland applicant would do, to receive my PR I would have to ‘land’ at an immigration office instead.

The waiting time to land at the Vancouver office (my nearest landing office) was six months. Ouch. I was grateful that my application had been processed reasonably quickly (11 months compared to the expected 18. Waiting another six months just for a formal ‘landing’ however seemed crazy.

Canadian flag paragliding sail

Landing in Vancouver

The awful ski season we were experiencing at Mount Washington led us to bump up our summer road trip plans. Our adventure was to take us all over BC and the Yukon, with little internet or phone signal along the way. We would also be leaving our last address permanently. It would, therefore, be very difficult for CIC to contact us for an interview.

Knowing that CIC’s call centre was likely to be fairly useless on the subject, I wrote a letter to the Vancouver landing office to explain the situation. I did include a note that I knew that going on a road trip wasn’t the most desperate of circumstances, but I would appreciate any help at all.

The day my letter arrived the office, we received a phone call from a CIC agent who asked if we could come in the following Friday for a landing interview. We couldn’t believe it. I honestly didn’t think it was legitimate until we got to the CIC office on Friday and my name was called. After a couple of formalities and some signatures, I landed and become a Permanent Resident! As evidence of this, I was given a COPR – Confirmation of Permanent Residency. 

receiving my PR card

My PR story isn’t quite over. As a Permanent Resident, you have a PR Card as identification, essential when returning to Canada from abroad and for other things like signing up for health care. When landing inland, an automatic request for a PR card is sent. It took four months to receive my PR card. This was super frustrating when it came to my driver’s license, as Service BC refused to renew my photo card until I had it. I had to carry a paper only license and renew it every month until I received my PR card. 

Snowshoeing at Big White, BC

permanent residency card replacement

Just over six months after finally receiving my PR card, we went on a trip to Europe and had all of our belongings stolen in Italy. It was a bad situation already, but my still-new PR card was amongst the stolen items too. I was cross-questioned when returning to Canada and applied for a new card as soon as I could. That was in June 2015. I finally received my card after an interview in Vancouver in June 2016. 

The road to citizenship

Under the citizenship requirements when I became a Permanent Resident, I would have been able to apply to become a Canadian citizen in Spring 2016 (2 years of PR status plus 2 years on temporary work permits). Unfortunately, the rules changed under the Harper government to requiring Permanent Residents to live in Canada for four full years with PR status. These rules changed yet again in 2017 under Trudeau, this time back to the original regulations. 

Permanent Residents now need to live in Canada for three years of the last five to be able to apply for citizenship. Time on temporary work permits can be contributed up to a maximum of a year, at a 50% rate. I applied for citizenship in October 2017 and finally became a Canadian citizen seven months later. 

My Canadian immigration timeline

December 2011 – Arrived in Canada on my first one year long working holiday permit

December 2012 – Activated my second one year long working holiday permit

March 2013 – Applied for Permanent Residency via common law sponsorship

January 2014 – First stage approved, received sponsorship work permit

February  2014 – Went to the UK for two week holiday

February 2014 – Decision Made on second stage (approval, yay!)

March 2014 – Notified of six month landing wait in Vancouver

April 2014 – Landed in Vancouver, less than a week after sending letter to Vancouver office

August 2014 – Received Permanent Residency Card

May 2015 – Applied for replacement PR Card

June 2016 – Received replacement PR Card in Vancouver after interview

October 2017 – Applied for Canadian citizenship

March 2017 – Passed citizenship test

May 2017 – Became a Canadian citizen

Gemma with mountie at Citizenship Oath Ceremony

Are you applying for Permanent Residency in Canada? What’s your story?

Pin the photo above for future reference



One half of a Canadian/British couple currently based in New Brunswick, Canada. Gemma is happiest with a kayak/canoe paddle in her hand, on the trail or planning the next big adventure.


  1. Hi,

    I just wondered if you had gotten round to writing a post about the application process yet?

    I am about to start and need as much help as possible


  2. Hi! I am in a similar situation… My boyfriend is from UK and I am Canadian. He has been here for a year and a half on the IEC visa. My question is does he/did you need to get a Canadian police check when applying for PR?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Kelsey,

      Your British boyfriend does not need to get a Canadian police check unless specifically asked. CIC do their own checks but may request one if further info is needed.

  3. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your experiences! Thank you!
    I myself have recently linked my common law inland application to my cic account. I am currently on a working holiday visa, which will expire in august. My question is will i be able to leave to return to the uk for a period of 8 days?
    Thank you

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      I’m glad you found the post helpful. Leaving while having n inland application is a bit of a grey area to be honest. I was comfortable doing it as I had a valid work permit at the time and it was only for a very short amount of time. The border officers however do reserve the right to refuse you entry so it always carries a small risk.

  4. Hi,

    Your post is the most helpful one I found online. Anyway, I still have few questions though. My boyfriend and I are planning to file a common law sponsorship. I am the one in charge of getting all the requirements together. I was just wondering:

    1. aside from the birth certificate that was not listed on the requirements but apparently is part of the requirements, do we also need to get a police clearance for both the applicant and the sponsor?

    2. The open work permit for inland applicants is only extended until December 21, 2017. Do you think it’s fine if we file it before the 21st without the first approval yet?

    Thank you so much, Gemma. I hope you can still respond to my questions and probably we could email each other if you have time. Thank you! 🙂

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Sen!

      1. I’m not sure what you mean by the birth certificate reference (sponsors must show proof of PR or citizenship status as per the checklist, a birth certificate is an easy way to do the latter for those born in Canada) but police certs are just needed for the applicant, not the sponsor.
      2. Yes, I would file your application and work permit app at the same time.

      I hope this helps! Good luck with your application 🙂

  5. Thanks a lot, Gemma, your blogs are so helpful.

    How long did you hear back from CIC since you first file your application?

    Similar to your situation, I am recently on my working holiday in Vancouver AND I applied for Inland spouse sponsorship PR around May 2017.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      You’re welcome, Chi! I’m glad this post was helpful. I actually heard back from CIC super quickly because I missed a signature on my work permit application. Oops. Aside from that, I didn’t hear anything until a few months later when they sent me a letter about implied status while waiting for my work permit.

  6. So my partner and I applied under the common law status with me being the dependent. On the cic website it states that she got approved for the PR does that mean I got it too?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      It sounds like you are applying for PR via the skilled route (not common law/spousal sponsorship) Tar? If so and you included your partner on your application, yes I believe she would be approved at the same time.

  7. Hey Gemma,

    I know this was written two years ago, so just checking you are still receiving emails before I write a big long essay about your process!


    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Craig,

      Yep, this is an active website and as such, I receive emails 🙂

  8. Hi Gemma,

    I’m stressed about my application. I am sponsoring my boyfriend and I included so much paperwork but I’m still worried it is not enough.

    Did you guys have tons of pictures and proof?

    Thank you!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      If you included plenty of proof and information, I’m sure your application will be fine Sandra 🙂 I included about 20 different photos of us on our own and with family. I provided about 12/13 different types of proof with both our names on – official docs (tenancy agreement, bank account, car insurance) plus other things like a wedding invite, joint bills, flight tickets, matching passport stamps, letters sent in the mail to both of us etc.

  9. I was happy to come upon your blog and congrats on your PR. My question is: my Canadian daughter has lived in NIreland for 9 years. She was married in 2015 and had a baby in 2016. Currently she has applied for the baby’s Canadian citizenship. She has decided to return to Toronto with her husband and baby this year. Her husband applied for a work permit but that was declined just last week due to him not having a profession or skills required. They have decided to move here (Toronto) anyway and apply again for a open work permit and “spouse sponsorship at the same time”. They will live with me. Do you think they should inform customs at the Canadian airport when they arrive that they are going to apply for both, or should they just say that they are on vacation. What do you think their chances are of getting the open work permit (his 2nd attempt) and finally his permanent residence. I would appreciate your feedback

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Frances,

      Glad you found my site. OK, so a few things here.

      A work permit can only be successfully applied for in a few different scenarios – 1) employer sponsorship 2) through a specific program such as the IEC 3) via one of the eligible Permanent Residency routes. So without more info, it sounds like your daughter’s husband was not eligible at all and hence it was refused.

      Second, yes, he would be eligible to apply for an open work permit at the same time as applying for Permanent Residency via the Inland Spousal Route. It would take about four months to process under current guidelines but he’d be very unlikely NOT to get it with an Inland Spousal application in process.

      The main issue, however, is your daughter’s husband entering Canada legally. First, if he has a one-way flight only it is possible that an airline will not even allow him to board the aeroplane. The next issue is actually entering Canada. It is possible that the immigration officers will have issue with him coming into Canada as a visitor intending to then apply for PR. It’s an issue of something called ‘dual intent’ – the official information is here https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/corporate/publications-manuals/operational-bulletins-manuals/temporary-residents/visitors/dual-intent-applicants.html Basically, the officer has to be satisfied that your daughter’s husband would leave Canada if his Permanent Residence application was denied. A way to do this is to demonstrate ties to his home country (a return flight would help would this issue as well the aforementioned airline problem) and that he respects the terms and conditions of his visitor’s status. The number one rule is to never lie to border officers.

      Other options – How old is he? If 35 or under and holds Irish citizenship (I believe that Northern Irish can get both Irish and British) he could apply for the IEC working holiday program which offers a two-year open work permit. He could go to Canada on that and then apply for PR while there with no issues. If he is 30 or under and British, the same goes but there are less places available and I’m guessing he is unlikely to be under 30 anyway.

  10. Actually he is under 30 and uses a UK passport. However I know you are correct about having a “return flight” booked for 6 months upon his entry to Toronto. If he arrived in Toronto in June then their return flight should be booked for December., correct? If he speaks to customs Canada at the airport and tells them of his intent to stay in Canada for 6 months on his travel visa, but that he is also going to apply for an open work permit and spousal sponsorship is that the correct way to go about it? Sorry for all the questions but you seem to have the knowledge that I/we are lacking

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      That is the absolute honest and legal way that I am aware of, yes. The flight would need to be within six months of his flight into Canada. It is possible that he won’t have to speak to Canadian customs at all – there are now electronic customs machines and only a small proportion of people actually speak to an officer. My British parents flew in last September and didn’t speak to anyone at all.

      Good news about him being under 30! Since that is the case, he could apply for the IEC working holiday program. It is always oversubscribed for UK applicants but it costs nothing to do the initial application and selections are done completely by random. You never know, he could put in an application next week and then has as much chance as any other UK applicants to receive a place. If he was selected, he would then be able to get a two year open work permit. If I were him, I’d do this and then continue with the original plan (applying for the open work permit with PR app) when the time comes. I have a full step by step guide to applying to the IEC here https://offtracktravel.ca/how-apply-canada-working-holiday-visa-iec-2018-guide/

  11. hello !!!!
    so happy to find such a detailed story congrats ….
    also i got married and my husband applied for sponsor me im from brazil . we applied outside canada as long i just have a tourist visa and still studying at university .
    do you have some idea if the outland is really faster ?


    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Leda,

      Whether outland is faster really depends on the specific outland office. Historically though, the inland office is slower at processing than most of the outland offices. It does depend on your specific application too though. Good luck!!

  12. Thanks so much Gemma – your valuable information is really appreciated. I will give you an update when possible. Happy EASTER

  13. Hi Gemma
    Great to read your story! I’m wondering if you were able to continue working on your IEC visa while your PR common-law visa was being processed?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Liz! No, since IEC work permits are only extendable under very specific circumstances, I had to stop working until I got my work permit. I had implied status (visitor) that allowed me to stay in Canada in the meantime. Luckily, this was only a very short time (six weeks)

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Flopi, I’m not sure I understand your question. As mentioned in the post, I was eligible for 2 x one year work permits as per the UK IEC program at the time. Now the UK IEC program offers 1 x 24 month work permit. So I did not renew any work permits. IEC work permits cannot be renewed as they are a one-time deal.

  14. I have lived together with my boyfriend for 10 months. Can we apply for a PR now? Someone told me that it takes a few months for CIC to even look at the application, and by then we surely have lived together for a year. Does that really work? Or should I wait till the day that actually HAVE lived together for a year?

    By the way, love this post. Thank you!! I will definitely look at this when I’m applying. It feels SOOO overwhelming. I Wish I could hire an immigration lawyer who would take me through the process, haha.
    My WH visa expires in August, so my plan is to apply for an extension of my stay (and get a visitor document), and then apply for a PR…

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Stella, I did reply to this a couple of weeks ago but my comment was deleted in a website upgrade. You can only apply for common law sponsorship once you have common law status – this means 12 months living together as married. If you apply before this, your application will be returned.

      • Thanks for your reply! I will definitely wait until it’s been 12 months.

        Did you have go through a medical exam for the application? And did you have to do the language test?

        • Gemma
          Gemma Reply

          Sounds good! Every common law applicant must complete a full medical. A language test is not needed.

  15. Hello Gemma
    Just checking you are still receiving emails. I sent one before and it seems to have disappeared! Thanks!

  16. Julie Oppenheim Reply

    I am currently gathering docs to sponsor my boyfriend and I would like to know specifically what documents you submitted!

    He has a study permit which allows him to work 20 hours a week. Could he keep working until we receive a response about the open WORK PERMIT_???

    Thanks a lot!!!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Julie

      I’m not sure what you mean – a list of ALL of the docs within my common law application? In which case, the application forms have changed since I applied (they do regularly) and I doubt this would help! 🙂 The most recent common law/spousal checklist is your bible for your application.

      I wouldn’t recommend him to work past 20 hours as I believe he would have implied status that allows him to work as per the conditions of his most recent work permit.

  17. Hi Gemma,
    This is exactly the blog content I’ve been waiting for. Thanks for sharing all the gruesome process. My case is a little bit different though, but I believe we have some common ground. Me and my common law partner are from Indonesia and we’ve been living together for over a year. Currently we are documenting everything we can and we believe we have no problem with that, specially after we double check your checklist post. I will be studying in Canada next year and he will apply for the open work permit. I heard many people getting rejected when apply both of the visa together, and so, since he have a valid visitor visa to canada, we are planning to come separately as a student and as a visitor. Then only he change his status and open work permit in canada. The thing is, how and what do we tell the immigration border about that? Do we just go separate lanes and lie that he wants to travel around while i will study? Thanks

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Teddy

      I’m not very familiar with study permits and associated work permits for partners but I haven’t heard of people having issues with this on entry. As far as my knowledge goes, this is the correct procedure (for you to apply on entry). Whatever you do, do NOT lie to border officers. This could lead to your removal from Canada.

  18. Hi Gemma,

    Really happy I came across your page. I am a Canadian Citizen who met my partner while in the UK on a 2 year visa. He then came to Canada with me on a two year visa and during this time we got married. As his visa was coming to an end we decided we would return to the UK and apply for a spouse visa here which was our initial plan. I’m currently in the UK on a visitor visa and will be returning to Canada next month to process our UK spouse visa. Now we are having second thoughts and missing Canada and double checking our options. Obviously what we should have done is applied for his PR while in Canada on his IEC visa which expires this week. If we were to go back to Canada next month together and he was given a 6 month visitor visa and we applied for Inland sponsorship and an OWP would he still have to leave after 6 months or does that get extended with the application? Hopefully that makes sense. Thank you!!

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Sarah

      I’m not certain as my situation was a bit different (my IEC was still valid) but I believe he would be on implied status, as given by the valid work permit application.

  19. Hello,

    My common law partner and I will be applying for an outland sponsorship application and he holds a full time job. I just returned from canada and I do not have a job (yet). The application shows that they want to know how I can support myself while being away so will it affect our chances if during the time of application that I am unemployed?

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Izzah,

      If you are the Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident sponsoring your partner, the only restriction I am aware of is that you cannot be receiving welfare. There is no minimum income requirement. So it shouldn’t go against you currently being unemployed.

  20. Kayla Burns Reply

    Hi Gemma,

    I have been struggling alot with this exact situation. My husband and i were recently married in April. I flew up to Canada in May, because he and I wanted to discuss our options for our future. Whether he would sponsor me to obtain PR in Canada or vice versa for him to move back to the states. We decided that we would help get me PR in Canada.
    Now we are very young to be married, Im 20 years old and my husband is 19 soon to be 20 as well. So yeah, trust me we have heard the “Wow. You are just babies!”
    Anyways I’m currently here in Canada as a “visitor”, since my hubby is a Canadian citizen, I am allowed to visit here for up to six months at a time. I obviously can not work, and we are living with grandparents until we are able to get on our feet. And with that being said, we are only working off of one income , as a newly wed couple.
    I can not stress how often I have researched all the forms and tried my hardest to understand what they are asking of me. I have cried my eyes out over this for months and we finally had an idea to look into firms that would do the application process for us. My husband and I are worried about money which, a firm will ask a lot of for their services.
    I was curious to know just how you got those forms completed, and if you ever sought out help from firms or anyone. Our families are not wealthy and they cannot afford to help out with an immigration firm. But, if we were able to figure out the forms, we could save tons of money and just submit it on our own.
    Im just asking fro you advice, because I finally came across this page, and I was so inspired by your story. Thank you for posting this and giving me hope. I hope to hear a reply soon.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Kayla,

      I’m sorry to hear about the trouble you’ve had with starting the process. I completed my application independently, with no outside help at all besides reading immigration forums online. Most other people I have known (to also go through the process) have also done it independently.

      What I think you need to do it is break it down and look at it in individual pieces. The main parts of the application are:

      Application forms
      Proof of your ‘loving, ongoing’ relationship (letters from family, photos etc)
      Police certificate(s)*
      Proof of marriage (for common law couples this would be proof of common law relationship).

      Print out the application checklist and go through it slowly, crossing completely through anything that doesn’t apply to you. Work out what from this list you can do most easily and get those done. One of these, for example, would be proof of your marriage (a photocopy of your certificate I would guess, though I’m not married so unsure!) Work through each application form one by one. Buy some stationary supplies if it helps, to keep everything organised while you’re working on it. It is absolutely possible to do independently BUT I totally understand how it can be overwhelming. The key is not to try and do EVERYTHING all at once.

      *To clarify, not needed ON application but absolutely required AS PART OF the application. I did mine upfront and would do again.

  21. Hi Gemma,

    We applied for common-low about 3 weeks ago with a help of my Canadian boyfriend, I wish I saw your website before.

    The comments you’re leaving these days, I noticed some mistakes. You don’t need to send a police certificate or a medical check when applying, CIC will contact us when they want us to go get them. Just wanted you to know.
    Since you applied, the rules have got changed and inside vs outside takes about the same time (CIC says), which is 8 to 12 months.

    I like that you applied inside but went back home, it’s good to know that people are doing it. Sometimes you just have to, right?

    Anyway I can’t tell you my whole story (just because our application won’t be the same as other people) and I’m hoping that CIC would accept it, do you remember how long it took until you heard anything back from them? Just curious because I think I saw it somewhere that in about 4 weeks CIC will send us a letter to sing up online to see what the status is and such, did you have to do that too?

    Appreciate your response!


    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi EE!

      I’m glad you found this helpful! Yes, this is true that you do not need the police certificates and medical upfront. This was also true when I applied. I found it easier to do it upfront though, and I would estimate that this is especially true with waiting times being a lot lower now. So I would still do the same, personally. Yes, inland is now a lot faster than it used to be but I still would not recommend it. As I mention, it’s a personal choice but I hated the limitations with inland.

      I first heard something about a month or so into my application too. But then nothing for a very long time!

  22. Hi,

    Thank you so much for all of this! We are in a similar scenario as have lived together but traveled for quite a bit and names not officially on lease but do have joint bank accounts and other proof of tenancy just not consistent for a year. What I am wondering is if in the proof of relationship to sponsor part of the checklist -if it is best for us to do the written explanation portion and submit other evidence as providing current cohabitation information is difficult. Also how many months of information did you send for the lease, bills, etc. Do letters from family and friends need to be notarized?
    Thank you

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Al,

      Simply put, we sent as much information as could. So we had our current lease (less than a year old) plus as many bills as we could find (about six total, some dating back to two years or longer). It was such a tricky thing since we moved around so much (and still do). We got two letters from friends notarised, I’m not sure if this is required now.

  23. hi gemma! how can I e mail you? i have a lot of questions. Based on reading your story, I know you will be a great help. Thank you so much.

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Shiela,

      I can definitely answer questions about my experience or general ones about the application, but unfortunately I am not qualified to answer lots of specific questions

  24. Hi Gemma,

    I’m looking into applying for PR via my boyfriend in stead of going for express entry methods. I’m wondering if you used a lawyer to file you application or if you sought any counsel on completing it, or figuring out how to file. If you did, which firm/lawyer did you use? Your post has been wildly helpful and the detail you go into is an awesome reference!

    Thanks, Grace

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Grace! No, I did not use a lawyer or seek any advice other than what I found online. It is my opinion that unless you have a difficult situation (e.g. one of you has a criminal record or something like that), most people can complete the application themselves. Yes, it involves plenty of reading and organisation but it is doable!

  25. Hi Gemma,
    First of all I would like to congratulate you on your lifestyle.
    It was very interesting reading your story and very informative.
    I am from Greece and i have a dual citizenship GR and UK as i was born in UK. I am in a relationship with a Canadian citizen and planning on going ahead and live together in Canada. We are currently in a long distance relationship and i visit for 3 months twice a year.
    I am thinking of following the common living law route and then apply for PR.
    I am not sure what my question is as i am still doing my research but I am wondering about citizenships. Will I be forced to deny one citizenship to become eventually a Canadian citizen?
    I know you might not have all the answers but you seem very knowledgeable and I am kind of lost as i dont know where to start from since I am in Greece.
    Every information you share is more than welcome and much appreciated.
    Take care

    • Gemma
      Gemma Reply

      Hi Athanasia,

      I’m not sure of Greece’s rules when it comes to dual citizenship, but the UK does allow citizens to have multiple citizenships. I became a Canadian citizen in May 2018 and continue to be a UK citizen too. You will need to check specifically whether Greece allows it. I know that there are some countries that definitely do not.

  26. Hi GEMMA!

    We are about to send our application for my PR, also via common law. He is Canadian I am Croatian, I’m on my second working holiday visa (just like you were) and it’s expiring in May 2019. When can I apply for a new working visa but via PR? Is this what you did? How does this process look like? So I can work while waiting for their response..

    Thank you so much!

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