5 Things New Immigrants to Canada Should Know
By Shkendie Kaba
In 2012, I moved to Canada.
It was part of a journey that began in my home country of Albania, took us to the Netherlands due to my husband’s job and eventually led to Canada where I find myself in a career helping other immigrants make a new start here.
Greg and I decided to move to Canada so that our daughter, Hannah, would have a place to call home. She was almost four when we landed with Greg’s family in Vancouver, bought a car and got on the road to Smithers, BC, where my husband had a job offer. We drove north for two days along winding rivers, desert plateaus and an endless expanse of forests while I kept Hannah entertained in the backseat.
I was thinking to myself, “Where is this place? How much farther do we have to go?” I wished for Smithers after every turn. It felt like we were driving to the end of the world. When we finally came to the top of Hungry Hill, about 50 kilometres from our new home, the majestic beauty of the Bulkley Valley that lay ahead took my breath away.
Moving to a new country takes courage, sacrifice and perseverance. It can be an emotional rollercoaster with days when the feeling of being uprooted, unsettled and away from everything familiar to you makes you regret your decisions, followed by days when you meet someone that smiles at you as you pick up your mail or drop off your child at school and things seem not too bad.
Moving to a new country takes courage, sacrifice and perseverance. It can be an emotional rollercoaster…
At Hannah’s pre-school program, I met other parents and in those first two weeks exchanged phone numbers with more people than during the whole two years we lived in the Netherlands. Moms were friendly and inviting Hannah for playdates. My first culture shock came when a well-meaning friend asked, “Do you have long underwear?” Seeing the look on my face, he quickly suggested his wife would tell me where to buy “long johns.”
We were accepted and welcomed by the people in Smithers. But three years later, in the spring of 2016, my husband got a job in Victoria, BC. Just when Smithers had started to feel like home, and I had connected and made friends with some wonderful people, I found myself surrounded by strangers and in search of a job in a highly competitive market.
Then, that July, we visited my family in Albania where I met a cousin who had tried to immigrate to Canada as a skilled worker. He and many other young people and families had been victims of a fraudulent Albania-based consultant who had promised jobs and permanent residency in Canada in exchange for fees between $300 to $20,000. At that time, I did not know much about pathways to immigrate to Canada.
After returning to Victoria and investigating the process for my cousin, I realized that immigration consulting is a bona fide, regulated profession with potential for flexible working hours and the ability to travel for business. I delved into market research and figuring out whether I should pursue this new career.
As a newcomer in Canada, I had been on the receiving end of help for a long time. There have always been people supporting me, trusting me without even knowing me, opening doors into their own networks and giving me jobs. I thought that by becoming an immigration consultant, I would be able to be on the giving end, assisting people who want to make Canada home or helping those who are already here to settle and integrate in this society.
I thought that by becoming an immigration consultant, I would be able to be on the giving end, assisting people who want to make Canada home or helping those who are already here to settle and integrate in this society.
I am now working as an immigration consultant after completing a diploma program and the licensing requirements, and I tell the same basic information to people when they consider immigration to Canada:
1. Do not cut corners. Start with a comprehensive assessment of your situation. For economic immigrants, this means finding the right program, making sure you meet all the eligibility requirements and providing accurate information. It is also about taking the path of least resistance without omitting or misstating material facts that may jeopardize your application. Be truthful, consistent and to the point.
2. Ask for help. If you need assistance, look for an authorized representative to protect you and your future. Immigration consultants are trained to know the proper steps and get the correct information required to embark on the immigration process. An authorized representative will be a member in good standing with Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC), Chambre des notaires du Quebec or a Canadian law society. ICCRC maintains a registry of its members and everyone should check the status of their immigration consultant. Anyone passing themselves off as a professional consultant or lawyer who is not a member of these organizations is breaking the law and should be avoided.
3. Financial assistance is available. Since 1998, Canada has provided pre-arrival services to refugees and a few years later these services were expanded to serve non-refugee immigrants. In January, the Canadian government announced it would provide $113 million over the next five years to fund 16 organizations providing pre-arrival services to immigrants. For newcomers already in Canada, there are several organizations assisting with settlement, language and employment services. Here in Victoria, we have Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria, Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Centre Society, Programme d’immigracion francophone de la Colombie Britanique and Here Magazine, among others.
4. Go easy on yourself. After you land, give yourself time and don’t give yourself a hard time. Moving to a new country is not easy. It takes time to find your ground again, to understand how things work, find a job or move up the career ladder. The good news is that there are numerous resources for newcomers—try your local Member of Parliament, community services association, public library or WorkBC office, or search the internet for settlement services in your community. Once you find them, use them.
5. Get involved. Volunteer if you can, be it the community centre in your neighbourhood, the parent advisory board at your children’s school, the local soup kitchen or any of the newcomers’ programs. You will learn new things and meet people that are going through the same changes as yourself. Along the way, you will make friends and potential work connections, and begin to feel like you belong. It will pay back in a million ways. Trust me.
I am often asked, “Is it worth it leaving everything behind to come to Canada?” The only person who can answer this question is you.
It is not for me to say whether Canada is worth it or not. What each and every one of us leaves behind is not the same. The reasons why we come here vary. Where we land and how well we adapt are different. Nevertheless, it is my understanding that the experience of immigrating to Canada is what you make of it. You may choose to feel sorry for yourself for being away from familiar customs and things dear to you, or you can decide to get out there and be open to opportunities that come your way.
I remind myself every day to look for new doors to open and to embrace both what Canada has to offer and what potential new Canadians can bring to this country.
Shkendie Kaba is an Authorized Canadian Immigration Consultant and a member of the Canadian Association of Professional Immigration Consultants who graduated from the Immigration Consulting Diploma Program at Ashton College. She manages her own immigration consulting practice, KABA Immigration Services, in Victoria, BC. Shkendie’s practice areas include permanent residency applications for economic immigrants and members of the family class, Labor Market Impact Assessments (LMIA), temporary work permits, study permits, business immigration and Canadian citizenship applications. Having immigrated herself, she understands the hurdles and challenges that immigration involves and is dedicated to help her clients succeed.