Canada Calling?

– Sumedh Nene

Greetings fellow writers!

Canada seems to be calling many Indus readers! What else would explain the numerous emails I am getting with questions – some serious, some curious and some, well, just downright practical – about this country of Loonies and Toonies (1 and 2 Canadian Dollar coins). Thank you to everyone that wrote to me.

So, in response to all the questions I received, I have put together this article in my ongoing efforts to unravel for you the secrets of Canada – which by the way boasts more donut shops per capita than any other country! While one reason to visit Toronto might be to see the CN Tower, the world’s second-tallest, free-standing structure at 1815 feet, immigrating here seems to pass through the minds of countless people. Just over 16% or 5.5 million of Canada’s population is immigrant and apart from the 2 official languages – English and French – the non-official languages widely spoken here are Italian, German, Chinese and… yup, Punjabi!!

As I said in my responses to many emails, if Canada is at the top of your I-want-to-immigrate-to destinations, think of specific reasons why that is the case – analyze your choice in the context of migrating, instead of going by the world’s popular perception of the country. That would be true for any country, of course. While I came here on a whim, literally, that strategy may not work for everyone. I took the traditional route of applying for a PR – waiting for approval – getting it and landing here. I am no immigration consultant, but there are 2 ways of  coming here for the long term: have a company in India sponsor your Work Permit (WP) or apply for Permanent Residency (PR) yourself.

Permanent Residency

A Canadian PR is easier than applying for immigrant visas of many countries. You qualify based on a fixed number of points that are awarded to various categories – your education, work experience, French and English language skills, money being brought in, immediate relations already  settled here, and so on. These cut-offs keep changing and the lowest I’ve seen are 68 and highest I think was 75. A few reasons why Canada is such a popular go-to destination are:

  • You don’t need to be in Canada to process your PR
  • You can be out of Canada for 3 out of a 5 year period and still have your PR renewed
  • Time-to-citizenship is fairly short (approximately 4 years) from the day you land in Canada after getting your PR.
  • PR is processed as a family, so you can include your spouse and kids in the same application. Currently it is taking about 5 years to process from India.

On the topic of PR, I would also add that you don’t have to go through an immigration consultant to file your PR application… it is fairly straight forward and there is a lot of help available on the Canada Immigration and Citizenship website.

To elaborate a little on the last bullet above, the PR is processed in family class, so while there is a principal applicant (you or your spouse – depending on who qualifies with more points), you include rest of the family (the other spouse and children) as dependants in the application. However, they are dependant for the PR application purpose ONLY – on getting the PR, they are treated as separate individuals in Canada. Whether the spouse gets a job or not completely depends on their skills and attitude. So, having a PR has nothing to do with getting a job. Often, the “dependant” spouse gets a job much faster than the principal applicant.

Work, Jobs and the Labor Market

Getting job in Canada is very different than getting a job in other countries. While not all, many employers need to have your credentials evaluated and most companies ask for Canadian experience, regardless of your seniority in another country. It is tougher to find a job if you are remote these days. With high unemployment rates and so many local resources available, employers have increasingly stopped considering people that apply form another province or city within Canada, let alone from a different country.

Best way of getting a job in Canada is to do some kind of local education / certification. There are several colleges offering Technical Writing degrees and diplomas in Toronto, and they are all very well recognized by the industry. While not knowing the latest trends like DITA isn’t a deal breaker, knowing it certainly would set you apart from the crowd. You might recall from my previous article, The Hidden Job Market of Canada, less than 20% of the available jobs are ever advertised. Here, over 80% of the openings get filled through networking and word-of-mouth. Linkedin is actually a very popular method of getting hired here and it really works. If you plan on coming here, begin investing some time and energy to build your references right now. Connect with writers here and leverage your association with STC India – seek out help from STC members in Canada. One good thing is that work timings in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) are a non-issue – they are not as insanely demanding as in the US or India. People work 8-4 or 9-5 and that’s it. Working remote (from home) is not very common and you are discouraged from working over time. You do get paid 1.5 times for any OT you put in, though. So while you are out of office on time, the traffic in GTA isn’t always as kind. Commute times are generally horrendous – not because of the distance – but the traffic volumes. You’ll see when you get here J. I can almost guarantee the bumper-to-bumpers you saw on your last trip to US, may not have been the worst.

To newcomers, Canada may seem a strange country – jobs here are not given to seniority in terms of years of total experience, rather over your total Canadian experience. So, a person with a total of 3 years of writing exp. may get a job faster and be paid more than someone who has more than 7 years of experience, but outside Canada. As a full time employee, you can expect around 50k for 5-6 years and $40-70 an hour as a consultant (which is why many choose to incorporate here). But mind you, getting a job in Canada is tough, so come with an open mind and ready to face bit of a struggle. Other than that, I haven’t faced any major hurdles as an Indian or a foreigner coming to work here.

Most people begin their job-search adventures by attending a newcomer program. These are free (government-paid), 8-12 week, full day class room training that show you the ropes of job search techniques, the current labor market and things you wouldn’t know – till they told you – existed. Don’t come here hoping to have a resume ready, post it on job portals, call a few recruiters and start having an interview line-up. It’s tough business getting a job and takes blood, sweat, tears, time and plenty of patience and grit to get one.

Other tech-writer friendly destinations

Not all projects or every single document can be outsourced, and most IT-rich countries need the services of writers available locally. There is a steady need for writers in US and Canada all the time, but of course their demand & supply (availability) rides the economic curves. If you are looking for places with a growing market for technical writers right now, well it is India, hands down! Canada, US, Europe, all seem to be outsourcing to India and anyone relocating abroad, will be competing with their current colleagues in India. India’s economy at 9% is growing more and faster than any Western nation, so stay put in India and ride the surge. If you want to prepare yourself to relocate, consider Singapore and the US along with Canada. Get your paperwork ready and other formalities taken care of, so you are set to go as soon as the economy there starts the climb. Talk to recruiters who can do your H1 – look at Wipro, TCS, Infosys and see if you can join them and get projects through them… start such ground work now.

Final Words
Well, if you want to come here and give it a shot – by all means, be my guest. It’s a good place to be, once you are settled – for the long term. I would especially recommend it for those whose kids seem to be struggling with the Indian education system. Its easier on the kids here – they can enjoy life more without getting bogged down with the constant pressure of failing or being overtaken in marks by their friends. Cost of living varies and is very, very high in Toronto (I am not sure of rest of Canada, but I hear Vancouver is even more expensive.) There are taxes and fees and they are all steep. It’s almost impossible to give a ballpark figure of monthly expenses, but for rent (depending on area), expect to pay between CAD 1100 to 1600 a month (CAD 1 = Rs. 42). Car is almost impossible to do without – especially at the peak of a harsh winter, averaging -25OC – unless you live in the downtown core of Toronto, where public transportation is better. Being one of the largest countries, there’s plenty to do and see and many water and winter sports to enjoy.

I’ve tried to paint a neutral picture, so you can appreciate both the positives and the drawbacks of this country. I am more than happy to share more specific work-related experiences as I have them – both as a full-time employee and a self-employed, running my own company, which I now am. Please do email me offline or feel free to leave your comments using the form below.

About the author:

Sumedh went to Canada in late 2009 to expand his India operations of CrackerJack WordSmiths Inc., and lives in Toronto. He is a visiting faculty on Technical Communications at the George Brown College and in September 2010 STC Toronto awarded him the President’s Award for his contributions as their Events Manager. He can be reached at sumedh.techwriter@gmail.com.

About the illustration:

Used with permission from Mallika Yelandur.


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