By the end of 2018, we realized that the CRS score for Express Entry was not showing signs of easing. Our score was around 430 and the ITA was hovering around 445+. With this, our probability of moving to Canada as a PR through Express Entry also started dwindling. However, we were determined to figure out ways to improve on our CRS score and eventually move to Canada. The entire process and the journey of us coming to Canada was full of uncertainties but we finally made it. I thought of penning down the entire process of how we prepared for studies in Canada, so it could help a lot of aspirants prepare well in advance.
There are different ways in which we could have improved our CRS scores, so we evaluated all.
- Sibling in Canada – We could increase our score by 15 points if we had a sibling in Canada who was a Citizen or a PR. Unfortunately, none of our family members (both me and my wife’s family) have ever been outside India, leave alone living in Canada. So, the possibility for ruled out
- Second Language – French language proficiency helps improve your score significantly. In fact, there are different streams within Express Entry, which invites French speakers directly. It is only recently that schools have started introducing French as an optional language (my daughter was studying French), but we had no understanding of French and learning French could take between 1-2 years. Hence, this option was also ruled out
- Maxing out on the IELTS score – Both me and my wife scored CLB 9, so the scores were already maxed out and re-taking IELTS to improve the scores would not have helped beyond a point. For those who are struggling with IELTS scores and are missing out on CLB 9 with whiskers, read our story of how we scored CLB 9.
- Gaining more work experience – For those started working recently, gaining more experience may help up to 5 years. Beyond 5 years’ experience there no additional points are awarded. We already had work experience of over 10 years, so no luck there too.
- Job offer from a Canadian employer – Unless you have someone really close who is ready to offer you a job and take all pains for the processes involved, getting a job from India in Canada is next to impossible. There are some exceptions though, but we certainly had no option to get hired in Canada nor were we ready to explore this route by paying a hefty amount to a consultant to get this done. Yes, some consultants do offer such service, but the route is full of uncertainties and may end up in a fraud.
- Education – The last but certainly most valuable was to improve on the educational qualifications. Canadian education helps you improve your CRS score and if you study in Canada, you also get Post-graduation Work Permit to gain experience
Once we figured out that the only option, we dah was to gain Canadian education to improve on the score, we started evaluating this option in the summer of 2019. We met almost all big consultants in India but almost all were of the view that we would not get a study permit because of the study gap and our age. This was a real setback.
Sometime in Aug-Sep, IDP Education organized an Education fair in Delhi. Fortunately, we happened to get that information decided to meet the colleges for admission. It was a jam-packed event with students and parents buzzing around everywhere. There were representatives from Universities and Colleges from top destinations like Australia, the UK, US and Canada. Unsurprisingly, the queue for studying in US and Canada was the longest.
One of the counsellors we met, looked at our profile and suggested meeting 3 to 4 colleges and universities. The options were not many because most of the colleges have age criteria. We met 4 college representatives out of which two refused upfront stating their cohorts are full and they also have age restriction criteria for admissions. Lastly, we met the representative from one of the universities based out of Victoria, British Columbia. After carefully listening to our profile she suggested a masters program. Unfortunately, we did not come out of that event too optimistic but there was a ray of hope from one university. We initiated our application with this university through IDP education.
Document required for admission
In order to submit our application to the college, we required the following:
- IELTS academics
- Educational Transcripts – At the time of the application, we submitted a copy of the transcripts/mark sheets and graduation certificate. Later, we had to send the original transcripts to the University to get the unconditional letter of acceptance (LOA). We also provided them with the Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) from World Educational Services (WES); we got it done for the Express Entry application.
- Letter of Intent (LOI) – In order to get admission we were required to write a small essay on the reason why we want to study and how the study is going to help in our future plans.
We submitted our application by November end and by mid of December we got the Letter of Acceptance (LOA) from the university with a few conditions. In order to submit the visa application, it was important to remove these conditions. The conditions were to complete a couple of courses in accounting and maths, submit the original transcripts and deposit the fees. We were given an option from the university to complete the courses from the same university or specific courses from a particular university, delivered by a 3rd party online education partner.
The program intake that we were aiming for was January 2020 but unfortunately, it got delayed because of the conditions in the Letter of Acceptance. My wife completed both courses recommended under the conditions within a month and we sent them the completion certificates by end of January. The university was quick in sending back an unconditional letter of acceptance post which we initiate the visa application.
Important: Those who have received a conditional Letter of Acceptance from a university or a college, please ensure that you fulfilled the conditions before applying for a study permit. As per IRCC, the Letter of Acceptance must be unconditional.
We also took a study loan and deposited CA$10K in GIC as it is a prerequisite for study permit application under the SDS stream. To be on the safer side we only applied for my wife’s study permit initially and once it was approved, we applied for visas for others (myself and kids). The application was submitted at the beginning of February under the Student Direct Stream (SDS) which at that time took 14 days to process ad to our surprise we got it approved in 14 days. Read more details about our study permit application.
By the time we got our visa stamped COVID-19 had already crept the entire world. We got the visa stamped by the 18th of March and 23rd of March everything went under lockdown. My wife resigned from the office the same day she got her visa with a little clue that everything is going to shut down. All flights were cancelled starting 23rd of March 2020, to or from Canada. At that time it seemed as if things will settle down in a couple of months but as we know that lasted for more than 2 years.
Due to the pandemic, Canada relaxed a few conditions for international students. They no longer had to be present in Canada to study and were allowed to start studying from the home country to complete up to 50% of their program. We had 2 options, first either defer the intake from May to September 2020 or start studying online. We decided to start the program in May to avoid any delays and complications in getting the visa extended. So, my wife started studying online beginning May 2020.
Most of the classes were conducted during the evening India time so it was convenient and easy to manage from home because everything was under lockdown and no one was going out. In July 2020 we applied for an open work permit (for myself) and a study permit for both the kids. By the time we applied, the processing time for work permits increased from 8 weeks in March to 35 weeks in July.
In September 2020 there was some relaxation given to the international students to come to Canada. In order to qualify for the PGWP after studies, my wife had to be in Canada for at least 50% of the study duration. By this time many of my wife’s cohort students were also planning to go to Canada so my wife eventually came to Canada on the 26th of September 2020.
It took 6 more months for me and my children to come to Canada. Finally, after a prolonged delay, our visas were approved by January end 2021. All international flights what’s still cancelled however for a brief time Canada allowed family members of international students and PRs to come to Canada on the grounds of family reunification. This was the time when we wrote to IRCC and got the approval to travel to Canada finally we arrived in Canada on the 26th of February 2021.