Canadian ImmigrationImmigration

Surviving and Thriving in Canada As an Unskilled Immigrant



Unskilled immigrants to Canada may face some difficulties along the way, but don’t despair – you can still succeed and thrive here.

If you are looking to work in Canada, there are various immigration streams available. One popular option is the Provincial Nominee Programs.

1. Work Permits

If you plan to work in Canada, a work permit is essential. You can apply for one either from abroad or when crossing the border into Canada.

The type of work permit you receive can have a major impact on how long you stay and what type of employment opportunities are available to you. Canada offers various temporary work permit streams tailored towards different industries, skill levels, and countries involved in international agreements with Canada.

TFWs from low-development and social stability countries tend to stay longer as temporary residents or obtain permanent residence after their work permits expire. However, these differences can largely be attributed to host country institutional factors (Foster 2012; Hou and Bonikowska 2016).

TFWs can gain permanent residence through various immigration programs, each with its own criteria of acceptance. Policies and regulations set the transition pathways for TFWs to citizenship; certain categories have more favorable chances than others at becoming permanent residents.

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2. Social Security

One of the key ways immigrant families can thrive in Canada is by accessing social security benefits. This program offers assistance to households with low incomes and resources by covering healthcare, food expenses and shelter costs.

An unskilled immigrant with a family may qualify for Social Security Income (SSI) benefits if they have worked in the US and are disabled, blind or older (65+). Additionally, depending on their immigration status, other SSI benefits may also be available to them.

Immigrants typically receive lower retirement benefits than natives based on their earnings; however, this gap diminishes with additional years of US residency. Furthermore, immigrants tend to possess greater private wealth which may supplement some of the lower Social Security benefits they are eligible for.

3. Health Care

Health care is a fundamental requirement for success as an unskilled immigrant in Canada, whether the individual is uninsured, underinsured or medically ill and needing specialized treatment. Access to quality health services should be guaranteed for everyone – it should not just be limited to those with money to spare.

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Recently, immigration has played an increasingly significant role in Canada’s health care expansion. As a result, Canadians often face lengthy wait times for surgeries, procedures, appointments, tests and imaging services.

Many Canadian immigrants experience delays and crises as a result of these delays and problems. Either they become ill upon arrival (e.g., exploited sex trade workers brought here illegally or on false sponsorships) or develop health issues during the three month wait for legal status, depending on when they arrived in Canada.

One such case is Aisha, an immigrant from Bangladesh who came to Canada as a sponsored youth at age 15. Unfortunately, her sponsor who lived in Toronto left her without health insurance and left her struggling with high costs, worsening health conditions and hindered accculturation.

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4. Education

Education is a valuable asset that can help an unskilled immigrant succeed in Canada. Gaining knowledge about how the world functions and applying it to your daily life are invaluable assets.

Recent immigrants often struggle to find jobs that utilize their educational qualifications. Despite the high percentage of university degrees among these newcomers, their employment rates and earnings tend to be lower than those experienced by native-born Canadians.

Contrary to other wage gaps between immigrants and native workers, this one persists throughout an individual’s working career (Ferrer & Riddell 2004; Ferrer & Skuterud 2005). To investigate why there is such a discrepancy in labor market outcomes for immigrants, we use self-reported match measures from SLID data sets in an effort to examine this relationship further.

Results show that mismatches are more frequent among immigrants, particularly females, than natives upon arrival and these mismatches are linked to large wage penalties. They account for anywhere from 9-14% of the entry wage disadvantage experienced by immigrant workers upon arrival.


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