Last month, we chatted with a Nigerian product designer who was able to relocate to the UK in the middle of the year with a Global Talent visa, and he shared his experience and how much the process cost him.
But apart from the UK, Canada is another choice country for emigrating Nigerians. To find out why, we asked Deji*, a 31-year-old account manager, who recently moved using the Canada Express Entry route.
In his interview with PiggyVest, he talks about deciding to leave Nigeria since 2019, the eligibility requirements for the Canada express entry route, and the cost of relocating with his wife.
When did you decide to japa, and why through the Canada express entry route?
I started trying to leave in 2019 because I was frustrated with life in Nigeria. I thought I would have a better shot at pursuing my career in Canada, and the express entry route seemed like the best way to do it.
The first time I made my decision, I wasn’t married. And at the time, my then-girlfriend wasn’t concerned with relocating. She planned to stay back in Nigeria and make it work.
So, how did you convince her?
I didn’t have to. I went on to start the process, and not much later, I proposed. She changed her mind in 2020. After the End SARS debacle, she finally came on board.
What was the plan to proceed as a couple?
I had already created my profile in 2019, before the pandemic. But COVID stalled the process for two years, and they finally resumed accepting applications in July of 2022. At that point, we were married and decided to go through the process together.
You already created a profile. What was the next step?
First, I had to get my degree evaluated by the World Education Services (WES). It cost me $100 in 2019. But there was no word from immigration, so there was a long stretch of waiting. Then, in November 2020, I took the IELTS exam. I paid ₦79,000 for this.
The IELTS exam is in four parts: speaking, listening, writing and reading. I only made the top score in three parts. I wanted to have it re-marked, but again, there was no rush. Thank God I waited because the IELTS results are only valid for two years. So by 2022, when we started the process proper, it had expired.
Now that the process involved two people, what changed?
The Canada express entry route works with a point-based system. You’re awarded points for these things: your degrees, your IELTS scores, your age (if you’re under 30), and your work experience.
Then, you get additional points if you have a blood relative in Canada, if you have written a French exam, or have a job offer in the country. So this time, my wife was the primary applicant, as she had a masters degree and a blood relative. I took the IELTS exam again in April of 2022. It still cost ₦79,000.
Then, we created a new profile in August 2022, as my former profile had also expired. Note that you can create a profile before you proceed with the WES evaluation and IELTS exam. The only downside is that the express entry profile expires after 12 months of inactivity, so you will have to complete a new profile.
In my opinion, it’s best to start with the one that doesn’t expire (WES) and then the one that impacts your profile the most (IELTS). Then, create your free profile.
How long did you have to wait for a response?
It wasn’t until November we got our first response. Now, a cut-off mark is determined and a draw takes place. The draw resumed in July 2022, and the score was 574.
The average score for a person in their late 20s with 3-5 years of work experience was around 470, I believe. Ours would have been less, but my wife’s masters degree and blood relative gave us a score boost, from about 474 to 495 points.
The draw took place every other Wednesday. And every time, the cut-off score reduced by 20. So they kept dropping it every week till it got to 494.
What a close call! This was in November, right?
Yes! We received our invitation to apply in November,
What does this mean?
It means the process has begun properly. We were given 60 days to submit some documents. One of these documents is a medical report; there are only two designated hospitals in Nigeria for this check. This test cost us ₦40k each. We were also required to submit a police report. We were charged ₦35k each for it.
The requirements also included a recommendation from your workplace to prove your work experience. I think it’s best to get it from where you’ve worked the longest, or your workplace at the time of your application. My wife had worked at the same company for five years, so hers was straightforward. I had three years of experience in a former place of employment, and two years in the place I worked at the point of application, so I got my recommendation from my workplace at the time.
These documents took a while to get, and we almost missed the 60-day mark. We submitted everything in the first week of January. An application processing and transmission fee are also required to complete this process. And we paid around CA$1200 per person.
Wow. What was left to do after submitting your application?
After a while, you’ll receive an email asking you for your biometric information. The fee for the Canada biometrics and transmission is CA$85. Then, we went to VFS in Lekki for the data capture at the end of January.
Now, we had completed the process, and the waiting game truly began.
I can only imagine the nerves.
It required a lot of patience, which I was grateful to have. On your profile, there’s a portal to monitor your progress. You can check to see if they’ve received your police report, biometric information, and medicals. They’ll also run a background check on you without your knowledge. Once your application is approved, you receive a passport request email. Our email came at the end of February, almost 30 days later.
So we took our passports to VFS, the same Visa Application Centre (VAC) we used before. It was election season, and the VFS office was closed. Instead of going back home, we decided to use the UPS service to courier our passports to our transmission centre in VFS Ghana. They charged us ₦15k for the service, and this covered the shipping to Ghana and back to Nigeria, after the transmission had been completed. We picked up our passports from the UPS office on the 1st of April.
Wow. Everything happened so quickly. I’m guessing you were good to go at this point?
Yes. It was time to buy our flight tickets. We used Egyptair and our tickets were super cheap, at ₦1.1 million for both tickets.
How did you raise money for your proof of funds?
For a single person you need CA$13k and close to CA$17k for a family of two. We had saved up our funds over time. We had assessed how volatile the naira was early enough and decided it would be best to save and invest in USD. By the time we needed the POF, we just withdrew our cash and had it available.
Between February and now, the rates have nearly doubled. So, those who thought they had their complete funds in naira as at February, will need double that amount now.
Now that’s a lesson in finance. Do you think there was any part of the process you could have done better?
Honestly, not at all. I couldn’t have asked for a smoother process. There are people who started the process before us in November but are still waiting for their invitation to apply. People we did our medicals with didn’t get their passport request until June.
I just think we were very lucky. At the time, it seemed like a long wait, but looking back, it was nothing at all.
Did you have to spend any money after you arrived in Canada?
Not really. A friend accommodated us, and I haven’t had to do other registrations. We got our Social Insurance Numbers at the airport and then we were given our health cards — all free.
Would you say it was worth it?
Yes. We’re still in the early days, but our quality of life has improved. Once we get our citizenship in three years, travelling around the world will no longer be a problem. Education for our kids will be free up until university level. Healthcare is pretty much free as well. So yeah, 100% worth it.
Awesome! What lessons or advice would you like to share with those considering the Canada express entry route?
First, save in dollars. It’s the best financial decision I made. Also, you have to learn to be patient. I’m not saying I was patient o, we were just lucky and blessed. But this process will wear you out mentally, emotionally, and financially too, but you have to trust the process.
Finally, if you want to relocate using the Canada express entry route, do it ASAP. The naira will not wait for you.