This CS from India moved to Canada on a study visa and is now a CPA. Here is her story.
- Hi, I am Bhavneet Toor, a Company Secretary from India and a CPA from Canada.
- My goal was always to become a CA, but CS chose me and I couldn’t be happier.
- In 2015, I relocated to Canada and within 7 months, I landed a public practice job which later helped me become a Big 4 Accountant.
- In this article, I share my exciting relocation to Canada, the challenges I faced along the way and how I finally turned my dream of becoming a Chartered Accountant into a reality
I wanted to be a CA, destiny led me to CS
Since grade 9, my goal was to pursue a career as a Chartered Accountant! When I got to grade 12, I realized that if I want to make this goal a reality, I will have to do my B.Com part-time and complete my CA articles alongside.
As a 17-year-old, all I wanted was to attend college full-time while pursuing a professional degree, so I routed towards a Company Secretary qualification from ICSI (The Institute of Company Secretary of India) and my knowledge on CS was limited upon enrolling.
In college, I participated in dance competitions, anchoring, won titles, organized events, made many friends and ranked amongst the top 10 students of the B.Com degree...all of which helped me enhance my social and networking skills.
Looking back, I am so glad that I took the decision to pursue a course like CS which gave me the opportunity to attend college and experience those golden years of student life.
I eventually completed my Company Secretary course in 2012 right after college at the age of 20 and was one of the youngest in CS back then in my hometown (Ludhiana City)!
Deciding to move to Canada after completing CS articles
When growing up, I heard amazing things about Canada from my relatives who immigrated there. Looking at them and the stories they shared, I decided that I would also like to immigrate there.
My initial plan was to move to Canada after completing my B.Com degree in 2012, however, I realized that I had invested so much time and money to pursue CS.
It made more sense to complete my articles of 15 months and get the letters after my name (without the mandatory articles I would not be able to use the letters CS after my name!)
I started with my CS articles in 2012 from a related company of a CA firm, R.Arora & Associates.
To cut the long story short, back then (2012) there were limited options for CS articles in Ludhiana, so when I went through the online directory for companies that hire CS articles, this company was the first one I contacted.
I was called for an interview and hired within a few days, so I think it was destiny that brought me to this great CA firm.
My exciting relocation to Canada on a study visa & desire to pursue CA
While doing my CS articles at this CA Firm R.Arora & Associates, I was surrounded by Chartered Accountants and that’s when my desire to pursue CA grew even stronger!
In 2014, I researched about CPA in Canada and learnt about the immense opportunities one can get from it. I knew that this would be the best degree I could get.
After compiling research, I looked for institutions in Canada that could help me complete the Canadian CPA and that's when I found 'Douglas College'! I chose it for the following reasons:
- Douglas College’s Post Baccalaureate in Accounting serves all the CPA PREP courses that are required to get entry into CPA PEP.
- Second, it was a two-year program which meant that I could get a three-year work permit after graduation.
- Third, Douglas College was the only public college from Lower Mainland offering this course. Public colleges are preferred since their fees are less costly than private colleges and universities. This program was well suited for my requirements.
And that is how in 2015 I moved to Canada through a study visa.
Studying, working, and living in Canada
Initially, the new Canadian life was difficult as I had to start from scratch, however, I quickly adjusted as a young 22 year old would.
I believe it could possibly be harder for someone coming in their 30’s since they have more responsibilities and have built their professional life in India.
I found a part-time job at a pizzeria (could work 20 hours a week) but faced a huge challenge in the beginning. Back in India (my home country), I was used to working in an office environment, so moving from the office to making dough for a pizza was tough! It took me some time to change my mindset, but I am glad I did as everyone is treated equally in Canada.
The other challenge was the education system. I was told, “Education in Canada is easier than in India”. It is NOT! Education in Canada is harder than in India. We have to study consistently in Canada since we have weekly assignments, two midterms, case presentations, final exams and work too.
Apart from intense studying, life was great. I could not have asked for a better opportunity!
Landing my first international job in Canada while pursuing CPA
When I was studying my Post Baccalaureate, I got a part-time job at a small accounting firm, Deol & Company, CPA in August 2015.
I worked at this company for over 2 years where I learnt a lot about 'Canadian public practice work'. It was a great experience that I will always cherish.
When I graduated in 2017, I did not go through campus recruiting like my peers who were fresh out of school. Since I had a good 2-year experience working at 'Deol & Company', I was looking for a position that matched my experience.
I applied to Grant Thornton as I wanted to gain more exposure and grow. I got selected.
Also, right after graduating from Douglas College in 2017, I got accepted to the CPA Institute, so my goal was achieved.
Applying for my PR Visa and qualifying as CPA Canada
The very same night I got my work permit, I applied for my PR, with no help from anyone, including immigration agents.
My PR came within a month of my convocation (June 2017), which I consider as a quick turnaround time.
Fast forward, in 2018 I got an opportunity with KPMG in Enterprise Practice, and in 2019 I qualified as a CPA Canada.
Questions I get asked frequently
"Why I chose a student visa and not a permanent residency?"
The Canadian immigration express entry was launched on January 1, 2015. I remember I was missing by a few points to be eligible for the express entry at that time (the PR cut off was higher in 2015 than it is today).
Also, my student visa was approved in August 2014, 4 months before my school started in January 2015. Having my student visa helped me focus on my studies first and think about a PR visa after.
I could have stayed in India to gain experience prior to relocating with a PR visa, but it was not worth the time.
"Benefits of moving to Canada on a student visa instead of a PR Visa?"
The benefits that I received in immigrating as an international student can never compare to moving as a professional.
- A great opportunity to experience Canada in your youth
- International students start their Canadian lives with odd jobs that are available part-time since we can only work 20 hours a week. Most of these jobs give an eminent customer service experience, which is crucial when applying for jobs after graduation. Trust me, the customer service experience is crucial!
- I worked part-time while studying, did house-chores, managed my college club, organized end of semester events and had a big social circle to experience Canadian life. You could miss out on this amazing experience if you come as PR.
- The goal when coming as a PR is finding a good full-time job, which is not usually the case when you come as a student.
- I started my first accounting job in August 2015 after just a week of applying. The job experience I had in India helped me a lot.
- Getting PR after studying in Canada was easier
- Second, getting PR after studying was easier. I applied for my PR the same night I got my job, with no help from anyone, including immigration agents.
- I joined free immigration forums, (canadavisa.com was a big help), read and understood bits and pieces of every law applicable to me. I went to a few immigration consultants before applying, but looking at the fees they charged and the knowledge they have, I realized I am no less than them...but I have to admit, applying for a PR myself was scary.
- My PR came within a month of my convocation (June 2017), which I consider as a quick turnaround time. Furthermore, I could not apply for a PR without the actual degree, which is received at convocation.
- I believe my Canadian education and a score of 8 bands in IELTS helped me achieve a great score...I achieved 70 points more than the CRS cut off that time!
"How much money I invested to study in Canada?"
- The total fees for my Post Baccalaureate was around CAD $30,000 (Rs. 16.5 lacs). Expensive? Yes, but it is not hard when you are determined to do everything on your own.
- The initial requirement for international students is to have $10,000 in Canadian GIC and then payment of the first-year tuition, which was another $15,000.
- I used my two-year savings from my job in India and my parents helped me with this big expense of about INR 10 Lac (approx USD 15K).
- The $10,000 GIC was only used for my second-year tuition fees and the money I was saving on the side for two years was enough to support my second-year tuition.
- I believe every international student should aim to be self-sufficient and independent in money matters, i.e. never ask your parents to pay your tuition once you’ve left the country. Working in a CA office taught me how to manage my finances.
I am against big weddings, so I took this money in lieu of him spending it at my wedding since I am not going to take a penny from him for my marriage. Instead of marriage, I think this is the biggest gift a father can give his daughter, i.e. investing in her education.
"Living expenses in Canada as a student."
- When you are moving to Canada as an international student, the basic requirements for first-year or semester tuition and GIC are met, so I would say you need approximately $2,000 to start.
- Try finding a part-time job when you arrive and look for shared cheap accommodation through websites such as craigslist, advertisements at laundry stores etc. which will cost you $500 or less per month.
- You might need to buy some clothes according to Canadian weather that should cost another $200 and groceries around $200.
- Bring your utensils (such as cutlery, frying pan, glasses, plates, pressure cooker etc.) from your home country, since those are expensive in Canada when compared to Indian prices.
"Why I chose Vancouver instead of Toronto?"
- I remember my cousin telling me that Vancouver is the most beautiful city to live in and has the best weather among other Canadian cities. I blindly followed his advice and I’m glad to say he was right.
- It is the third-largest city in Canada, and you receive all the benefits like Toronto along with enjoying the natural beauty, so it was not a tough decision.
- There are many jobs in Vancouver, starting from farmworkers to internships to office jobs. You just need to be patient and focus on your work, no matter what it entails.
"Relocating to Canada on a PR?"
"People like me thought that their lives will change after PR, but it doesn’t change."
- If you are coming to Canada as PR, the first thing you need to bring is a 'different mindset'.
- You got PR, Congrats! It is your personal achievement and does not change your job prospects. Employers DO NOT see a difference, whether you are looking for a job as a resident, work permit holder, or international student.
- Jobs matter more in Canada than PR...it is a mere entry for you to stay in Canada!
I did not come with a silver spoon, on the contrary, I’m indebted with student loans and mortgage, but this doesn’t stop me from pursuing my goals.
My five-year goal plan was to work at KPMG, get citizenship, study at UBC, own a house and teach students. All of which has been fulfilled and trust me, it required a lot of hard work.
Failures do not define you - I failed too at many instances. Sometimes at work, with my friends, maintaining a connection with my family and even with my own expectations. The key to success is to try again with experience.
Lastly, I would say: ‘TALK TO YOUR PARENTS ABOUT YOUR GOALS’. They are the biggest support system anyone could get, and they will never let you down, even if the whole world turns their back against you.
Now It's Your Turn...
Are you looking at moving to Canada? Have questions for me..comment below and I will get back to you.
(Article edited by Lindy Ntuli and image edited by Ankit Lodhi)
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