The Canadian Dream: a reality that becomes complicated

Following the 2016 Canadian immigration policies that effectively eliminated the need of a VISA, many Mexicans decided to move to Canada seeking new opportunities. However, the abuse and mistreatment are a reality of many undocumented immigrants who decide to live and work in Canada today.

By Nayeli Martín del Campo / @NinjeliSaya

If the police ask you where are you going to go, you have to said you are going for a trip with your friends, or this tools are not yours, bring another set of cloth then they won’t see you dressing like labor, cleaner, painter, rope access worker or in other job where people, usually immigrants, work in.

On December 1, 2016, the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, removed the VISA for all the Mexican passport holders, giving them a possibility to visit this country after applying for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA).

Before 2024, the way to travel to Canada was very easy; this moment was an option for many people to cross the borders and escape from the high insecurity and violence levels.

Estela Martinez, a name to keep her identity anonymous, is a Mexican woman who decided to move to Canada in 2018. At that moment, she decided to work without documents during the summer, and at the same time, enjoy, visit and travel all around British Columbia.

“I was working in a construction site as a laborer and it was there when I fell in love with Vancouver, I had to go back to Mexico because I had to finish my bachelor degree”, Martinez said.

After the COVID 2019, she applied to an eTA, once Canada approved it, she packed all her life in a suitcase to this new place where she will start building her new life.

However, Martinez came back to Vancouver with a “Visitor” status, being allowed to live legally in Canada for six months without an opportunity to work, get affordable medical attention, get a phone number, have a bank account without feeling she can be discovered, arrested and deported by the Canadian Government.

“I came to Vancouver in 2024, and in all this time I’ve been working in different places. At the beginning, because that was my thought, I would work in construction or cleaning services while I could save some money to study, but study in this city is very expensive, my other option was to look for a company to sponsor me, but the reality is very different. I worked in a restaurant where my salary was 14 dollars per hour and it was very exhausting work there. After that, I worked as Nanny, cleaner, labor and waitress”.

Starting June 1, 2024 the minimum wage in British Columbia is 17.40 dollars per hour, before this date, it was 16.75 per hour, despite this, most of the places where undocumented workers provide a service don’t follow the minimum payment requirements in law and opening a question if be and undocumented worked demands to be a excellent and high quality employee as the Canadian society require with a lower salary.

In 2023, the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, reported that estimates from academic sources put the range of undocumented immigrants residing in Canada between 20,000 and 50,000 people.

Ramiro Franco is a Mexican who moved to Toronto just a few days before Justin Trudeau announced the new VISA imposition to Mexican citizens travelling to Canada.

“I had to book a flight two days before this news. I had spoken with my employer about these new changes and I traveled to Toronto as soon as possible. I have to say I was very lucky; the Canadian border officer didn’t ask too much of me, they were very kind”.

Through the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Franco found a way to Migrate to Canada with a Work Permit, social services injuries and a few amenities that without a work permit will be impossible or more complicated to receive.

As a rope access worker, Franco has to clean windows on buildings while rappelling down at least 10 metres. He puts his life hanging on a rope tie on a safe port in a building. Rope access is one of the national occupations required in Canada. This means, a person who works in this area, has more probabilities to apply to a Permanent Residence or PR.

However, no matter the legality of the process, Franco worked for weeks undocumented, having a lower income, living in a place without services provided for the company. Regardless, he kept a good attitude because he knew that, after one year of hard work, he would be closer to his dream, becoming a permanent resident.

 “The Canadian company paid for my hotel and my flight. In my experience, they were very nice, so I started working undocumented with them. Everything was more or less going well when I realized that they register my application as a windows cleaner not like  rope access technician, so my plan to apply for a Permanent Resident is not possible anymore, so I didn’t know what to do”.

After consulting a lawyer, Franco understood he was in a position where he had to report the company with a high risk of being deported because work undocumented in Canada is illegal, go back to Mexico and forget his dream or find another business willing to help him with a sponsorship.

“I think my only option at this point is work without a work permit until I find a new company because I have to survive in Toronto but if this new plan does not work, then I’ll save some money to go back to Mexico. What honesty I won’t ever forget is when they told me: “It’s not our problem that American Latina sucks and everybody wants to go out”. 


Nayeli Martin del Campo
Nayeli Martin del Campo
Periodista y politóloga. Vivo en Vancouver, Canadá y como muchos mexicanos, soy inmigrante y trabajo en un oficio completamente completamente diferente a mis profesiones. Hoy doy voz a muchas personas que como yo, luchan, se esfuerzan y mantienen la esperanza Canadá.


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