The big day is finally here! The interview that will decide if Canada will accept you as a permanent resident. If you’re worried, remember: you’ve made it this far. The point of the interview is largely to ‘seal the deal’, and confirm that everything on your application lines up with what you have to say. And of course it does – it’s your story!

That said, there are definitely some things to make the interview go as smoothly as possible.

How to prepare

  1. Make sure you get there in time. If you have to travel to another city – which may be difficult – work out your travel arrangements and permissions well in advance. Refugees in Turkey, for example, may have difficulty getting to the Canadian embassy in Ankara if they’re not supposed to travel far from home.

  2. Go through your documents to remember all the dates and places of your life story.

  3. Delete any posts on Facebook and Instagram etc etc that are political – no military pictures, no guns, no soldiers, no posts for OR AGAINST the government, the opposition, Isis, any organized movement.

  4. Bring the IDs and documents from your home country.

  5. Bring all your official papers showing your residency in the country where you’re living now, including your refugee documents.

And now, what happens when the interview begins…

First steps

An interviewer brings you into a small room. They may even be behind a glass wall. Weird, right? Well, what can you do?

You should ask for a translator prior to the interview if you need one. But remember to speak some English or French, which will endear you to the interviewer, and further demonstrate that you will find it easy to make a home in Canada. It just leaves a good impression.

Questions and answers

They will look at your documents and ask the reasons you left your home country. If you were persecuted, be prepared to back it up with places, names and dates. If you’re from Syria, they will mostly focus on your life after the revolution began in 2011.

If you did military service, be prepared to talk about it in detail. Hopefully you did not do active duty, especially not in a war. If you did, they’re going to ask you many questions about it.

A big focus is how you left your country, who you paid, the types of transportation you took – and as always, when and where. This is why it’s important to read your application carefully before the interview.

If you’ve returned to your home country, you have a problem. There are some tiny exceptions, such as “I returned for two days for a funeral” but generally, returning to your home country – the place of your persecution – can disqualify you from being accepted.

They will ask who applied for you and how you know them. It’s okay to say you first met your sponsor through social media. As long as your sponsors are not part of a shady organization that will set off alarm bells.

They ask you if you paid any money for your private sponsorship – the answer is NO.

Focus on desire to live a normal life and not to fight. And talk about why Canada in particular appeals to you. “A place where I can be free and respected again, a country I’ve long admired.”

Tough questions

Says a friend who went through the interview process:

“The interviewer is very intelligent. He looks at everything inside the room: the movements of your hands and your looks and actions. He may make you feel like you are lying and you should tell the truth. This is particularly in the middle of the interview. They are testing to see your response.”

They may ask provocative questions. And they will definitely ask the same question in a number of different ways. This is to make sure your story is true.

How you respond

How you respond to the tough questions matters. First, you must remain calm and maintain eye contact. You have nothing to hide! Be pleasant and friendly and don’t get impatient or frustrated, if they ask you the same question over and over. Be fully comfortable and honest.

If you’re talking about sad stuff, show emotion: it shows it’s real for you. And if there’s a really important part of your story – especially the part where you were persecuted because you’re gay, you’re Christian and so on – make sure you talk about it.

Otherwise don’t overshare. Keep it as simple as possible. Stick to the facts – and only provide the information they’re asking for. If you provide too many extra details, they will ask about those too – until you’re going down a rabbit hole of uncomfortable questions.

Next steps

Once you’re at the end, remember to thank the interviewer and ask for next steps. These might include your medical test (often done the same time as the interview) and the security check, which typically starts when the interview finishes.

If you’re lucky, they’ll finish the interview by putting on a friendly face and welcoming you to Canada.

If they tell you there will be a delay or further consideration less common – don’t worry. You’re probably coming to Canada regardless. It may just take longer.