Sanjay Manchanda is the CEO of Nakheel, one of the largest property developers in the Middle East. Many people are aware of Sanjay’s impressive career and achievements, but many do not know about his connection to Canada.
Julie Beeton, Canadian immigration lawyer and Managing Director of Beeton & Co, sat down with Sanjay to find out more.
What is your connection to Canada?
My family has been in Canada since 1997 – we moved there when my son was 7 years old. I became a Canadian Permanent Resident at the same time but did not stay in Canada due to my professional commitments in the United Arab Emirates.
My son attended high school in Canada and then went on to study architecture at the University of Waterloo. He now lives downtown Toronto and works at an architect firm in the city.
My son is now a Canadian citizen and considers Canada home. He has formed a great life there with his work, friends and interests in sports and the outdoors.
Why did you decide to immigrate to Canada?
Canada is one of the most sought after countries in the world. It is a friendly, fair and just society. It also has an excellent human rights record.
I am from Northern India and the demographics in Canada made it an easy place to immigrate to – there are large Indian populations in many cities in the Greater Toronto Area such as Mississauga, Brampton, Markham and Oakville. It makes it much easier to immigrate when there are so many people from your home country already there. We also had some friends and family already in Canada.
What did you think of the Canadian immigration system?
I found it time consuming when I applied due my professional commitments. Overall, it was manageable and worth it in the end when I see my son’s successes. My interview at the Embassy in Abu Dhabi was straightforward – they only wanted to confirm my interest in moving to Canada given that my career was in the UAE.
What are the major differences between Canada and India or the United Arab Emirates?
The quality of life in Canada is excellent and you have access to free health care and free education for your kids. Everything in Canada is well-designed and laid out including the legal system. It can take some time to get accustomed to the structure when you are coming from other countries.
There are certain ways to do things in Canada and you must accept that. For example, free health care means you must wait for appointments sometimes. You must accept that there are wait times but recognize that you are getting excellent, free healthcare.
Did your family find it hard to settle in Canada?
No – there are great services and organizations in Canada to help you settle. My wife and son were lucky to have friends and family and also the Indian community to help them adjust to life in Canada.
However, it does take some time to adjust to the cold weather! You realize quickly that the infrastructure is designed for the cold weather and your activities change so you stay inside more – this all makes the cold weather more manageable. And before you know it, it is summer which is beautiful in Canada.
Did you have trouble finding a school in Canada for your son?
We offered to put him in a private school but he wanted to stay in the public system which offers an excellent education. He went on to study at the University of Waterloo which is recognized as one of the top universities in the country. We had no trouble finding him a school.
Did your son adjust to life in Canada easily?
He was 7 when we arrived, so he has grown up in Canada. When I compare him to kids his age that grew up in India, he is more independent and responsible. He is successful and financially independent – he is also respectful and has interests in sports and outdoor activities. Growing up in Canada has helped him have strong values and a balanced life.
His dream was to study at the University of Waterloo. When he received early admission offers from other universities, I encouraged him to take these offers. He told me he wanted to wait and get the admission to Waterloo. He has the confidence to make his own decisions and all his hard work got him into the university he was dreaming of attending.
What do you think of Canadian universities?
There are so many great universities including the ivy league universities such as University of Waterloo, University of Toronto and Queen’s. My son did his undergraduate degree and Master’s in Canada. He also took part in a co-op program (which is a paid internship) which helped him get his current job.
Any advice for someone thinking about immigrating to Canada?
I have three pieces of advice.
First, apply early when you are young. It is easier to settle in a new country when you are younger.
Second, make sure you have savings that you can fall back on if you do not find a job right away. This will lessen the stress involved in the move. I would suggest having enough money to live for 18 months to be safe.
Third, be prepared for hard work. Moving to Canada does not mean that you arrive in the lap of luxury. You need to work hard, surround yourself with a good social network and remember the reason why most people are doing this – for their families and kids. Canada is an amazing place to raise children and your hard work will mean a better life for them.
Thank you to Sanjay for his time and advice – we really appreciate his generosity.
Julie Beeton is a Canadian qualified lawyer (called to the Bar in Ontario, Canada) and the Managing Director of Beeton & Co, Canadian Education and Immigration Services.