2023-08-24T12:14:19-04:00Jan 24, 2023|

21 frequently asked questions about working in Canada

As a newcomer, finding a job in Canada can open a whole new realm of possibilities. Whether you’re looking for a Canadian job offer to qualify for a work permit or getting ready to move to Canada as a new permanent resident, you’ll likely have many questions about entering the Canadian job market and finding employment.

From work permits to Canadian-style resumes, this article addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about working in Canada as a new permanent resident (PR) or work permit holder.

Who is allowed to work in Canada?

Most foreign nationals require a work permit or study permit to work in Canada. You’re eligible to work in Canada if you:

  • Are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, or
  • Have a valid work permit, or
  • Are an international student with a valid study permit that allows you to work in Canada.

As a foreign national, you may be exempt from the work permit requirement under certain conditions that only require a short work stay in Canada, such as if you’re a business visitor, short-term researcher, or foreign athlete. If you’re unsure about whether you require a work permit, check the government’s website for information specific to your situation.

Is IELTS required for a Canadian work permit?

In most cases, you don’t need to take the IELTS or other language tests to qualify for a Canadian work permit. However, proof of language proficiency may be required for certain specialized work permits, such as for live-in caregivers. Canadian visa offices in certain countries may also include language test scores as an eligibility requirement for a work permit.

Even if language test results are not required for your work permit application, your application can be denied at the port of entry if the border officials believe that you’re not qualified to perform the job due to language barriers or an inability to communicate in English or French.

How much does a Canadian work permit cost?

The application processing fee for an employer-specific work permit in Canada is $155. For an open work permit, you’ll need to pay a total of $255, including a $100 Open Work Permit Holder Fee. Regardless of the type of work permit you apply for, you’ll need to pay a biometrics fee of $85 when you submit your application.

You should also account for other costs that you may have to incur, such as those for medical exams, police certificates, language tests (if needed), educational credential assessment, document translations, and more.

Do I need a Canadian job offer to apply for a work permit?

You need a valid job offer from an employer in Canada to apply for an employer-specific work permit. However, if you’re eligible for an open work permit, you don’t need an employment offer.

You can only qualify for an open work permit in Canada if you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You’re an international student who has graduated from a Canadian designated learning institution (DLI) and is eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
  • You’ve applied for permanent residence in Canada or are a dependent of a PR applicant.
  • You’re the spouse or partner of an international student or temporary foreign worker in Canada.
  • You have a temporary residence permit in Canada.
  • You’re an international student in Canada but can no longer meet the cost of your study program.
  • You’re a refugee or protected person in Canada.

Can an employer sponsor my work permit in Canada?

There is no employment sponsorship in Canada. If a Canadian employer wants to hire you, in most cases, they must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to determine the impact of hiring foreign workers on the Canadian labour market. You’ll need a copy of this LMIA and a formal employment contract from your employer to apply for an employer-specific work permit. Employers don’t require an LMIA to hire applicants who are eligible for or already have an open work permit.

What is the processing time for Canadian work permits?

The processing time for your work permit application can vary significantly depending on which country you’re applying from. For example, in January 2023, the processing time for work permit applications filed online from India is nine weeks, whereas applications filed from China are expected to take 50 weeks for processing. Applications submitted from within Canada can take up to 24 weeks to be processed. Check the government’s website for the current processing time for your country before you apply.

Regardless of the country you’re applying from, you may be eligible for two-week processing of your work permit if you’ve received a job offer under the Global Talent Stream.

Can I include my family on my work permit application for Canada?

Your immediate family members, such as your spouse, common-law partner, or dependent children, can be included on your work permit application. If your application is approved, your spouse or common-law partner may be eligible for an open work permit, study permit (provided they’ve been accepted into a Canadian university or college), or visitor record for the duration of your work permit. Your children can also accompany you to Canada as visitors or on a study permit if they’re enrolled in a Canadian designated learning institution.

Other family members, including your parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, or nephews cannot be included on your work permit application and cannot accompany you to Canada based on your work permit.

What is the age limit for a Canadian work permit?

Foreign workers must be at least 18 years old to qualify for a Canadian work permit. In most cases, there is no maximum age limit for Canadian work permits. The only exception is for work permits issued under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, where applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 35 years. Some countries under the IEC program have different age limits to qualify for a Canadian work permit.

Can international students work in Canada?

As an international student in Canada, you may be eligible to work while studying if your study permit has a condition that states you’re allowed to work on- or off-campus in Canada. If your study permit allows it, you don’t need a separate work permit.

Typically, you can work on-campus if you have a valid study permit, a Social Insurance Number (SIN), and are enrolled at a Designated Learning Institution as a full-time student. To be eligible for off-campus work, you must: 

  • Have a valid study permit
  • Have a SIN
  • Already be studying full-time in a post-secondary academic, vocational or professional study program or a secondary-level vocational training program (in Quebec only)
  • Be enrolled in a study program that’s at least six months long and leads to a degree, diploma, or certificate.

If your study permit doesn’t allow you to work in Canada but you meet the above eligibility criteria, you can request that a condition to work be added to your study permit.

If your study program includes a co-op or internship term and completion of the work placement is a requirement for graduation, you’ll need to apply for a co-op or internship work permit separately.

information icon  Information:
If you submitted your study permit application on or before October 7, 2022, currently have a valid work permit that allows you to work off-campus, and your co-op will end by December 31, 2023, you may be exempt from the co-op work permit requirement.

Can I work in Canada on a visitor visa?

You are not allowed to work in Canada on a visitor visa. Visitors cannot legally engage in any commercial activity while in Canada.

As a visitor, you are allowed to search for jobs in Canada but cannot begin working for a Canadian employer until you have either a Canadian work permit or permanent residence.

Can I get my visitor visa converted to a work permit in Canada?

Usually, visitors to Canada cannot convert their visitor visa to a work permit or apply for a work permit from within Canada. 

However, under a temporary public policy, visitor visa holders can apply for employer-specific work permits from within Canada until February 28, 2023. To be eligible for an employer-specific work permit under this policy, you must have a valid job offer from a Canadian employer.

Is it easy to get a job in Canada?

Canadian employers prefer to hire Canadian citizens or permanent residents so it’s easier to find employment in Canada if you’re already a permanent resident or citizen. On the other hand, the process of hiring foreign skilled workers is not straightforward. 

Most employers require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to confirm that there are no available Canadian workers to fill a position before they can offer jobs to foreign workers. Plus, even after the employer receives a positive LMIA, it can take a long time for a foreign worker to get a work permit, which makes it inconvenient for employers looking to fill immediate job openings.

However, Canada faces a shortage of skilled workers across many industries and employers in certain sectors often hire foreign workers. If you’re a foreign worker with experience in an in-demand occupation, it may be easier to get a Canadian job offer and qualify for a work permit.

How to search for jobs in Canada

If you’re looking for a job in Canada, there are several ways to find employment opportunities. Some of these include:

  • Searching for job postings: Popular job portals in Canada include the government’s Job Bank, LinkedIn, Monster, Indeed, Workopolis, and Grabjobs. If you have a list of employers you’re interested in working with, it’s also a good idea to track jobs listed on their websites’ career pages. 
  • Networking: Canada has a large hidden job market, and as many as 65 to 80 per cent of available jobs are not posted online or advertised. Instead, these are filled through employers’ networks. Networking can give you access to the hidden job market, referrals, and insights about the industry and work culture. You can start building your network in Canada through LinkedIn, networking events, and coffee chats.
  • Registering with employment agencies: Employment agencies such as Randstad Canada, Hays Canada, and Robert Half match job seekers to open positions among their employer networks.
  • Attending job fairs: Job fairs are a great place to find entry-level jobs or jobs in a particular industry. Some immigrant-serving organizations, such as JVS Toronto and Prepare for Canada also host virtual job fairs.
  • Volunteering: Volunteering is part of Canadian culture. As a job seeker, volunteering can give you an opportunity to work closely with professionals from different industries and get some (unpaid) Canadian experience on your resume.

Download the free Career Guide for newcomers to Canada

How to write a resume for jobs in Canada

The Canadian-style resume may be different from the one used in your home country. Broadly, there are three types of resume formats in Canada: reverse chronological, functional, and combination. The ideal one for your resume will depend on several factors, including the length of your work history, employment gaps, if any, and whether you’re transitioning to a different industry or role.

Writing an impressive resume for your job search goes beyond choosing the right format. In Canada, most employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumes that match the job description, so it’s important to customize your resume for each position using relevant keywords from the job posting. Another key difference is that Canadian resumes highlight your achievements in each employment position, rather than your job responsibilities. Read our article for more tips on creating an impressive resume and cover letter.

Download our free Canadian resume templates

How to get a job in Canada without Canadian work experience

The lack of Canadian experience can be a roadblock for some newcomers looking for a job in Canada. Employers are more likely to hire candidates who are familiar with the Canadian work culture and have both the soft skills and technical skills needed for a particular role.

However, the definition of Canadian experience is quite broad and is not limited to paid or full-time work. Instead, you can get valuable Canadian experience on your resume by volunteering or finding a part-time or survival job that leverages your key skills and allows you to build new transferable skills. Another way for newcomers to get Canadian experience is through bridging programs that include a work placement or project.

Why is networking so important in Canada?

Networking is integral to Canada’s work culture and, as a newcomer, it can play a huge role in your job search. Depending on the industry, between 65 and 80 per cent of job openings in Canada are filled through the recruiters’ or hiring managers’ networks. Your professional network can help you tap into this hidden job market, through employer introductions, referrals, and recommendations.

Your network can also be valuable when you’re researching a particular industry or company, familiarizing yourself with technical jargon, learning about an organization’s hiring process, polishing your resume or elevator pitch, or evaluating whether a particular company is the right fit for you.

Even after you land your first job in Canada, your network will continue to play a role in your career growth. Once you establish meaningful connections with professionals in your field, you can count on them for career advice, mentorship, and access to their networks.

Download our free guide on networking for newcomers to Canada

Which jobs are in demand in Canada?

Many provinces and territories in Canada face a shortage of skilled workers and rely on new immigrants and work permit holders to fill in-demand jobs. If you’re in an in-demand occupation, it can be easier to find employment in Canada or qualify for permanent residence under Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP)

Although the employment landscape is constantly evolving, some sectors with skill shortages include:

  • Healthcare: Physicians, nurses, healthcare assistants, and laboratory technicians are in high demand in most provinces and territories.
  • Education: Teachers and professors are in demand at all levels of education, from elementary school to university.
  • Manufacturing: The manufacturing sector in Canada is large and diverse and you can find open positions in industries such as aerospace, pharmaceutical and life sciences, chemicals, plastics, agri-food, and wood processing.
  • Information Technology: There’s a shortage of software engineers, web designers, developers, and other IT specialists.
  • Services: The Canadian job market faces a shortage of skilled professionals at various levels in finance, HR, marketing, administration, sales, hospitality, accounting, and retail.
  • Construction: The construction sector in Canada is booming, creating a demand for construction managers, skilled carpenters, electricians, and masons.
  • Agriculture: From fruit pickers and horticulturists to aquaculturists and agricultural managers, Canada relies on foreign workers to meet the growing labour needs of its agri-food sector.

Download our free guide to the Canadian job market

Are work permit holders eligible for provincial health insurance in Canada?

The eligibility criteria for provincial health coverage vary by province. All provinces and territories allow work permit holders to qualify for publicly funded healthcare. However, depending on your province or territory, you may need a work permit that’s valid for at least six or 12 months to qualify for your provincial/territorial health care plan. 

To be eligible for provincial health coverage, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island require a work permit duration of at least six months, whereas Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and the three territories, require temporary foreign workers to have a work permit that’s valid for at least 12 months. 

British Columbia, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, have a waiting period of up to three months before you qualify for provincial or territorial health coverage.

Newcomer's guide to Canada's provinces and territories

Can I get Canadian permanent residence if I have a work permit?

Having a work permit does not automatically qualify you for permanent residence in Canada. However, the work experience you gain while you’re in Canada on a valid work permit can make it easier to qualify for PR.

If you have at least one year of Canadian experience in a TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 occupation, you may be eligible to apply for PR under the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) stream of the Express Entry program. This program is only open to PR applicants with Canadian experience. 

If you plan to apply for permanent residence under the Federal Skilled Worker, Federal Skilled Trades Program, or the Express Entry stream of a Provincial Nominee Program, you can get between 40 and 80 extra Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points for one to five years of Canadian experience. In addition, you may be eligible for up to 100 CRS points for skill transferability if you also have a higher education credential and foreign work experience. These additional points can significantly improve your chances of qualifying for PR.

How can I extend my Canadian work permit?

You can request an extension or amendment of your Canadian work permit if you have:

  • An employer-specific work permit and your job gets extended. Your employer may require a new LMIA before you can submit your extension request. Note that if your role or compensation changes, you’re offered a different job by the same employer, or you want to work for a different company, you’ll have to apply for a work permit amendment. 
  • An open work permit and you’re eligible to continue working in Canada.

You should apply for a work permit extension at least 30 days before your current status in Canada expires. It’s important to note that your work permit cannot be extended beyond the expiry date of your passport. If your passport is due to expire soon, you should first get your passport renewed and then apply for a work permit extension.

To apply for a work permit extension, you must:

  • Complete your work permit extension application online on the IRCC website.
  • Attach the required documents, including your existing work permit, proof of employment, passport, and the new LMIA your employer has received.
  • Pay the application processing fee of $155 for an employer-specific work permit or $255 for an open work permit. If you submitted your biometrics when you first applied for your work permit, you don’t need to pay the biometric fees again.
  • Submit your application.

If you applied for an extension before your work permit expired and the conditions of your employment haven’t changed, you can continue working under your initial work permit (same employer, role, and location) while your application is being processed. If the conditions of your employment have changed, you cannot start your new job until your work permit is reissued.

Can I work any job in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa?

If you’re in Canada on a Working Holiday Visa, you can work in any industry or organization in Canada, provided it is not on the ineligible list. The Working Holiday Visa is part of the International Experience Canada (IEC) program and allows youth from 30 countries to travel and work in Canada temporarily. The Working Holiday Visa is an open work permit and you don’t need a job offer to qualify. While you’re in Canada, you can look for jobs, work for any eligible employer at any location, and even switch jobs.

Your open Working Holiday Visa does not allow you to work for ineligible employers, including organizations that offer striptease, escort services, and erotic massages. There may also be restrictions on working in certain regulated occupations, such as education and healthcare, as these professionals require a provincial license to practice in Canada. You may also need to be registered with a federal, provincial, or territorial regulator to work in other occupations such as law, engineering, architecture, and more.

As a newcomer, working in Canada allows you to gain global work experience and, for many, can be a stepping stone to settling in Canada permanently. However, not everyone is legally allowed to work in Canada. Most foreign nationals require a job offer to qualify for a work permit. If you’re moving to Canada as a permanent resident, you can work for any Canadian employer without any restrictions and can start applying for jobs in Canada before you arrive.