Canada is a popular destination for American citizens and temporary residents. Many individuals who’ve lived in the United States (U.S.) are drawn to Canada due to the similar quality of life it offers, but also because of Canada’s ample job opportunities, free healthcare, diversity, and welcoming immigration policies.
If you want to immigrate to Canada, getting a Canadian job offer can significantly improve your chances of qualifying for permanent residence (PR) in Canada. Many U.S. residents, including temporary workers on H1B visas and international students, also choose to work in Canada temporarily on a work permit. This allows them to diversify their global work experience, work in a multicultural environment, and get a taste of life in Canada before deciding if they want to settle here permanently.
However, getting a job in Canada before you arrive can be a time-consuming process. This article will provide guidance and tips on how to get a job in Canada from the U.S.
In this article:
Are U.S. residents legally allowed to work in Canada?
If you’re a U.S. citizen or temporary resident, you usually need to get Canadian permanent residence or a work or study permit to be eligible to work in Canada. You cannot legally work in Canada if you’re in the country as a visitor.
Working as a permanent resident of Canada
Many qualified professionals who’ve worked in the U.S. on an H1B visa, completed their post-secondary education in America, or lived in the U.S. for their whole lives, choose to settle in Canada permanently.
As a permanent resident of Canada, you can work for any Canadian employer without restrictions. If your PR has just been approved, you can start your job search while you’re still in the U.S., but can only begin working after you arrive in Canada and get your Social Insurance Number (SIN).
Newly approved permanent residents get access to the government’s Job Bank, which provides job listings, industry trends, and other occupation-specific information. Depending on the immigration program you’re applying under, you may also be eligible for a temporary work permit that allows you to work in Canada while your PR application is being processed.
Working in Canada without PR
You can also work in Canada as a temporary resident, either as a work permit holder or as an international student on a study permit.
Getting a Canadian work permit
There are two types of work permits in Canada: open and employer-specific.
An open work permit allows you to work for any eligible Canadian employer. However, open work permits are only granted under specific conditions, such as to spouses or common-law partners of temporary foreign workers in Canada, of international students who’ve graduated from Canadian universities or colleges and qualify for Post Graduation Work Permits (PGWP), or of certain permanent residence applicants.
An employer-specific work permit allows you to work for a particular employer in Canada. You can only qualify for an employer-specific work permit if you have a Canadian job offer. Depending on the industry you’re in, Canadian employers may need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before they can hire you. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for an LMIA-exempt employer-specific work permit under the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA, formerly known as NAFTA) if you are:
- Moving to Canada temporarily as part of an intra-company transfer,
- An eligible investor or trader with significant business interests or investments in Canada,
- In an occupation on the USMCA professionals list and have a Canadian job offer. Some occupations on this list include accountants, teachers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, economists, and engineers.
Working in Canada as an international student on a study permit
As an international student, your study permit may allow you to work in Canada part-time. Working on-campus or off-campus allows you to gain Canadian work experience alongside your studies and also earn some extra money. After completing an eligible study program, you may qualify for an open Post Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). The Canadian experience you gain as a student or after you graduate bolsters your resume and can also help you qualify for permanent residence later.
How to get a job in Canada from the U.S.
Finding a job in Canada from outside the country can take time, especially if you aren’t prepared for your job search. Ideally, before you actively start applying for jobs in Canada, you should understand how the Canadian job market works, what a Canadian-style resume looks like, and the skills that are in demand in your occupation. Here are some essential steps to help you prepare and increase your chances of getting a job in Canada from the U.S.:
Familiarize yourself with the Canadian job market
Although there are similarities between the work cultures in Canada and the U.S., the Canadian job market may be different in other ways. For instance, you’ll need to identify top employers in your industry in Canada and understand their recruitment processes. Canada also has a large hidden job market, and nearly 65 to 80 per cent of available jobs are filled through referrals without being publicly posted.
Identify skills that are in demand in your industry
Even if you have several years of work experience in the U.S. or other countries, you may need to build additional skills to land a job in Canada. Review relevant job postings and see which skills are in demand in Canada and what employers in your field are looking for in an ideal candidate. This will allow you to understand your skill gaps and upskill before applying to jobs in Canada.
Check if you need a license to practice your occupation in Canada
Certain occupations, including those in healthcare, education, engineering, accounting, architecture, and law, are regulated in Canada, and you need to be licensed or registered with your local regulatory authority to work in these fields. Ideally, you should check if your occupation is regulated well before you plan your move to Canada since the licensing process can take several months or years to complete.
For some regulated professions such as accounting, if you’re licensed in the U.S., you may qualify for a Canadian provincial license under a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) or be able to work in Canada temporarily using your U.S. license. Contact your Canadian provincial or territorial regulator to understand whether your U.S. licensure will qualify you for a Canadian one.
Create a Canadian-style resume and cover letter
Three types of resume formats are commonly used in Canada: reverse chronological, functional, and combination. The ideal format for your resume will depend on the length of your work experience, whether there are gaps in your employment history, or if you’re switching fields. Using a Canadian-style resume format shows employers you are familiar with the Canadian job market.
Most Canadian employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumes that best match the job description. Customizing your resume for each job and including relevant keywords will improve your chances of being selected for an interview. Make sure your resume highlights your achievements in each role and not just your job responsibilities. You should also include a cover letter, even if the job posting doesn’t specifically ask for one.
Start building your network in Canada
Networking is essential in Canada’s professional environment and can play a crucial role in your job search. Most available jobs in Canada are filled through the recruiters’ networks and your network can help you tap into this hidden job market. Your professional connections in Canada can also help you understand the local job market, in-demand skills, and the hiring practices of different employers.
You can start building your Canadian network before moving to Canada through LinkedIn, virtual coffee chats, and networking events. Before you start reaching out to potential employers in Canada, make sure your LinkedIn profile is optimized for your job search. You may also want to connect with seasoned professionals who can mentor and guide you as you begin your career in Canada.
Browse job portals to find suitable positions
Look for relevant job postings on platforms such as Monster, Indeed, LinkedIn, GrabJobs, and Glassdoor. If you’ve been approved for an open work permit or permanent residence, you will also have access to the government’s Job Bank. Some job portals also allow you to sign up for customized job alert emails to get relevant job postings that meet your search criteria delivered to your inbox every week.
Register with recruitment agencies
Many Canadian employers hire employment agencies, such as Robert Half, Randstad Canada, and Hays Canada, to shortlist suitable candidates on their behalf. You can register with these agencies, submit your resume, and get matched with relevant job openings in your industry.
Check about the possibility of an intra-company transfer
Many U.S.-based employers or multinational companies also have a presence in Canada. If you’re in a senior managerial position in such an organization, you should check if you can move to Canada temporarily through an intra-company transfer. Your employer does not require an LMIA to transfer you to a position in Canada, but you will need to apply for an employer-specific work permit. If you’re a U.S. citizen, you qualify for an intra-company transfer under the USMCA and can apply for a work permit at your Canadian port of entry.
In-demand jobs in Canada for Americans
Canada relies heavily on new immigrants and foreign workers to bridge skill shortages in various industries. Most provinces and territories publish their list of in-demand occupations, and it may be easier to qualify for a work permit or PR and land a job in Canada from the U.S. if you are in an in-demand job.
There’s no shortage of jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors. Job opportunities are also abundant in the information technology (IT) and technology space, such as for software engineers, AI and development professionals, and web designers. The services sector, too, has an urgent need for skilled workers, especially in finance, human resources, marketing, sales, hospitality, and administration.
Teaching professionals and healthcare workers, including doctors and nurses, are also in demand in Canada. However, occupations in these sectors are regulated and you will need a provincial or territorial license to work as a teacher, doctor, or nurse in Canada.
Paperwork required to get a job in Canada from the United States
Once your work permit, permanent residence, or study permit application is approved, you’ll need some additional documentation to get a job and begin working in Canada. Here’s a list of documents you should have:
- Proof that you’re allowed to work in Canada: You must have a PR card, Confirmation of Permanent Residence (CoPR), work permit, or study permit to work in Canada legally.
- Proof of U.S. citizenship, if applying under USMCA: Only citizens of the U.S. or Mexico can work in Canada under the terms of the USMCA. If you’re coming to Canada to work under this agreement, you must provide proof of your U.S. citizenship, such as your U.S. passport, certificate of citizenship, or birth certificate.
- Social Insurance Number (SIN): You’ll need a SIN to work in Canada regardless of whether you’re a temporary or permanent resident. You can only get your SIN after you arrive in Canada and must share it with your Canadian employer within three days of joining the organization.
- Employment letters: Most employers in Canada will ask for employment reference letters, joining and resignation letters, pay stubs or tax returns that verify your past work experience. It’s a good idea to contact your former employers for employment reference letters well before you come to Canada.
- Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA): An ECA assesses your education credentials (degrees, diplomas, or certificates) from another country to verify that they are valid and at par with a Canadian credential.
- Identification documents: Your employer may require you to submit a copy of your passport or other government-issued identification to verify your identity.
How difficult is it to get a job in Canada from the U.S.?
Getting a job in Canada while you’re still in a different country can take time. Employers prefer to hire candidates who are already in Canada and authorized to work here, as it makes the recruitment process faster and simpler. In most cases, recruiters are trying to fill currently open positions or those expected to be available soon, and hiring local talent saves time.
Moreover, most employers need a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment from the government to hire a foreign national. This process is time-consuming and requires the employer to prove that they tried to recruit locally but there were no suitable candidates available for the role in Canada.
If you are a U.S. citizen in an occupation that’s LMIA-exempt under the USMCA, Canadian employers won’t need an LMIA to hire you. These occupations include accountants, architects, computer systems analysts, economists, engineers, graphic designers, lawyers, management consultants, mathematicians, social workers, dentists, pharmacists, registered nurses, scientists, teachers, and more.
If you are not a U.S. citizen or in an LMIA-exempt occupation, it may be easier to find a job in Canada from the U.S. if you’re in an in-demand profession. If you plan to settle in Canada, it’s also a good idea to check your eligibility for permanent residence. Becoming a permanent resident will significantly improve your chances of getting a job in Canada. Depending on the immigration program you’re applying for, you may also qualify for a work permit while your application is being processed.
If I have a job offer in Canada, can I legally work there?
A job offer alone does not enable you to work legally in Canada—you also need a work permit.
Once you receive a Canadian offer of employment, you must apply for an employer-specific work permit. If your employer requires a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to hire a temporary foreign worker, they will need to get one before issuing you a job offer.
You don’t need a job offer to qualify for an open work permit. If you have an open work permit, you can come to Canada to legally work or look for a job. Canadian employers don’t need an LMIA to hire candidates with open work permits or those with employer-specific work permits under the USMCA.
Will I be eligible for Canadian PR if I have a job offer from Canada?
Having a Canadian job offer does not automatically qualify you for permanent residence in Canada. However, working in Canada will give you an advantage if you plan to apply for PR later.
Depending on the length of your Canadian work experience, you can get up to 80 extra Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points on your Express Entry application. If you have at least one year of Canadian experience, you may also be eligible to apply for PR through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program.
As a U.S. resident, working in Canada can add global experience to your resume and provide access to a job market where a variety of skills are in demand. If you’ve been living in the U.S. on a study or work visa, landing a job in Canada can also improve your chances of qualifying for Canadian permanent residence and settling here. Although it isn’t easy to land a job in Canada from abroad, with sufficient research and preparation, you should be able to get your dream job in Canada from the U.S.