Once you’ve worked full time in Canada, there’s a good chance you can apply for permanent residency through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) immigration program. Canada figures that since you’ve already been living and working in the country, you’d obviously adapt well to the culture because you’re already a contributing member of society. The Canadian Experience Class program is a lot easier to get through than some of the other immigration programs since those who fit the criteria are exactly who the CIC wants to keep in Canada. While most of the people that apply through the CEC program currently live in Canada, there’s no current residency requirement. So long as you meet the requirements, you can still apply even if you no longer live in Canada.

There are a lot of ways to legally work in Canada as a non-citizen such as as a temporary worker with a work permit or even under a post-graduation work permit if you attended university in Canada. So long as you had a work permit, it’s safe to say it was probably legal. 

Not just any job will get you invited to immigrate through the CEC program. Specifically, Canada is looking for people with experience in certain National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes that fit within one of these categories:

  • Skill Level 0: Management almost any type of job that includes manager or supervisor in the title will qualify
  • Skill Level A: Professional most office jobs will qualify. Often these types of jobs will require some sort of degree, but that’s not necessarily a requirement
  • Skill Level B: Technical – these jobs often require an Associate’s degree or apprenticeship of some kind.

NOC codes are vast and can be difficult to track down unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. You’ll need to find the exact NOC code that matches the types of job(s) you worked at for at least 12 months in Canada in order to apply to Express Entry. The CIC put together a matrix that helps to narrow down some of the more popular job types. Otherwise, if you have to search all of the codes, start broad and look for the most appropriate unit group. The NOC job title might not match up exactly with your official title, but so long as it’s close and your employer will vouch for you, it should be okay. If you worked two different types of jobs that are both in Skill Level 0, A, or B categories, you can still apply so long as together you end up with at least 12 months of full time work over the last 3 years.

The basics:

  • You’ve worked in Canada full time (30+ hours a week) for at least 12 months in the last 3 years. Or, you’ve worked the equivalent in part time hours such as two part time jobs at 15+ hours a week or 15 hours a week at a single job for 24 months
  • You can provide letters from all employers that you’re claiming within the 12 months of full time work verifying that you worked there along with your primary duties, length of employment, title, salary, benefits, hours, and NOC code
  • You can provide all of the necessary documentation
  • You intent to live in any province or territory except Quebec, which has different immigration programs from the rest of Canada

Other requirements:

  • You’ll need to prove that you are fluent in English or French by taking a language test
  • Proof that you were authorized to work in the country
  • Copies of T4 tax forms filed while working in Canada
  • You must be admissible to Canada

Things that don’t count:

  • Working remotely in Canada for a company based in another country
  • Working in Canada while you are a full time student
  • Working without proper authorization and getting paid under the table
  • Working legally but not filing taxes

Unlike the other economic immigration programs in Express Entry, the CEC program does not require you to prove that you have obtained any degrees in higher education. However, you will earn extra points for any hard earned degrees that you can verify. Unless you went to high school, university, or obtained a professional certificate in Canada, you’ll need to have your education assessed to prove that it’s equivalent to a Canadian credential. You would do this by obtaining an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) and submitting those results along with your Express Entry profile. An ECA typically takes about 2 months to receive and costs about $250.

If you’re married, in a common-law relationship, or have dependant children, you’ll need to include personal details for all people in your family as part of your own application. Assuming you are invited to immigrate, your spouse/partner and dependent children would automatically be invited along with you.