In order to submit your Express Entry application, you need to provide proof of your work experience. Canada is giving you permanent resident status based on your skills, so it makes sense that they want to verify your work history and education credentials.
How do you prove your work experience?
Proving your work experience is rarely as simple as it would seem. Even people who’ve worked for one company for the past ten years have probably held different job titles or even worked for different divisions. Who should write the letter? What should it contain?
Many of us have gaps in our employment history, worked for our own companies, or were freelance workers. What if a company went out of business? How do you account for this? There are a lot of questions that come up when talking about how to verify your employment experience.
Thankfully, while the IRCC website doesn’t give the clear instructions for non-traditional employees that we might like, these things won’t disqualify you from moving to Canada as a skilled worker using Express Entry.
Your letter of reference
Your work verification letter should be written by either a member of your company human resources department or your supervisor.
The letter should be written on company letterhead and a business card for the person writing the letter should be attached. The author of the letter should sign it and include their full name and title. The full address, telephone number, email address, and website should all be on the letter, although this is typically included in the letterhead. If your company has an official seal, be sure to get the letter stamped. Don’t forget to include their business card.
If you’ve had multiple positions within the same company, you can either have separate letters for each position or include the relevant information (title, responsibilities, and dates) for each position you’ve held included in the same letter.
Your employer is probably used to being asked for character references. While the IRCC will be happy to know you’re a good employee and an upstanding citizen, they’re more interested in your job duties.
The letter should contain:
- Your legal name as it appears on your Express Entry profile and identity documents
- The full name, job title, and contact information for the person writing the letter
- Your official job title
- Your hire date and either that you are still employed there or the date you stopped working there
- The average number of hours worked per week
- Your salary, hourly rate, or other payment information
- Benefits included in your salary or in addition to your salary
- A detailed description of your responsibilities
You may find it helpful to provide a draft of the letter to your company to ensure that the letter contains all of the information needed.
Just like you may tailor your resume for a specific job posting, you can tailor your job description to ensure that it matches your NOC code. The person assessing your application may not be familiar with the jargon of your field, so make sure it’s easy for them to see that there’s a match between your role and the NOC code you’re applying under.
Don’t just copy/paste the NOC code description into the letter. You need to provide a description of your work responsibiliites that is customized to your position that incorporates key phrases and terms from the NOC code. Remember that your official job title is less important than the description of your role.
To whom it may concern:
This letter serves to verify the employment of [your full legal name]. She is the [current job title] for [employer name]. She been an employee since [hire date]. From [start date] until [end date] she served as [original job title]. On [start date] she was promoted to [current job title] and is presently employed in that role. Her salary is [salary].
In her role as [original job title], she was responsible for: [original job description].
In her role as [current job title], she is responsible for: [current job description].
Please don’t hesitate to contact me for further information.
To whom it may concern:
[Your full legal name] was employed by [employer legal name] from [hire date] to [last day of employment], in the capacity of [job title]. Her schedule entailed a 40 hour work week. Her annual gross compensation was [salary]. While an employee of [employer name] the firm provided life/AD&D, short- and long-term disability benefits. The firm also covered the cost of her medical, vision, prescription drug, and dental benefits.
As a [job title], [your name] was responsible for: [job description].
To whom it may concern:
This letter is to confirm that [your full legal name] was a permanent, full-time employee with [employer name] as a [job title]. [Your name] worked at [employer name] from [hire date] until [termination date]. The terms of employment were:
- Hours per week:
- Starting salary:
- Final salary:
My business card is attached. Please contact me for any further information you may need.
When you can’t get a verification letter
What happens if you can’t get a work verification letter? Or if your company will not include all of the required information in the letter? You simply need to provide additional documents to ensure the people assessing your application will be able to feel you have demonstrated your work history.
Some companies have policies forbidding them from providing salary information or other details in a letter, meaning they can’t provide you the letter the IRCC is asking for. You can use additional documentation to fill in the gaps.
The IRCC has made it very clear that it is the applicant’s responsibility to demonstrate their work history to the satisfaction of the person assessing your application. The less clear your work history is, the more likely your application is to be delayed while you provide additional documentation or denied outright.
Provide additional documentation
I had one former employer provide me with a letter that lacked the required information. I provided their letter with additional documents to fill in the gaps and provide the information the IRCC is looking for.
- The original job posting
- Your original offer letter
- Employment contracts
- Printouts from the company intranet showing your role
- Emails confirming your role
- Tax forms (W-2, 1099, T4)
- Bank statements (showing your salary being deposited)
- Former proof of employment letters
- Old reference letters
- Company newsletters that mention you
- Pictures of you at work
- Letters from coworkers or clients
If a company has gone out of business, you can contact your former supervisor or another former company executive to write a letter stating that the company is no longer active and verifying your employment. In this case, it’s advisable to provide additional documentation.
If you are unable to provide any letter at all, write a letter of your own explaining why. Provide any evidence you can to demonstrate your work history and corroborate your explanation.
- Newspaper articles showing that the company has shut down
- Obituary for your former supervisor
- Screenshots from the company website showing that they are no longer in business
- Bankruptcy filings
- Publicly available legal documents showing the company is no longer active
When you were self employed
The IRCC recognizes that many people today work for their own companies or do freelance work. This won’t hold you back from immigrating through Express Entry.
Provide a letter explaining that you were self employed and providing a detailed description of the services you provide(d). If your services changed over time, include this information.
You should include reference letters from clients to verify this information. These reference letters should follow the same format as the standard letters above.
You should include any additional documentation, such as:
- Client contracts
- Proof of payment from clients or vendors
- Business registration paperwork
- Tax filings
- Screenshots of your website or promotional materials
What work needs to be documented?
It’s very important to document the previous three years of work experience. Any other work experience related to the NOC code you’re applying under should also be documented to the best of your ability. Insufficient proof of your work history can get your Express Entry application rejected. The meaning of ‘sufficient’ proof is subjective. It’s up to the person assessing your application to decide how much is enough to decide you should get PR.
For work that’s not relevant to your current NOC code, you can relax a little bit with documentation. My advice is to make sure you have paperwork to verify that the information you provided in your work history is true. If work history is irrelevant to your current job and long ago, you can worry less about making sure everything is documented thoroughly.
If you’re the accompanying spouse, you should still provide documentation for any relevant work history. However, a poorly documented work history of a spouse is less likely to lead to your application being delayed or rejected.
Do you need to spend weeks tracking down a supervisor from that closed down company you worked for 7 years ago in a completely unrelated job? Probably not. However, it’s safer to go the extra mile and provide solid documentation, rather than have your application rejected. It pays off to have kept those old pay stubs and contracts.
While it was a hassle to get letters from former employers and clients, it was a positive experience overall. It was nice to get in touch with former coworkers and supervisors. It led to some really nice catch-up phone calls and a couple lunches.