Many people assume that the easiest way to move to Canada is by getting a job offer or that you need a job offer in order to move to Canada. This isn’t the case. If you’re a young professional or work in a skilled trade, you can probably move to Canada as a permanent resident through Express Entry.

Your odds of finding a company to sponsor you for a work permit vary greatly, based on your professional experience and personal network. However, there are some tried-and-true ways to find a job in Canada.

If you do find a company to sponsor you, their attorney will take care of getting you a work permit. Some small businesses will try to get you to do this work, but they’re the ones who have to apply, not you. 

Unlike some countries, getting a temporary work permit issued can happen in a matter of weeks. You might want to start packing as soon as you accept the job offer.

One interesting detail is that you can’t get a work permit for any employer “who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages.” That suggests they’re banned from hiring foreign workers, even if you’re doing the accounting. Blame sex trafficking.

Labour Market Impact Assessment

Your prospective employer will need to get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to show that they couldn’t hire a Canadian for the job and that hiring you won’t have a negative impact on the economy.

You’ll need to submit: 

  • your application, 
  • the job offer letter,
  • a copy of the LMIA or offer of employment number,
  • proof of experience or education, based on the job requirements,
  • an eTA or visitor visa, if you need one

They can do this all online. You may be required to have an interview with an IRCC official and/or get a medical exam. If your job requires a medical exam, it can add significantly to the processing time.

Mobilité Francophone

The Francophone mobility program is an exception to the requirement to get a LMIA. If you are fluent in French and have a job offer outside of Quebec, this is an easy pathway to getting a temporary work permit. The job must be at a National Occupation Code (NOC) skill level of 0, A or B, but the job does not have to be performed in French. Whether or not a language exam is required is at the discretion of the visa officer.

Your work permit application will use LMIA exemption code C16. Because you do not need a LMIA, the $1,000 LMIA application fee is not required under the Mobilité Francophone program.

Prior to September 2017, you were only eligible for this program if you were recruited through a government job fair abroad. While Canadian government offices abroad continue to recruit French speaking foreign workers for this program, you no longer need to be recruited at an event to be eligible.

Free trade agreements

Thanks to NAFTA and the future USMCA, citizens of the USA and Mexico have access to special work permits in Canada. While the USMCA includes a provision to revisit the agreement every six years and a 16 year sunset clause, it doesn’t look like these aspects of the agreement will be discontinued any time soon.

Canada has other free trade agreements with labor mobility provisions modeled on NAFTA with Chile, Peru, Columbia, South Korea and is a participant in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Thus, this may apply to you, even if you’re not a citizen of the US or Mexico.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is in the process of being replaced by the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA). As of July 2019, only Mexico has ratified the agreement, although all three countries have signed it. NAFTA remains in effect until USMCA is ratified by Canada and the US. This all makes little difference to you, as the labor mobility provisions regarding business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, traders, and investors between the three countries remain unchanged from NAFTA to USMCA.

Getting a TN visa is much simpler, and faster, than getting a temporary work permit. In fact, under NAFTA you may not even require a work permit in order to work in Canada if you’re conducting certain types of business or are involved in trading and investing. 

You can get a TN visa at the port of entry. Remember that even with a TN visa, you can be denied entry at the border if an agent determines that you are inadmissible.

Working in Canada under NAFTA doesn’t provide a direct pathway to stay in Canada permanently. However, you can get a new TN visa every three years. There is no limit to how many times you can get a TN visa. Your time working in Canada under a TN visa can also make you eligible to apply for permanent resident status.

Business visitors

Most business visitors are only in Canada for a few days, but you can stay for up to six months without needing a work permit, thanks to NAFTA. You can spend time in Canada looking for ways to grow your business, making investments, or building business relationships. Conferences, meetings, and standard business training or support are all fine.

Whenever I travelled to Canada as a business visitor, I made sure to have a letter from my employer briefly explaining what I was doing and for how long. No one ever asked me for the letter, but being overly prepared is my style. Taking a couple minutes to get the papers together seemed better than potentially being denied entry at the border. 

While no one ever asked to see my paperwork, they would ask me basic questions about who the meetings were with and when they were taking place. They’d ask to see my business card and quiz me about what it is I do. They don’t really care about your work, they’re just making sure you’re being truthful about your intentions. If your job is difficult to explain, keep it simple. Yes, you want to be honest, but you also don’t want to accidentally end up spending your whole day at customs because you got too in-depth and set off red flags for no reason.

Border agents want to know that you aren’t going to stay longer than six months and that your main source of income is outside of Canada. Finding a few new Canadian clients is fine. Of course, they may ask for proof that you have funds to support yourself during your stay, like pay stubs, W-2s, or bank account statements. Having a return flight booked never hurts.

Professionals

To be a professional under NAFTA, you still have to jump through some hoops. Why is it worth it? As a professional, whatever company is hiring you doesn’t need to get approval from the Employment and Social Development Canada to hire you.

In order to qualify, you need to have experience working one of the jobs mentioned in NAFTA or the future USMCA. NAFTA and the USMCA state what sort of degrees or licenses you need to demonstrate your qualifications. You also need to have a written job offer.

You won’t be surprised to hear that anyone working in medicine or science will probably see themselves on this list. College or seminary instructors are in the clear. Quite a few general business people are on there, including graphic designers, librarians, landscape architects, social workers, and hotel managers.

The final step is to get a work permit. You can apply online and the IRCC even walks you through the steps. You get your actual work permit at the border, which can be a little anxiety inducing. 

While the type of work I do shows up on the NAFTA list, getting a written job offer from a Canadian employer wasn’t so easy. Several companies let me know during the phone interview that they were not interested in hiring someone who wasn’t a resident, even if they didn’t need to get an LMIA. In spite of having gone on a several interviews, I was a permanent resident before getting any job offers. However, I didn’t put much effort into this, since I was pretty sure I could keep my current job, which is what I ultimately did.

The amount of effort required to find a company willing to hire someone on a TN visa varies greatly depending on your industry and personal factors.

Intra-company transferees

Does your company have an office in Canada? If you’ve worked there for a year and can convince them to transfer you, you’re good to go.

You’ll need to be working as a manager or a specialist and you’ll still need a work permit. You can apply online and the IRCC walks you through the steps.

Traders and investors

If your company is involved in a significant amount of trade between the US and Canada, you can stay for up to six months. Your company’s attorney can advise you on the NAFTA rules you’ll need to meet and the process for getting a work permit.