Step-by-Step guide to looking for work in Canada

Job search guide for foreign workers

Clearly determine what is the NOC code for your occupation and whether your occupation is regulated in Canada. Then prepare good resume and cover letter and contact as many employers as possible. Be patient and persistent as your job search may take several months. Once you arrange Skype or telephone interview with your employer convince them it is in their interest to apply for LMIA for you.

Your employer will have to apply for LMIA for you (there are very few exceptions to that rule). LMIA process is fairly complicated and time consuming for that reason you can tell your future employer that Milorad Borota - Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant can help them with their application for LMIA. Process takes around 4 months and usually cost $1000 (for one worker).

Once you have your LMIA you will be able to apply for a work permit. If you do not require visitor visa to enter Canada you may apply for your fist work permit either at one of the Canadian visa offices abroad or at the port of entry to Canada (usually at the airport). If, however you do need visitor visa then you have to apply for your first work permit at the Canadian visa office.

Before you do anything else

Zero step in the process of searching for work in Canada as a foreign workerIf you want to come to Canada as a foreign worker first thing you have to do is you have to assess your current situation as realistically as possible. What does that mean? It means you have to see if your plan to work in Canada is a realistic one. For example if you do not speak English (or French) at all (or not good enough to do your job in Canada) and you would like to work in Canada this simply may not be possible in most situations. Therefore most likely you will just waste your time trying to secure job offer from a Canadian employer.

What about work experience? Do you have at least one year of work experience in the desired occupation (the one that you want to work in in Canada)? Let's say you want to work as a Cook in Canada but you never worked as a Cook before or you did work as a Cook but less than one year, or you worked as a Cook long time ago, again your chances of successful work permit application are pretty slim.

Let's say you are a nurse in your country and you would like to work as a nurse in Canada too. Do you know that nursing jobs are available only to those applicant who have license (this occupation is one of the regulated occupations in Canada)? If you did not know that then again your job search may be in vain.

Do you know whether you can apply for work permit without LMIA or you would need an LMIA? Again if you can find an option to apply for work permit within International Mobility Program when LMIA is not required that would be a great step forward, if you need LMIA that makes the whole process more complicated. It is good to know all of that at the very beginning, before you actually start looking for work.

Clearly identify NOC code for your occupation(s)

Zero step in the process of searching for work in Canada as a foreign workerMany Canadians don't even know what NOC code is let alone pay attention what is the NOC code for their occupation when they look for work. For foreign workers, on the other hand, occupation code according to the National Occupational Classification is extremely important.

Canadian immigration is using NOC (National Occupational Classification) information when they process work permit applications and permanent resident applications. Similarly Service Canada is using NOC when they assess LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) applications

Foreign workers must familiarize themselves with NOC classification if they want to be successful with their job search and work permit applications.

For example NOC code for occupation Cooks is 6322. Second digit in the number 6322 is 3 which means this is a skilled occupation. For foreign workers it is extremely important to obtain work permit and acquire Canadian work experience in a skilled occupation(s) because most immigration programs in economic categories of Canadian immigration are designed to help skilled workers remain in Canada along with their families. There is small number of semi-skilled occupations which can be used for immigration purposes (such as long haul truck drivers, for example) but this is more an exception to the rule that Canada needs skilled workers.

Once you have found NOC code for your occupation (what you want to do in Canada) you will also see if your occupation is regulated or not and what educational requirements Canadian immigration officials may ask for if/when you apply for work permit. Once you know your NOC code you will also be able to get an idea whether your occupation is in demand in Canada ("occupations in demand in Canada" is a relative term - what may be in demand in rural Saskatchewan does not have to be in demand in urban Toronto).

Prepare a good resume and cover letter

Zero step in the process of searching for work in Canada as a foreign workerWhen Canadians contact potential employers they send them (or give them personally) their resume. Resume is more or less what many people call CV (Curriculum Vitae) - three main difference between resumes and CVs are the length, the purpose and the layout of each one of them. Resume is one or two pages long and it is basically summary of your work experience, education, skills, accomplishments along with your name and contact information.

Foreign workers should use Canadian resume format (basically the same resume format used in the US) - sending CVs is not recommended.

Good resume is a must if you are serious about Canadian job search. Keep in mind the document that you use to look for work at home may not impress Canadian employers. The best practice is to do what Canadian job seekers do: use Canadian format of the resume.

You can find resume samples on different web sites (for example on Workopolis or on Microsoft web site) which you can modify to suit your needs and your situation. Such templates can be edited on web sites such as Google documents or Office 365 all for free.

It is recommended that you send PDF version of your resume to Canadian employers. Also make sure your document is named properly (for example john_smith_resume.pdf sounds better then john'sresume_2011.pdf when you apply for work in 2017).

If you need someone to make a good resume for you, one which will surpass the quality of average Canadian resume you can contact Marija or Sanja, their contact information is here (please use contact page on that web site).

Keep in mind resume is used to secure job interview, not a job offer!

Contact as many Canadian employers as possible

Zero step in the process of searching for work in Canada as a foreign workerOnce you have a professionally looking resume and cover letter you need to contact as many Canadian employers (who could possibly hire you) as possible.

Since most of you will be outside of Canada you will have available more or less two methods only: sending your resume and cover letter through e-mail or calling Canadian employers using telephone.

Of course if you can come to Canada as a tourist you will be able to contact Canadian employers directly and ask them to apply for LMIA for you and hire you. This would be ideal scenario however more than often it is not easy to come to Canada as a visitor or a student for many job seekers.

Please keep in mind two things: It is not illegal to look for work in Canada while you have visitor status in Canada - it is illegal to work without proper authorization! Second important thing: if you tell CBSA (immigration) officer at the border crossing that you want to visit Canada as a tourist and during your stay you will be looking for work, chances are they WILL NOT believe you won't work without authorization and it is very likely they will not allow you to enter Canada!

What does it mean "to look for work in Canada" in practical terms?

It means you are supposed to e-mail your resumes and make telephone calls every day in the week and spend at least 25 hours per week doing that.

It takes Canadians 4 to 6 months to find work by looking for work full time, therefore it may take a foreign worker even more than that to secure a job offer from a Canadian employer.

Job search is uncertain and frustrating experience even for Canadians - do not expect miracles to happen within a couple of weeks, rather rely on discipline, persistence and hard work.

Perform well on the job interview

Zero step in the process of searching for work in Canada as a foreign workerCanadian employers WILL NOT hire you without speaking with you first.

For that reason it is important to understand that your resume and cover letter are used to entice employer to book telephone or Skype conversation with you (or in rare situations an in-person job interview if you are at that time in Canada).

Most likely they will want to speak with you on Skype.

When you politely ask employers to speak with you on Skype (or over the phone) clearly indicate that such conversation won't take more than 20 minutes and if/when they speak with you be aware when 20 minutes is up and tell the employer that you do not want to take more of their time unless they want to speak with you longer. That is very important.

Why Canadian employers want to speak with you?

Canadian employers want to speak with you in order to establish:
  1. That you have skills and experience to do the job properly
  2. That you have so called "soft skills" needed for the job (that you are someone who works well with others, who is motivated, who communicates well etc.)
  3. That you won't leave their company after only a couple of months working there so that they have to go through the whole process all over again.

What kinds of questions will Canadian employers ask?

Canadian employers can ask you all kind of questions in order to gain information regarding the three points described in the paragraph above.

Those questions normally fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Questions about situations from your past work experience (for example they may ask: "Can you tell me about a situation when you successfully resolved conflict with your co-worker?"
  2. Hypothetical questions about something what may happen in the future (for example they may ask you: "Your supervisor asked you to work overtime on Friday afternoon, what will you answer?"
  3. Questions about something you mentioned in your resume or your cover letter. For example they may ask you to explain why there was a 2 year break in your work experience (they want to know if something out of ordinary happened during those two years).

When you speak with Canadian employer try to speak no less than 20 seconds and no more than two minutes when you answer questions and overall try to speak 50% of the time so that employer has time to speak the other 50% of the time.

More information about job interviews can be found here.

Apply for work permit

Zero step in the process of searching for work in Canada as a foreign workerYou did well on your Skype (or telephone) interview, your future employer was impressed and they agreed to apply for LMIA [LINK]for you, 4 or 5 months latter LMIA was approved and your future employer sent you a copy of the LMIA letter.

Now what? Now is the time to apply for a work permit.

In almost all scenarios you will need work permit [LINK] before you start working in Canada. When it comes to work permit applications there are two scenarios:

1) Applying for work permit in situations when you also need visitor visa

Those foreign workers who live in countries that require visitor visa (if, for example, they want to visit Canada as tourists) must apply for their first work permit at the Canadian visa office abroad. Application can be done online or by sending paper application to the appropriate visa office. If those foreign nationals are in Canada at the time they receive LMIA from their employers they still have (in practically all situations) apply for first work permit outside Canada - either in the US or in the country where relevant Canadian visa office is located (for example citizens of Serbia could apply in the US or in Vienna).

Please keep in mind there is no need for separate visitor visa application - when you apply for your work permit your visitor visa will be included in case you are approved for work permit.

Processing of work permit applications usually takes around two months.

Please note: if/when you renew your work permit in Canada you will also have to send separate visitor visa application if you plan leaving Canada and then returning to Canada - only first time your work permit application and visitor visa application are issued together. When you apply for extension of your work permit or new work permit in Canada visitor visa is not included in that application.

2) Applying for work permit in situations when visitor visa is not needed

If you hold a passport issued by one of those countries that do not require visitor visa you can apply for work permit either as described under option # 1 above (when visitor visa is needed) or you can apply for your first work permit at the Canadian border (usually at the airport) at the time you arrive in Canada.

You do not need visitor visa however if you plan on flying to Canada you will still need Electronic Travel Authorization so make sure you apply for eTA before you board the plane to Canada.

If your work permit application is processed at the Canadian visa office either in the US or in another country (responsible for your country of origin) they won't be giving you work permit right away, instead you will get a Letter of Introduction (letter is officially called Port of Entry (POE) Letter of Introduction) which you will use to obtain your work permit when you enter Canada (usually at the airport)..

In your letter you will find a box titled “Permit validity”. You must come to Canada prior to that date - if the validity date indicated on your letter has passed and you have not yet come to Canada, you must submit a new application for work permit. Unfortunately you cannot extend the validity date on your Letter of Introduction.

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