Visas for Living and Working in Canada
Though requirements are strict, if you have something to offer Canada, or family already in Canada, there are many options for working and living in the country voted one of the best in the world to make a home.
If you are planning to work in, or immigrate to, Canada, you need to be prepared with all your documentation. Then, thoroughly research the visa or immigration stream that suits you and if you are eligible. You must always be honest and give any information requested.
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What you will need to apply for a Canadian visa
Depending the type of visa you are applying for, your family situation, and your eventual route to residency if applicable, you may need:
- A current valid passport
- Birth and marriage certificates
- If you have a Provincial Nomination you will need to provide proof of this including any employment offer and an R204c) letter
- Passports, birth, and marriage certificates for any dependents
- To be in good health and have no criminal convictions
- To prove you can support yourself during your stay
- To prove that you are planning to return to your home country, if you are not going to work or apply for residency
- To have a medical exam and/or a letter of invitation from someone who lives in Canada
If applying for a work visa
- Proof of your current immigration status, if you are working currently in a country where you are not a citizen
- Proof that you meet the requirements of the job being offered:
- details of your work experience
- at least two references in writing
- certificates/proof of all your relevant qualifications
- A written offer of employment from your new Canadian employer with a copy of their Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), or an offer of employment which details an exemption to an LMIA requirement
- A copy of your contract of employment
- If you are planning to work in Quebec you will need a valid Certificate d’acceptation du Quebec (CAQ)
Requirements may change depending on your individual situation and over time so you should always investigate fully.
Canadian visa and immigration policy is clearly outlined on the federal government website and is a vital resource for anyone wanting to live or work in Canada: www.cic.gc.ca
Short stay visas
Temporary/visitor visas for Canada
If you are planning to stay in Canada for less than six months and are from the UK or USA you do not need a special visa. If you are a citizen of another country you need to check the requirements for your country. You can enter your country and find out your exact requirements here.
If you wish to stay longer than six months without applying for a work visa, or permanent residency, you will need to apply to extend your stay. Find out how.
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Electronic Travel Authorisation (eTA)
Americans travelling to Canada, or travelling through one of Canada’s airports, do not require a Canadian eTA if they have a valid US passport. Residents of any other country, including the UK, will need an eTA to transit through, or arrive in Canada. An eTA currently costs $7 CAD.
Though there are some exceptions, you will usually need a work permit to take a job in Canada.
Working temporarily in Canada
To work on a temporary basis in Canada you will need have a job offer from a Canadian employer. Your employer must have a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). You will usually be granted an employer-specific work permit which details the employer you will work for, how long you can work, and the location.
There are special work permits for live-in caregivers, business people, and agricultural workers. There is also an International Experience Canada program, to travel and work in Canada as a youth.
What is an LMIA?
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) may need to be obtained by your potential employer in Canada before they can offer you a role. An LMIA is only granted when an employer has done all they can to try and employ a Canadian worker. It shows there is a need for a foreign worker to fill their job.
Open work permits
As with any visa there are extensive eligibility criteria and requirements. This is the same for open work permits, which can sometimes be granted for those in the following situations:
- Permanent residence applicants, if your application is being processed
- Dependant family members of permanent residence applicants
- Spouses and common-law partners of some workers and international students
- Some temporary resident permit holders
- Some young workers participating in special programs
Working or living permanently in Canada
There are federal immigration schemes for Canada as a whole, but also provincial immigration schemes that may mean faster immigration if you can gain a nomination from your chosen province.
This is a points based system. You are awarded points for certain factors including your skills, education, language ability and experience. Additional points are awarded for a job offer from a valid employer or a nomination from a Canadian province.
The system can change frequently but you may be able to reach the points threshold without a job offer, and usually a job offer or provincial nomination will put you over the points threshold. If you have a qualifying number of points you are eligible to enter a draw. The federal government frequently chooses candidates over a certain points threshold who are then invited to apply for permanent residency.
If you have a job offer you can usually gain a temporary work visa and move to Canada while you are waiting to go through the process of permanent residency.
To take a job in Canada your prospective employer will normally need to prove that there is not a Canadian applicant available with the skills for their role. The federal government publishes lists of job categories which are classed as in demand and likely to lead to immigration for a suitable applicant.
If you’re an entrepreneur you can enter Canada and start a business which creates jobs for the Canadian economy. But you must gain support from a designated organisation, meet ownership requirement and have enough money to settle.
Though closed right now the Immigrant Investor Venture Capital Pilot Program is a route to consider if you are fortunate enough to have a net worth of $10 million CAD plus! However, you must have gained this through business rather than an owned property or an inheritance.
The self-employed category is limited to those with relevant experience in cultural or sporting activities and who intend to contribute to the cultural or athletic landscape in the country. Or, those with experience managing a farm and who intend to purchase and run a farm in Canada.
You can be sponsored by a family member already in Canada. They must already be a citizen or permanent resident and should be a spouse, partner, parent or child.
There are other federal immigration schemes if you are a live-in caregiver or a refugee.
Provincial Nominee Program
Each of the 11 provinces of Canada operate their own immigration programs. Some run alongside the federal schemes and some are independent. They will depend on the labour market in each province and the skills which are in demand. Some of the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) criteria can be very favourable and they are well worth investigating.
The provinces and their schemes can be found here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/provincial/apply-who.asp
A study permit can be granted to those wanting to study in Canada at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). These are usually universities or colleges. Student visas expire once the study period is over, and individuals are expected to return home. It depends on your individual situation whether you are allowed to work too.
More information on student visas for Canada can be found here: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/study/study-who.asp
The Government of Canada website is excellent and contains all the information you will need about visas for living and working in Canada. There are questionnaires for most categories which give you the information you need based on your country of residency and individual situation. You can apply online for most Canadian visas. The process is strict, adhering to the eligibility criteria and requirements, and you should research these fully. However, it is a very efficient program. Most applications, if completed correctly, proceed in a timely manner.