How to Get a Job Offer From a Canadian Employer
Updated for 2020
The biggest hurdle for most adults trying to immigrate to Canada is the "job offer from a Canadian employer" requirement. In our article on the top 7 cheapest and fastest ways to immigrate to Canada, there is one common theme: 4 of these methods require a job offer from an employer (the other's require admission to a Canadian school, to be from a select few countries, or to marry a Canadian). So, how do you get a job offer from a Canadian employer?
Most of us can't afford to travel just to network or to discuss hiring practices and future career opportunities. And most of us cannot afford international student tuition - Canada's universities can be expensive - or don't qualify to study. The majority of people have to look for a job offer from a Canadian employer from where they are living right now. This is absolutely the hardest part of coming to Canada. And unfortunately there is no way of making it easier.
Do You Need a Job Offer to Immigrate to Canada?
Some people actually don't need a job offer to work in Canada. Those people can be divided into groups:
- professions that do not require a work permit
- "self-employed" occupations
- certain "skilled worker" occupations
- business owners and investors
- young people on "working holidays"
- intracompany transfers from certain countries
- spouses of temporary workers and students
- spouses/partners being sponsored for permanent residence
However if you are not in one of these groups, you need a job offer to work in Canada, even if your occupation is LMIA-exempt. If you are even slightly unsure as to whether or not you need a job offer, work permit or LMIA, you should assume that you probably do require one or both of them, or consult a professional.
Getting the Job Offer
There are a number of ways of getting a job offer from a Canadian employer while you are overseas.
Frankly, the easiest way of getting a job offer from a Canadian employer is by networking: do you have relatives or friends in Canada? Does anyone you know well have relatives or friends in Canada? Can you make use of your fellow countrymen in Canada to get your foot in the door? Knowing the right people is unfortunately the easiest way of securing that job offer.
Whether or not that job offer is any good depends on whether or not your future employer can get a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA, formerly LMO). An LMIA is permission from Canada's Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada to hire a foreign worker for a job for which no Canadian citizen or permanent resident can be found. And that's where knowing the right people will not help. LMIAs are issued based on the needs of the Canadian economy. So if your friend knows a guy who needs a new admin assistant, but there are tons of unemployed admin assistants in that area of Canada, you are likely out of luck.
One of the best bets is to contact multiple recruiting agencies, particularly if you can find one or more focused on your profession. Employers are increasingly relying on external hiring companies, or "headhunters", to find talent. Usually these headhunters are paid by the employer so avoid companies that ask you to pay them for their services.
There are many agencies that are oriented towards foreign workers but there are many more that are not. Here is a list from 2008 of all the agencies in Canada. Immigroup does not endorse any particular hiring agencies or headhunters.
You can always cold-call or cold-email employers who might be interested in hiring someone with your skills. Or you can look on employers' websites for job postings as some employers see value in people who take initiative. If you are a great candidate the employer may not care that you are overseas.
The easiest way - but probably the least likely to succeed - is to consult job sites online, as any Canadian would who is looking for a job.
Job Bank has long been the way Canadians find jobs online, as it is free for both employers and candidates to use. It is probably as close to an authoritative list of available jobs in Canada as you will be able to find online, however plenty of employers do not list their job on Job Bank, particularly if they are using a headhunter or a different online resource.
The social network geared towards professional networking also has job section. But even if you are not going to use LinkedIn to apply for a job, you should sign up and create a profile if you haven't done so already. Many employers use LinkedIn as a way of vetting prospective clients so it would greatly help to any job application of yours if it is backed by a LinkedIn profile.
Indeed and other job sites
There are many other job sites in Canada; two of the most famous being Monster (be sure to use the Canadian site) and Workopolis. However, you might want to try Indeed instead (again, the Canadian site) as it compiles job listings from Monster, Workopolis and many other job sites, meaning that you only have to search in one place. There are many other online Canadian job sites, but if you use Indeed, you likely have all the major ones covered. You can also find jobs on the Canadian version of Jooble.
Can't Find a Job?
What if you can't find a job through any of these means? Well, unfortunately that is the surest way to get to Canada. If you cannot find a job offer, you can try to get accepted into a Canadian university, but that is extremely expensive even if you qualify. You can try to upgrade your education overseas, to see if you can later qualify for the skilled worker or skilled trades streams. Or you can save lots and lots of money, and try to come as a business immigrant in a few years or decades.
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Obviously everyone looking to move to Canada does not already live in Canada. But sometimes getting to Canada first is the best way of getting a job. There are a few ways of doing this:
Looking for work on a temporary resident visa (TRV)
As a visitor to Canada, you are not allowed to work and if you did work you could make yourself inadmissible in the future. But you can plan a holiday to Canada and check out the work situation on the side. There is nothing to stop you from networking at parties or with family and friends, or from canvassing some businesses about their interest in hiring foreign workers, or even speaking to HR experts about resume standards, salaries, or other useful information. However, you need to travel to Canada for legitimate tourist reasons. If you show up at the border or customs and say you are here to inquire about jobs, you will likely be denied entry. (The exception to this is if you are making an "exploratory visit" as part of preparing to apply as a business immigrant for a provincial nominee program or through some other provincial nominee program which requires such a visit.) So you shouldn't carry a resume or letters of introduction on you when you enter Canada. (If you want to have one with you, leave it in the cloud.)
Once you have made the right contacts, you can see about arranging a job offer once you are back overseas and even encourage your prospective employer to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) but you will have to leave Canada before you can apply for the work permit. And remember, you are absolutely not allowed to work in Canada without a work permit. It is illegal.
Working as a student
Once you have been accepted to study in Canada, and have applied for a study permit, it's time to start thinking about working. As a student, you have three opportunities to get a job in Canada:
- on campus
- off campus
- after graduation
You can work while a student without getting a work permit. This means you don't need a job offer before you come! Study permit holders are automatically allowed to work off-campus. However, you will be subject to strict restrictions, particularly around working hours: students can only work 20 hours a week during the semester. During break periods - Christmas, summer, reading week - students can work up to 40 hours per week, provided you are not taking classes (in the summer). You can look for your job once you come to Canada either by canvassing local employers or through online resources. You don't have to worry about the job offer.
Also, Canada allows most graduates of Canadian educational institutions to obtain "post-graduation" work permits, provided you studied in Canada for at least eight months. You can only obtain the post-graduation work permit if you are graduating from a Canadian educational institution. You can find a job for your post-graduation work permit the ways anyone else finds a job in Canada, unless you are able to keep working for the employer you had while a student.
How Will You Get Your Job Offer?