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Immigration: Tips for Hiring Internationally


International hiring tipsInternational hiring and recruitment is a challenge and the immigration piece of the process is no small task either, especially during a skills shortage. Once you’ve embarked on the search for an international candidate and found the perfect person, you’re not done yet — you need to navigate immigration requirements and get them legally working here in Canada.  

The key to your international hiring strategy is to be organized. Know your options, be aware of the processing times and plan accordingly. Nothing is guaranteed when it comes to immigration but at the very least, you can be smart by having a strategy to plan ahead, to set expectations with managers and candidates and to keep your worry-load light.

Understand the international hiring process

The traditional work permit application process for international hiring is a two-step exercise:

  1. Obtaining a Labour Market Opinion (LMO) from Service Canada; and
  2. Applying for the work permit through Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

 Service Canada’s job is to ensure that that hiring a foreign worker isn’t taking away opportunities for Canadians and Permanent Residents. The second step, obtaining the work permit through Citizenship & Immigration Canada, takes place at a Canadian Consulate overseas or at the place of entry into Canada (depending on a person’s citizenship).

 Over the past two years, we have seen the processing time at Service Canada balloon from three weeks to its current processing time of six months for labour market opinions. Service Canada just can’t keep up with the demand for foreign workers. The processing times at Canadian Consulates have, on average, slowed slightly, but not nearly as much as they have at Service Canada.

 Companies can’t wait six months for a new employee to arrive, especially when they actually needed them “yesterday”. And trying to keep that prospective employee interested over the six-month waiting period is just as difficult in this hot global employment market. So what do we do about it?

Avoid the Labour Market Opinion process, if possible
Take a closer look at confirmation-exempt programs — those programs that do not require a LMO from Service Canada. Check to see if a program will work for the position and person you’re trying to hire. Some favourites:

·        NAFTA Professionals

Within NAFTA, there are over 60 professional occupations that are eligible for work permits, from accountant to zoologist. The prospective employee must be a citizen of the US or Mexico and must meet the minimum education or experience requirements set out in NAFTA. 

·       Intra-company Transferees (see section 5.31)

If you are part of an international organization and are able to recruit and relocate from within the company, the intra-company provisions will be most helpful. The employee must have worked with the company for at least one year in the last three years and the two companies must have a legal relationship (such as parent, subsidiary or branch).

·       The BC Provincial Nominee Program

For companies willing to assist the prospective employee with obtaining permanent resident status, the BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) provides a way to obtain both a work permit and permanent resident status. Once approved by the BC PNP, the prospective employee is eligible to apply for a work permit. The permanent residence application continues on in parallel while the employee is working and settling in at their new job.

Take advantage of another program
If the person or position does not qualify for a confirmation-exempt program and a LMO is required, there may still be ways to lessen the processing time or the workload.

If you are hiring within one of the 33 occupations in this program, you face the best possible scenario. The E-LMO application process has two steps:

    1. Apply to be an eligible employer for approval to access the program; and
    2. Apply for expedited Limo’s as candidates are identified.

Each step of this process takes five days.

Companies with good recruitment forecasts can apply for the LMO and recruit in parallel. The application process is the same as for regular LMOs with the exception that the foreign worker(s) have not yet been identified. Service Canada approves the LMO in principle. Once the prospective employee is identified, Service Canada is notified and the LMO is issued.

Service Canada already recognizes labour shortages for these occupations. The list is lengthy and includes: financial managers, financial auditors and accountants, other financial officers, bookkeepers, and many more. LMO applications for these occupations have reduced recruitment efforts requirements. While this may not help with processing times, it does help with the amount of time taken to prepare the LMO application.

Have a plan for international recruitment

Balancing the needs of the organization, the candidate, and the realities of the immigration process can be difficult. Have a plan, be organized, and most of all, have patience. International recruitment is exciting but it conjures up new challenges, including cultural awareness, relocation logistics and intense emotions that the candidate and family may have. The process involves much effort, time, and sometimes money, but the rewards are great, too.

Nina Brachmann is the Principal Consultant of Global Steps Relocation Consulting ( Having worked in both Europe and North America for global players like DaimlerChrysler and Kodak she has managed hundreds of international relocations and assignments and has more than 8 years of international HR experience. She is an active member of the Canadian Employee Relocation Council and the BC Human Resources Management Association.

Marlene Jan is the Principal of Think Relocation Consulting (, a boutique human resources firm specializing in strategic Immigration and Relocation practices. Prior to founding Think Relocation Consulting, Marlene held HR Generalist and Specialist roles at Blast Radius and Creo (now Kodak Graphic Communications) where she relocated employees and new hires from Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and within North America. Marlene is a Certified Canadian Immigration Consultant and Chair of the BC Human Resources Management Association’s Consultants Roundtable.

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