Nina Brachmann and Marlene Jan
Want to work in Canada? Non-Canadians can become eligible to work in Canada by becoming a Permanent Resident of Canada or obtaining a temporary work permit:
• Permanent resident status can be obtained independently or, in some cases, with the help of an employer
• Permanent residents have the same rights and freedoms as Canadian citizens (with a couple of exceptions). They may work for any employer in Canada and may stay in Canada indefinitely.
Foreign Workers Requiring Work Permits
• Require a job offer and employer assistance to obtain a temporary work permit
• Can obtain a work permit through one of many ways that vary according to citizenship and the job
• May apply to become Permanent Residents
The chances of obtaining a work permit increase according to demand for your skills in Canada. Skills shortages are determined by local labour market information and needs. Generally, people with specialized skills which are in short supply in are sought after and will have an easier time with the application process.
What are my chances?
There are a number of programs that may make the work permit application process faster and easier for the employer, making it easier for them to get you to Canada.
Citizens of the US and Mexico may be eligible for a work permit under the provisions of NAFTA. NAFTA applies to certain professionals meeting certain education and experience requirements. If you fit the criteria and have a job offer from a Canadian company, this may be a good option for you. You may even be able to apply for this work permit upon entry to Canada (at the airport or border crossing) with the right documentation in hand.
Expedited Labour Market Opinion (E-LMO) program
If your occupation falls within one of these categories, your employer may apply for an expedited labour market opinion. The regular labour market opinion process (not expedited) can take up to six months. The expedited process can be as quick as two weeks. The first step is for your employer to apply to become eligible for the program. These applications are made to a government department called Service Canada. Once they have offered you the position, they apply for the E-LMO. Service Canada then produces a document called the Labour Market Opinion which you then use to apply for the work permit itself.
If your long-term goal is to become a permanent resident of Canada, then this may be an option to investigate. Your employer must be willing to sponsor you for permanent resident status. They must make you a permanent job offer and must meet the criteria to be an eligible employer. Your occupation must be either in management, a skilled professional, or in the skilled trades. The process has multiple stages, including:
1. BC PNP application (joint application between you and the employer)
2. Application for a work permit (processing times will vary depending on your citizenship and whether or not you also need a visa to travel to Canada)
3. Application for permanent residence.
Step 1 will take six to eight weeks and after step 2, you may begin working in Canada. You can make the application for permanent residence after your arrival in Canada and, if all moves smoothly, become a permanent resident within the next year.
Occupations under Pressure
If your occupation is considered an occupation under pressure, the employer will need to prepare less documentation to prove they have been unable to find a Canadian or permanent resident to fill the position. The shortages in these occupations are documented and already known. The processing time for applications (called a Labour Market Opinion) under this program are still quite long — approximately six months. The application process may begin once you’ve been offered the position or possibly already be underway. Once approved, Service Canada produces a document called the Labour Market Opinion which you then use to apply for the work permit itself.
Also note that your credentials must be recognized by the relevant professional association or regulatory body, if applicable. There may be a registration process to ensure you can officially work in your profession.
The work permit application process in Canada has grown longer (especially in BC and Alberta) but it is still a relatively transparent and easy to understand process. Understanding the basics will help you and your potential employer plan for the best option and hopefully get you here and working (happily) quickly