Expats Working in Canada

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: January 2014

Permission to Work

There are two routes towards working and living in Canada. First, if you have at least a year’s experience in one of the current positions in demand in Canada, you can apply for the Federal Skilled Worker Scheme, or one of the other schemes that are available. If successful, you will be able to immigrate into Canada without finding a job first. For a list of positions currently in demand, see this page:


Otherwise, you will need to have secured a position before you can be considered for a visa. There are many different kinds of work visa. It will help greatly if you have ability in one of the above industrial sectors that are in shortage in Canada.

Non-residents usually require a work permit to do temporary and permanent work in Canada. The first stage of the process is to gain a firm offer of employment from a company or other organisation in Canada. For most positions, your prospective employer will then need to obtain a favourable labour market opinion (LMO) from Human Resources & Skills Development Canada. The ‘opinion’ is basically an assessment of whether there are people locally available who could do the job in your place and whether you will provide economic benefit if you take up the position. Some people do not need an LMO, as shown here:


If you want to go on secondment from your company to a branch in Canada, the procedure is simpler as no LMO will be required. For jobs that are exempt from obtaining an LMO, you may be allowed to apply for a work permit on entering Canada.

Citizens of fellow North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) signatory states, the USA and Mexico, similarly do not need an LMO to get a job. Canada also has free trade agreements with Chile and Peru, so citizens of these countries are likewise exempt from the LMO procedure.

Before you can apply for a work permit, you may also need to have secured a resident visa, such as a temporary resident visa. (This depends on your home country; see ‘Visas and Passports’ for more details.) You will also need to meet any other immigration criteria that apply in your case.

Once you have done so, you need to apply for a work permit at your nearest Canadian Embassy, Consulate or High Commission. The work permit is specific to the applicant only. If your spouse or dependants want to work, they must each apply for work permit separately. This applies when you have a work permit too. Note further that work permits are issued for specific jobs: holding a work permit for does not entitle you to work in any sector you like. Hence you will also need a work permit if you are already resident in Canada and want to change jobs.



Working conditions in Canada are generally good – better than those found in the USA, yet not quite as good as those in many other Western countries. There are federal labour guarantees in place, which are often topped up by further provincial rights; these can differ quite substantially.

The Canadian Labour Program offers a fair amount of protection to employees. The guaranteed minimum of annual leave is two weeks (ten working days); long-term employees accrue more leave according to the length of their service. In addition to this, there are ten national public holidays (known locally as ‘statutory holidays’) and additional ones that vary according to province. As a rule, maternity and paternity leave are unpaid, though individual contracts may provide for paid maternity leave.

Pay can be a little lower than in some other countries, though you should also consider the high quality of life that Canada has. Cities such as Vancouver and Toronto regularly appear in the top ten of charts of the best places to live in the world. There are also statutory minimum wage levels and guarantees of equality of pay.

The working week is set at 35 or 40 hours, with a normal maximum of 48 hours a week. Canada is committed to equal opportunities for all, a policy that is generally reflected well in the workplace. However, as anywhere, there are minor cases of discrimination. Should you feel you have been discriminated against, you should be able to find representatives who are very sympathetic to your case.

This page gives details on the working conditions, and immigration procedures necessary to obtain work in Canada. For more information on working in Canada, see our Employment and Business articles.




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