BlogWorking your way into Canada: top five questions

3 October 2019

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As an immigration lawyer I am frequently asked about what the best strategy is to obtain Canadian permanent residence. It is no secret that each year Canada welcomes more “economic” immigrants, who qualify for permanent residence based on their work experience and skills, compared to any other category of immigration. Many of these successful immigrants have spent some time working in Canada in order to boost their eligibility for permanent residence. In this article I will share my answers to five of the most frequently asked questions I get about working in Canada as a means of obtaining Canadian permanent residence and what to do if things change after starting a job.

What is a “skilled” job that qualifies for me for permanent residence?

One of the most important questions I am asked is to explain what sort of work is considered “skilled” under Canadian immigration laws. Most people understand that having at least one year of full-time, skilled Canadian work experience will qualify them to immigrate as a member of the “Canadian experience class” and will boost their eligibility to receive an invitation to apply for permanent residence compared to skilled workers who have never worked in Canada. However, there is generally a lack of understanding about what counts as skilled work experience.

There are many types of jobs that are classified as skilled even though conventional wisdom says otherwise. Clients are often surprised to learn, for instance, that tradespeople such as carpenters, painters and even bakers are skilled workers. Many administrative jobs, even entry level ones, are also considered skilled work.

Immigration, refugees, and citizenship Canada (IRCC) defines the skill level of jobs based on a document called the “national occupational classification” system or NOC. The NOC assigns a unique four-digit code to every imaginable job, lists the typical duties associated with that job, and then categorizes them into five different skill levels: 0, A, B, C and D, where 0, A, and B jobs are considered skilled and C and D jobs are considered low or semi-skilled.

In order to determine how a job is classified you will need to first review the primary duties of the job and determine which NOC code contains a list of duties that most closely matches them. Secondly, to determine whether it is a skilled job you must determine whether the specific NOC code is classified under the 0, A or B skill levels.

The process of correctly classifying a job under a NOC code can be difficult for many reasons, including situations where a person has a hybrid role that might reasonably be classified under two or more NOC codes. As an immigration lawyer I often encounter cases where client applications have been refused or delayed because of misclassified NOC codes.

If I work extra hours can I qualify more quickly for permanent residence?

No. There is a common misconception that working many hours will accelerate a person’s eligibility for permanent residence – this is untrue and largely based on the information available on the IRCC

website that a person can qualify for permanent residence with as little as 1,560 hours of Canadian skilled work experience.

While full-time work is defined under immigration laws as 30 hours or more per week, working more excess hours will have no beneficial effect on accelerating a person’s eligibility for permanent residence. You must still accumulate 12 months of full-time work experience to claim one year of Canadian work experience.

What if I’m fired from my job?

What you can do if you are fired from your job will depend primarily on what kind of work permit you have. If you hold a “closed” work permit, meaning that you can only work for a specific employer and usually at a specific location, there is no need to panic – the work permit you have does not become invalid just because you’ve lost your job. You are still in Canada legally as a worker but will need to look for another job because your current work permit prohibits you from working for anybody else. Once a new employment opportunity is found then a new work permit will have to be applied for. You may also need a new Labour Market Impact Assessment in order to obtain a new permit.

On the other hand, if you hold an open work permit, which does not restrict you to working for a specific employer, then you can begin working for a new employer immediately after receiving a new job offer. Although you lost your former job you might still be able to use the previous work experience to qualify for permanent residence, which I explain next.

What if I don’t like my job? Can I still qualify for permanent residence if I change jobs?

Yes. Whether somebody resigns from a job or is fired from a job, the loss of the job does not disqualify the work experience already gained from being counted towards obtaining permanent residence. It is allowable under immigration laws to “mix and match” your Canadian work experience. It is possible, for example, for a person to have six months of work experience in one skilled job and have six further months of work experience in another skilled job and still qualify for permanent residence.

Does it matter what I get paid from my job?

No. Generally speaking, it does not matter what your wages are while working in Canada. So long as you are paid for your work, even if it’s commission based, there are no minimum wages you must earn to count the work experience towards qualifying for permanent residence. However, earning a low wage can raise doubts in the mind of an immigration officer whether you are working in the skilled job position you declare to IRCC. A senior manager, for example, would reasonably be expected to earn a higher wage than somebody working at an entry level position within the same company or industry.

Working in Canada is an excellent way to boost a person’s eligibility to obtain permanent residence. There are many job opportunities that could qualify as skilled work experience and, as you can see, there is also a great deal of flexibility in changing jobs and earning the number of hours needed to claim Canadian skilled work experience. Anybody who may be job hunting in Canada with permanent residence in mind should consider these frequently asked questions and answers.

About the Author

Sas and Ing Immigration Law Centre LLP

A partnership between Catherine Sas Law Corporation and Victor Ing Law Corporation

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About the Author