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How to hire international graduates in Canada – a guide for employers

Hiring Foreign Workers? Here Are Some Employer Options

Canadian employers can hire either permanent or temporary foreign workers.

If you are a Canadian employer looking to hire a foreign worker permanently, the worker will need to obtain Canadian permanent residence. Several fast-track options are available to the employee, which quickly process their residency applications.

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Express Entry

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has developed an entry management system called Express Entry to attract skilled workers. Express Entry allows Canadian employers to hire international talent for management, professional or trades positions to sponsor foreign workers for Canadian permanent residence. With a qualifying job offer, IRCC will issue your employee a document called an “invitation to apply” that they can use to apply for permanent residence. If all goes according to plan, IRCC should process the application within six months.

Express Entry allows employers in Canada to fill job vacancies more quickly than they have in the past.

There are three federal economic immigration programs available to applicants through Express Entry:

Federal Skilled Worker

Suppose your intended employee has work experience in a skilled occupation, as determined by the National Occupation Classification (NOC) system. Under that circumstance, you will be able to hire them through Express Entry under the Federal Skilled Worker Class.

Canadian Experience Class

Suppose you have been hiring foreign workers temporarily and would like to offer them full-time employment. In that particular, they may be eligible for Canadian immigration through the Canadian experience class.

Federal Skilled Trades Program

The Federal Skilled Trades Class is for individuals who want to become permanent residents of Canada based on having skills needed by Canadian businesses but not found among the local workforce. Suppose you wish to hire internationally as a Canadian employer because it has been impossible to find skilled tradespersons locally. In that case, your firm may be able to hire a foreign worker under this program.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Many provinces and territories have created Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) to help attract immigrants who intend to settle as permanent residents in their area. For example, if your business is located near one of these recruitment areas, you may be able to benefit from a PNP stream that aims to attract skilled workers.

Furthermore, most semi- and lower-skilled positions will qualify for Provincial Nomination, as Provinces and Territories seek to fill labour shortages by prioritizing the hiring of foreign workers. To be considered, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) may require that you prove that you could not fill the position with Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Quebec, however, does not participate in the Provincial Nominee Program. Instead, it uses the Quebec Skilled Worker category to select its immigrants.

Temporary Work Permit

Employing foreign workers on a Temporary Work Permit is one of the quickest ways to get staff working for you in Canada. You can use either the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program.


In case you are a skilled foreign worker seeking to work in Canada or your employer wishes to employ a foreign worker, the first step is to apply for a work permit. You will be required to show that you have what it takes to succeed in your field and that employing a Canadian citizen or permanent resident is not feasible. This can be proceeded by providing evidence of your past employment history, as well as proof of your degree or diploma. For example, if you were a successful cook in the U.S., you should include evidence such as letters of recommendation and information about your place of employment. The next step is to find an eligible Canadian employer who will sponsor you. The employer must provide information on how they will pay you, whether they offer benefits and what duties they expect you to take on. If they cannot prove they are financially solvent, the application will not be approved. A Labour Market Impact Assessment—or LMIA— may be required before the work permit application can be processed. This document is issued by Service Canada and states whether hiring an eligible foreign worker will harm Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

STEP 1: You must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment to hire a foreign worker.

The Canadian government has two categories of work permits: those needing a labour market test and those exempt from requiring one. In some cases, the issuance of a work permit can impact workers’ wages in Canada.

What is an LMIA? & Things you need to know

  • To begin with, the name of the labour market test is the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The government department that oversees the LMIA process is named Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). A positive or neutral LMIA is issued when ESDC believes no Canadian citizens or permanent residents can do the job. A negative LMIA is given when Canada believes domestic workers are known to do the job, and hiring a foreign worker would harm workers in Canada.
  • Typically, if an employer in Canada wishes to hire a foreign national, they must first get a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment from ESDC. Once the LMIA is granted, the foreign national can then go to IRCC for a work permit. Once the work permit is received and the foreign national has arrived in Canada, they can begin working for the employer.
  • ESDC and MIFI have created a streamlined LMIA process to fill selected positions in Quebec without going through the recruitment process.

When is an LMIA not required?

Some work permits for foreign workers can be issued when a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) has not been completed. These are referred to as LMIA exempt work permits and include the following:

  • Comprehensive economic and trade agreements, such as NAFTA, CETA, or the CPTPP;
  • Canada offers special conditions for some permanent residence applicants.
  • To help protect certain migrants working in Canada on employer-specific work permits, such as live-in caregivers and nannies, the federal government has created a list of people who can contact authorities to get help if they are experiencing or at risk of abuse.

Step 2: Employer extends Temporary Job Offer

A positive or neutral Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) will allow the Canadian employer to hire a foreign worker, who will need a positive or neutral LMIA approval letter, along with a detailed job offer, to register for a work permit.

Step 3: Foreign Worker applies for Work Permit

The job offer letter, CAQ, an LMIA approval letter are necessary documents for applying for a temporary work permit. If the foreign worker plans to come to Canada from abroad, To come to Canada, they will also be asked to obtain a temporary resident visa (TRV). The foreign worker may submit an application for a work permit at a Canadian visa office abroad.

Step 4: Work Permit is issued

A Canadian temporary work permit (officially referred to as an Employment and Social Development Canada Work Permit) is issued by a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer when a foreign worker arrives in Canada.

Your temporary work permit may be issued for a few days or a few years.

Most Canadian work permits are employer-specific, closed to other employers, and are issued for a specific job. If you change careers without first gaining permanent resident status— and thus not being eligible for fully open work permits—you’ll need to apply for a new work permit with the new employer. Since your current work permit is employer-specific and listed in your old position, it will be invalid once you change employers (and so you’ll need to destroy the old document). 

Note that a Canadian work permit is for foreign workers who have temporarily applied to Canada. To work and live in Canada permanently, foreign workers must apply for Canadian permanent residence. However, a Canadian temporary work permit can be a stepping stone to Canadian permanent residence. Foreign workers can become permanent residents through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC), the Skilled Worker category, or Provincial Nominee Programs.