Working in Canada
The Canadian shortage occupations list could be your key to finding employment here, but you’ll need skills and experience to qualify.
The holiday allowance in Canada can come as a bit of a shock when compared with the UK
This article was last updated before the Covid-19 pandemic. It therefore does not reflect the restrictions to travel and changes to guidance brought about by the pandemic. If you'd like to find out more, the foreign travel advice on GOV.UK includes information specific to every country.
Getting a job in Canada
Canada is a very popular destination – due in no small part to its natural beauty, wide open spaces and reputation for being one of the friendliest, most tolerant countries in the world – and even though unemployment is at a record low, the job market remains competitive. Employers in Canada are actively encouraged to offer jobs to residents of Canada before considering foreign applicants.
It's a bilingual country – both English and French are the official languages but usually fluency in French would only be required for certain jobs in the French-speaking province of Quebec.
Make use of any contacts you have in Canada (family or friends), as networking can go a long way to getting you a job.
Where could you work in Canada?
If you're looking for casual work in Canada, check out our advice for ideas.
If you're looking for something more permanent, such as a graduate job, your Canadian employer will need to get an LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) in order to employ you. These are documents issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) that confirm that the hiring of a foreign worker will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market. It will be a smoother process for all involved if you are looking for a job that is on the Canadian shortage occupations list and can therefore become a 'federal skilled worker', applying through the Express Entry route.
The main industries in Canada are agriculture, energy, technology, services (especially retail business, education and health) and manufacturing. Banking, insurance and retail dominate the major employers in Canada:
- Bank of Montreal
- George Weston Ltd
- Loblaw Companies (largest Canadian food retailer)
- Magna International (automotive supplier)
- Onex Corp (private equity investment firm)
- Royal Bank of Canada
- Toronto-Dominion Bank
- Thomson Reuters
What is Canadian working culture like?
Average working hours: These are 8 hours a day and 40 hours a week, according to the Canada Labour Code.
Holidays: The holiday allowance in Canada can come as a bit of a shock when compared with the UK. Two weeks is the standard, unless you're working in the province of Saskatchewan, where you can expect to start your employment entitled to three weeks of leave. Most provinces offer you a third week after you've been employed for a set period of time. In addition, employees are entitled to 6–10 paid public holidays, depending on the province they're working in.
Tax rates: The personal tax free allowance is $11,474 (approx. £6,412) so you'll pay tax on anything over this amount. Canada has both federal and provincial taxes. The federal tax rates start at 15% on the first $45,916 (approx. £25,655) of taxable income and provincial tax rates depend on the province where you work.
How do I apply for a job in Canada?
You'll find that applying for a job in Canada is very much like applying for one in the UK. It's sensible to apply from the UK as it could be risky to leave it until you arrive. You'll need a CV and a cover letter, and there will likely be an online application form to complete. Your interview will probably take place over the phone, for obvious reasons. As always, do your research well, tailor your application to the employer you're interested in and follow our applications and interview advice.
Most UK qualifications are recognised in other countries, but you can check with the Canadian Information Centre for International Credentials to make sure that yours are. Additional assessment from your Canadian employer may be necessary in some cases.
Where do I go to look for jobs in Canada?
You can use job websites, recruitment agencies and newspapers (for jobs listings), for starters. We've listed some of the main sources below.
- Eluta.ca (the official job search engine of the Canada's Top 100 Employers project)
- Job Bank (a Government of Canada website)
- University Affairs: Jobs (employment opportunities at Canadian universities)
As you'd expect, there are many recruitment agencies in Canada. A good place to start is the Association of Canadian Search, Employment and Staffing Services (ACSESS), where you can find lists of recruitment agencies, searchable by province and type of job.
How do I get work experience in Canada?
Work experience options in Canada include internships, placements, exchange programmes, volunteer opportunities and casual work.
If you'd like to intern for a UK or global employer that has offices in Canada, check its website to see if it is possible to apply for an internship over there. Several organisations exist to help you find internships abroad, such as:
- Go Abroad
- Latitude International (for internships in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Ottawa)
- Go Overseas
ASSE – an international student exchange organisation – lists English and French speaking exchange programmes.
AIESEC – (Association Internationale des Etudiants en Sciences Economiques et Commerciales) offers cross-cultural exchanges, during which you can do work experience, in the form of volunteer work or an internship.
Fancy being a waiter at a surfers' café in Tofino, British Columbia, working on a maple syrup farm in Quebec or having an outdoor job at an activity camp or vineyard in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia? If you're a UK citizen between 18 and 30 and would like to do temporary paid work in Canada, perhaps while travelling around the country, you can apply for an open work permit, as part of the Working Holiday Scheme. These permits allow you to work for up to 24 months.
BUNAC Work Canada provides working holiday packages for up to 24 months if you're British between 18 and 30, or Irish up to 35.
You will need a social insurance number (SIN) to undertake any paid work. If you're a British citizen you won't need a visa to enter Canada, but you will need an ETA (Electronic Travel Authorisation). You'll find all the information you need at Immigration and Citizenship Canada.
If you're interested in volunteering in Canada, the best place to start is Volunteer Canada, which provides a volunteer centre database and information to help you.
How do I become a permanent resident in Canada?
If you're planning to be in Canada for more than a few years, you might consider applying for permanent residency. Currently, you can apply under one of six categories for Canadian permanent residence:
- Skilled Worker Class Immigration
- Business Class Immigration
- Provincial Nomination
- Family Class Immigration
- Quebec-Selected Immigration
- International Adoption
The rules and regulations concerning residency tend to be complex and change frequently, so it is best to check Immigration and Citizenship for the most up-to-date information. Being a permanent resident gives you almost all the same rights as Canadian citizens, although you won't be allowed to vote and there will be some restrictions on unlimited stays when you travel outside of Canada.
What's it like to live in Canada?
In the latest World Happiness Report Canada ranks seventh out of 156 countries for overall happiness, and also seventh out of 117 for the happiness of its foreign-born residents, which is encouraging for those considering a move to Canada.
Bear in mind that Canada is a huge country, with ten provinces and three territories, into which the UK could fit almost 41 times. It is therefore difficult to make a general statement about what living in Canada will be like for you. The western side of Canada has a very different climate to the east, for example, and they can feel quite culturally different. If you love being outdoors and enjoy a temperate climate, for example, Vancouver could be the place for you, although if you can't stand rain, you should avoid it. On the other side of the country, Toronto will offer you long hot summers, but winter temperatures of minus 20 degrees are not uncommon. You need to do your research on the cities or places where you are likely to find jobs that appeal to you, as living in one province will be very different to another. Decide if the job or the location is your priority. We've put together some basic facts about living in Canada to get you started:
- Cost of living: this varies between provinces, and between rural and urban areas. Vancouver is generally considered to be the most expensive place to live in North America. The Expatistan website has some useful information about the cost of living in Canada.
- Currency: Canadian dollar. The dollar coin is called a loonie, due to its depiction of a loon (bird).
- Health: Canada's health care system is publicly funded. Canadian citizens and permanent residents pay for healthcare insurance through their taxes. If you're working in Canada your employer must make sure you're covered by health insurance. Prescription drugs, home care, long-term care and dental care are not usually covered by the Canada Health Act, which means most Canadians have to get private insurance. If you are in Canada doing casual work, you must arrange private health insurance as treatment can be very expensive without it.
- Type of government: parliamentary democracy, federation, and constitutional monarchy.
- Religion: Christianity is the largest religion in Canada. Christians represent 67.3% of the population, followed by people having no religion at 23.9%. Islam is the second largest religion in Canada, practised by 3.2% of the population.