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Ruairi Spillane

Ruairi Spillane

Outpost Recruitment

Many foreign workers in construction and engineering see Canada as a great place to advance their careers. And rightfully so! The country offers several immigration pathways tailored to their skills. But navigating the Canadian immigration system can be tricky without clear guidance, especially with all the different programs and requirements. The immigration experts at our sister company Moving2Canada helped us build this guide that provides essential insights and key strategies to help you understand and successfully navigate the immigration process to Canada. Let’s make sure that you can take advantage of the best opportunities for immigration as a construction or engineering professional.

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Outpost Recruitment has been helping international candidates find jobs since 2011, and one of the key steps is to obtain the right to work in Canada. If you’re interested in working in Canada and don’t yet have a work permit or immigration status, here’s how to get going.

How To Get A Work Permit in Canada? The short overview

First, let’s call this out: you may not need — in fact, probably don’t need — the support of, or sponsorship from, an employer in Canada in order to navigate the Canadian immigration system. Very often, we see quality candidates from all over the world who have worked in the Middle East, Australia, or elsewhere, who assume that moving to Canada has to involve leveraging a particular job offer.

Canada is quite different. There are work permit categories that don’t require a job offer, and there is a direct, and relatively quick, route to permanent residence (PR), even if you don’t have a job offer and even if you have never lived in Canada before. Canada welcomes workers through a variety of PR programs, as well through a range of work permit categories.

Some of these work permit categories come under what is known as the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, which allows companies to petition the government to hire you, the foreign worker, to fill a specific role based on the need for someone with your skills and experience. This petition — as well as the actual document resulting from a successful application — is called a Labour Market Impact Assessment, or LMIA. Informally, this is often known in construction and engineering circles as “employer sponsorship”. The feasibility of obtaining a LMIA waxes and wanes with the economy, resulting in more LMIAs being issued to engineers and construction workers when times are good, and fewer when the market outlook isn’t so rosy.

Many engineering companies benefit from the Global Talent Stream (GTS), a stream within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program that offers expedited processing of the LMIA. Under the Global Talent Stream, LMIA’s will be processed within 10 business days compared to the 2 to 3 month processing of regular LMIA’s. Under the Global Talent Stream, the hiring company must demonstrate eligibility under 1 of 2 categories. Under category 1, the hiring company will need a referral to the GTS by one of the stream’s designated referral partners and be hiring an individual with unique and specialized talent to help the company scale up and grow. Under category 2, the company must be hiring in an in-demand occupation found on the global talent occupations list.

Other work permit categories come under the International Mobility Program, which does not require employers or workers to get a LMIA (“employer sponsorship”) before you can begin working in Canada. Examples of work permits that may be obtained under the International Mobility Program include the International Experience Canada (IEC) program, international free trade agreements, and intra-company transfers.

It is almost always preferable to look towards getting a LMIA-exempt work permit (such as through the IEC program) before pursuing the LMIA route; it will likely take less time before you can get to Canada — suited or booted and ready for action — and your employer-to-be will appreciate not being dragged into the bureaucracy.

And what about PR? Well, over recent years Canada has pivoted to an economic immigration system, known as Express Entry, whereby those of you with plenty of work experience, a post-secondary education and English skills are prioritized for immigration, with processing times of around six months (sometimes less if you’re selected early and have your application ready; sometimes longer if you have to wait for an invitation and/or if you need to gather extra documents). With PR, you land in Canada with no time limit to your potential employment, and you can work for any employer, anywhere in Canada. There are even category-based draws that specifically seek out trades and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) candidates from the pool who have at least six months of eligible work experience within the past three years. As many construction and engineering professionals have relevant work experience to qualify for these category-based draws, Express Entry may be a great option for these professionals to get PR status.

Provincial Nominee Programs, or PNPs, are another economic route to PR, but this also takes at least a few months from start to finish. These programs allow provinces to nominate workers with certain skill sets, and some provinces are on the lookout for construction and engineering professionals.

Work permits, especially LMIA-exempt work permits, can be obtained much more quickly. For this reason, as well the fact that Canadian work experience actually ends up giving you a heap of extra points for work experience obtained in Canada under Express Entry and PNPs, we recommend looking into getting a work permit first while also keeping an eye on your PR options.

Finally, studying in Canada as an international student allows you to work up to 20 hours per week while studying. Although this may not be an option for professionals seeking a full-time construction or engineering job, it is worth keeping in mind as an alternate pathway for immigration, particularly for spouses or partners who wish to accompany.

How can I find out if I’m eligible to move to Canada?

Canadian immigration authorities have a convenient tool on their website, called the Come to Canada tool. It takes a few minutes to fill out, and will give you an indication of which program(s) you may be eligible for. You can also use Moving2Canada’s 2-minute quiz that will help you figure out which immigration pathway to Canada best fits your profile.

Before using these tools, it’s a good idea to learn about the various options that are available for immigration to Canada. This means you can properly interpret the results provided. However, you should note that the tool only evaluates for programs operated by the federal government (i.e. the government of Canada), and does not evaluate for those programs operated by the provinces (the PNPs). For this reason, we recommend the Come to Canada as a starting point, but it may not offer the sum of all your potential options.

There is lots of free assistance available online (such as the article you are now reading). However, if you have specific questions or concerns, we recommend seeking a professional consultation. This may entail a consultation fee, but if you are prepared with the questions you need answered, it could save you headaches, time and money later in the application process.

Our sister website, Moving2Canada, works with a range of regulated immigration consultants who can answer your questions and help you plan your move to Canada.

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Let’s look at some of the Canadian immigration options for construction and engineering professionals in more detail. Feel free to jump ahead to the section that most interests you:

IEC: International Experience Canada (Includes Working Holiday Work Permits)

Who’s it for?

Workers from more than 30 countries, including Australia, the UK, and Ireland, aged under 30 or 35, depending on the country. You can see the full breakdown of eligible countries, and the age requirements, on this list.

How does it work?

Every year, a number of open work permits are assigned to each participating country. Candidates can visit the Canadian immigration website and notify authorities of their desire to get one of these work permits.

After submitting this Expression of Interest, candidates may receive an invitation to apply for a work permit. With this invitation, candidates may submit forms and pay the application fees. Successful applicants receive a Letter of Introduction, which is presented on arrival in Canada in order for the work permit to be issued.

IEC program is usually open for about nine months each year, but your chances of receiving an invitation will depend on your nationality.

What’s the advantage?

For eligible candidates, it’s typically an easy way to get a work permit for Canada. The IEC program allows you to live and work in Canada for up to two years, depending on your nationality and the IEC category. Candidates under the working holiday category may obtain an open work permit, meaning they can work for almost any employer in Canada.

The IEC program is a gateway to permanent residency, as the work experience you gain in Canada may give you an advantage when applying for permanent immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

In 2024, the IEC participation fee is CAD$175, plus a biometrics fee of $85 if required.

If you are coming on a Working Holiday visa you will also need CAD$100 for an open work permit.

In the Young Professional and International Co-op categories, your employer also needs to pay the CAD$230 employer compliance fee.

How long does it take?

Once candidates express their interest in obtaining a work permit, they need to wait for an invitation to apply before they can submit their application forms. It can take days, weeks, or even longer to receive this invite, as they are issued to candidates at random.

However, once the forms and payments are submitted, it should take about eight weeks to receive your Letter of Introduction. We have seen Letters of Introduction issued sooner than that in many cases.

Other considerations

The time limit on the work permit means you may be better off applying for PR soon after getting the permit if you’re eligible to do so (though you may pursue both options simultaneously). In some countries, notably the UK, demand for IEC work permits usually far outstrips supply and thousands of candidates may be disappointed.

Some employers regard the limited duration of the work permit as too short, as they’ll be looking to hire staff who can stay with the company for a longer period. Also, some employers regard the ‘working holiday work permit’ as a transient permit, and may question participants’ career aspirations as a result. It’s up to you to correct that judgment in your potential employer’s eyes.

Open work permits for spouses and partners of IEC participants

If you are an IEC participant then your spouse or common-law partner may be able to obtain an open work permit and accompany you to Canada. In order for your spouse or partner to obtain an open work permit, you must be employed in Canada in a skilled occupation (National Occupational Classification TEER category 0, 1, 2 or 3) and must submit documentation proving this as part of your spouse or partner’s application.

This works both ways, too. If you’re struggling to gain work authorization in Canada and your spouse or partner is eligible for IEC, they may be able to get their IEC work permit and have you accompany them after they secure a skilled occupation

Where can I learn more?

Our sister website, Moving2Canada, explains more in its Working Holiday Visa in Canada guide.

Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

Who’s it for?

Candidates who have been offered a job by a Canadian employer. The employer will need to pay relevant fees, and prove conclusively that no suitable Canadian citizen or permanent resident could be found to perform this job. The employer will also need to meet other requirements in order to be deemed eligible to hire the foreign worker.

There are two types of LMIA: one for temporary work in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), and the other for permanent immigration through Express Entry. This section deals specifically with the LMIA-based work permit under the TFWP.

What’s the advantage?

For foreign workers who may otherwise be unable to secure a work permit, or find it difficult to do so, the TFWP offers an opportunity to work in Canada for a specific employer.

For employers, obtaining a LMIA allows the business to fill labour shortages.

How much does it cost?

Under the TFWP, employers need to pay $1,000 per position they’re filling. If the LMIA is approved, the worker must then apply for a work permit, entailing a fee of $155.

How long does it take?

A LMIA application may take a 2–4 months, including the time the employer has to advertise the position before asking the government for permission to hire you.

LMIA applications processed under the Global Talent Stream benefit from the expedited processing of the LMIA. Global Talent Stream applications will be processed in 10 business days.

Other considerations

LMIA-approved foreign workers do not receive an open work permit, and are instead tied to a particular employer. This means they have less immediate flexibility should they wish to change employer at a later date, unless in the meantime they have pursued another immigration or work permit option.

Where can I learn more?

Our sister website, Moving2Canada, has a full explanation of the LMIA process.

Are you from the United States, Mexico, Australia, or Japan?

If so, you might qualify for a work permit that is exempt from needing an LMIA. LMIA-exempt work permits are available for residents of these countries through Canada’s international trade agreements. U.S. and Mexico residents might qualify for a work permit through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) — more information here. Australia, Japan, and Mexico residents might quality for a work permit through the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) — more information here.

Express Entry

Who’s it for?

Open to skilled, educated foreign workers, with ability in English and/or French. Individuals of any age may become a candidate, but preference is given to younger workers seeking immigration to Canada.

How does it work?

Since January 2015, candidates can visit the Canadian immigration website and express their interest in becoming a permanent resident. Eligibility may be through any of the three Express Entry-linked programs:

  • Federal Skilled Worker: You must score at least 67 points out of 100. Points are awarded for age, education, language ability, work experience, and other factors.
  • Canadian Experience Class: For workers with ongoing or recent skilled Canadian work experience.
  • Federal Skilled Trades: For tradespersons with experience in an eligible occupation.

The criteria for each program is different, and it is possible to be eligible for more than one. For example, if you have a mix of foreign and Canadian work experience, you may be eligible for both the FSWC and the CEC.

If eligible, you are assigned a score (out of 1,200) based on your education, career history, and other personal details, and will be ranked against other candidates under what is called the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS).

You may also be eligible for category-based selection, depending on whether you meet the requirements of an Express Entry category. Some of the categories in 2024 include those for French language ability, and with eligible work experience in Trades, STEM, Healthcare, Transport, or Agriculture. Since these draws are targeted at candidates who meet specific criteria, the CRS cut-offs tend to be lower than general draws that invite candidates from all programs.

Every few weeks, the top-ranking candidates are invited to apply for Canadian permanent residence. While in the pool, candidates can strive to increase their CRS points total, and thus their ranking, by proving better human capital factors, for example by re-taking a language test or completing additional work experience. Applicants who are eligible to receive an invitation via a category- based draw may benefit from a lower CRS score.

Moreover, a candidate may obtain a qualifying job offer or a provincial nomination through one of the many Express Entry-aligned Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams. A provincial nomination is particularly valuable, as it results in 600 additional CRS points being awarded to the candidate, who will then be invited to apply in a subsequent draw from the pool.

What’s the advantage?

Express Entry has proven to be a quick system, with more than 80 percent of applications processed within six months. The process is entirely online, and it is easy to track the status of the application online.

Furthermore, Express Entry is a system that rewards proactive individuals who can prove to the government that they are likely to be economically successful upon settlement in Canada.

How much does it cost?

About $2,000–$2,500, including educational and language assessments, obtaining documents, and payment of fees, if you complete the process yourself.

Hiring representation (i.e. a regulated lawyer or consultant) would entail additional fees, but this is a price that many candidates feel is worth the outlay. Moving2Canada has partnered with a number of experienced representatives who can help candidates with their immigration goals.

How long does it take?

About 6 months from when you submit the application. In advance of this, additional time may be required to complete any relevant tests and obtain documents.

Other considerations

Success in this system is not guaranteed, as the government invites only a portion of candidates from the pool when it conducts one of its draws. However, the government has stated that the Express Entry pool is now the main source of economic permanent residence applications, and over time the CRS cut-off threshold has decreased.

Where can I learn more?

See the Express Entry Canada guide on Moving2Canada, our sister website.

Provincial Nominee Programs

Who is it for?

If you intend to reside in a specific province and you fit that province’s criteria, the PNP route may be for you. PNP streams often favour individuals with prior connections to the province, either through work experience, study, or family connections. However, you may be eligible to apply or invited to apply, as the case may be, without a connection — especially if you target provinces that welcome applications from construction and engineering professionals.

Which provinces are looking for construction professionals and/or engineers?

Some provinces, such as Ontario, receive applications from across the labour market, including a broad range of skilled workers; this may include construction professionals and engineers. Other provinces, however, have zoned in and explicitly said they want exactly these kinds of workers to fill jobs locally.

For example, the province of British Columbia offers the BC Tech Pilot, which was launched in 2017. The BC Tech Pilot has an eligible occupations list that includes civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical and electronics engineers, and chemical engineers. Eligible workers in these fields are prioritised for settlement in BC. We have a full overview of the BC PNP Tech Pilot just below this section.

Another example would be Manitoba, where construction estimators and managers, industrial mechanics, and engineers (civil, mechanical, industrial, electrical) are all on the skilled worker in-demand occupations list. Learn more here.

Then there are also those provinces that focus more on transitioning temporary workers to permanent residence, rather than seeking newcomers in specific occupations (all the more reason to seek out a work permit first). Alberta would be an example of this strategy.

With more than 70 PNP streams in total, providing a full run-down here isn’t feasible. However, our sister website,, recently added a great new tool so that you can filter through all of these in just a few seconds. Just input your occupation and/or other preferences, and the PNP Live Tracker Tool will work its magic to tell you which PNP stream(s) may be right for you.

How does it work?

If eligible, you first apply to the province for a provincial nomination. Some PNP streams require you to submit an expression of interest before you may be invited to apply.

Upon obtaining a nomination, you then apply for permanent residence.

Some PNP streams are aligned with the Express Entry system. These are known as enhanced streams. A nomination obtained through an enhanced PNP stream results in an Express Entry candidate being awarded 600 additional Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points, effectively guaranteeing that an invitation to apply (ITA) for immigration to Canada will be issued. The application for permanent residence will be receive priority processing by the federal government, with a processing time target of six months or less.

PNP streams that are not aligned with Express Entry are known as base streams. A nomination certificate obtained through a base PNP stream does not alter a candidate’s Express Entry CRS score. Indeed, eligible individuals may apply to a base PNP stream without ever having an Express Entry profile, and base PNP streams may offer a pathway to permanent residence for individuals who are not eligible to enter the Express Entry pool.

What’s the advantage?

For Express Entry candidates who have not yet met the CRS cut-off threshold set in Express Entry draws, enhanced PNP streams offer the opportunity to obtain additional points, resulting in the issuance of an ITA. For individuals not eligible for Express Entry, base PNP streams leave the door open for economic immigration to Canada.

How much does it cost?

That depends on the province and the stream. Some provinces allow individuals to make an expression of interest in immigrating to their province free of charge, with fees to be paid if or when an invitation to apply to the PNP is issued and a subsequent application submitted. Other PNP streams operate on a first-come, first-served basis, and consequently a processing fee would be demanded up front.

How long does it take?

As this is a two-step process, application processing times include a provincial processing stage and a federal processing stage, and both stages should be taken into account when considering the overall time it may take from start to finish.

Provincial stage: Some provinces publish updated processing times. Click any of the links below to find out more.

Ontario | Alberta | BC

Federal stage: For enhanced PNP streams, the federal processing time is usually under six months. For base PNP streams, average processing times at the federal stage are currently 15-19 months (as of February, 2019).

Other considerations

Applicants should have the intention to live in the province they are applying to. Once Canadian permanent residence has been granted, permanent residents have the right to live and work in any Canadian province or territory.

Where can I learn more?

The BC PNP Tech Pilot

Who’s it for?

The British Columbia Provincial Nominee Program Tech Pilot (BC PNP Tech Pilot) is a specialized PNP stream for workers with experience in one of 29 priority occupations who also hold a job offer from an employer in BC. The occupation list includes several positions related to the construction sector including civil engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical and electronics engineers, and chemical engineers.

How does it work?

In order to be considered for the BC PNP Tech Pilot, you need two things:

  1. A valid job offer from a BC employer in one of the 29 priority occupations; and
  2. Eligibility in one of the existing BC PNP streams for skilled workers or international graduates.

If you meet both of these criteria, the BC PNP Tech Pilot may enable you to apply for permanent resident status in Canada. Plus, you will be eligible for a Canadian work permit while your PR application is processing.

What’s the advantage?

The BC PNP Tech Pilot is an excellent opportunity for workers in the priority occupations with an interest in working in British Columbia. Not only does the pathway allow applicants to obtain a work permit while their permanent residence applications are processing, the BC PNP does not require that job offers be supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) in order to be considered valid (note: other criteria do apply).

Not requiring an LMIA may not sound like a big deal, but for many Canadian employers the LMIA process is a hassle, costing them time and money. Being able to circumvent the need for an LMIA is just the incentive some employers need to hire internationally.

How much does it cost?

The BC PNP charges an application fee of CAD $1,150. This does not include any additional fees for obtaining required documents, professional immigration assistance, etc.

As well, it’s important to note that receiving a provincial nomination is only one part of the Canadian immigration process. After receiving your provincial nomination, you will have to submit a complete permanent residence application to the federal government, and you may wish to submit a temporary work permit application to work in BC while awaiting a decision. Both of these components have additional fees.

How long does it take?

80 percent of BC PNP Tech Pilot applications are processed within two to three months of receipt. Once you receive an approval on your provincial nomination, you can use this to apply for a work permit, if necessary.

As mentioned above, it is important to remember that applying for provincial nomination is only one step of the permanent residence process. After receiving a provincial nomination, you must then apply for permanent residence to the federal government.

Other considerations

The BC PNP Tech Pilot has a number of layers to it. There’s the qualifying tech job, the eligibility for a BC PNP stream, the work permit application, and the permanent residence application. It can be a little bit complicated. Make sure that you properly inform yourself.

Take a look at the BC PNP Tech Pilot guide on our sister website, Moving2Canada. If you think the pilot may be an option for you, it may be worthwhile to begin by speaking with a regulated Canadian immigration consultant. We recommend Perez McKenzie Immigration, a BC-based consultancy with tons of experience with the BC PNP.

Studying in Canada

Who’s it for?

Coming to Canada as an international student may not seem like the best option for those interested in working in Canada, but there are a few scenarios in which it makes sense.

  • Scenario One: If you come to Canada as an international student yourself, you can work up to 20 hours per week during your study period, and full-time hours during any designated breaks. Plus, after completing your studies, you will likely be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) allowing you to remain in Canada and work for any employer in any location. If you were already considering training up your skills — this can be a great way to do so while gaining the right to work in Canada.
  • Scenario Two: If you are married or in a common-law relationship, one of you may be able to come to Canada as an international student, allowing the other to accompany on an open work permit. For example, your spouse could come to Canada to complete a one-year diploma at the University of British Columbia. Meanwhile, you may be able to accompany your spouse on an open work permit, allowing you to work full-time for any employer while your partner is studying. This can be a great option if you or your spouse were already considering pursuing more education while the other would continue working.

How does it work?

Travelling to Canada as an international student is no small task. You have to find an appropriate school and program, apply and be admitted, and then submit your study permit application. As well, if either yourself or your partner are planning to accompany on an open work permit — that adds an additional application to the process.

Thankfully, our sister company, Moving2Canada, has designed the International Student Roadmap. This is a free email-education service that will teach you about the ins and outs of coming to Canada as a student. More information here.

What’s the advantage?

Coming to Canada as an international student can sometimes be the one of the only immigration options for which a person is eligible.

Many of Canada’s work permit and permanent residence pathways have strict eligibility requirements, making it difficult for some people to qualify for them. In these cases, some people choose to come to Canada first as an international student (or as the partner of an international student), which not only opens up the possibility of an open work permit for their partner, but also provides a pathway to Canadian permanent resident status.

How much does it cost?

International studies in Canada are not cheap. Tuition fees for international students typically range from just below CAD $10,000 per year, to upwards of $50,000 per year for specialized programs at top institutions. However, an investment in education can pay off in the long run — especially when it provides the opportunity for you or your partner to work in a lucrative position while the other studies.

If you’re considering international studies in Canada, you should also be aware that you will have to provide proof of finances as a part of your study permit application. Generally, you have to provide evidence that you will be able to afford one year’s tuition and living expenses.

How long does it take?

The study permit itself can be processed in a few weeks or months — although processing times vary depending on where you’re applying from. However, if you’re planning for this route, you’ll want to consider the time it takes to research programs, apply for schools, and gain admission. As well, you should consider program start dates in Canada.

Most post-secondary programs in Canada begin in late August or early September of each year. Although, there are some programs that allow students to begin in the winter semester that usually starts in January. If you do your research, you will be able to find programs that start at other times throughout the year, but September and, to a lesser extent, January, are the two main program start dates in Canada.

Other considerations

Remember that there is no 100% guarantee in Canadian immigration. There’s a risk that a study permit application could be denied. There’s a risk that the open work permit application for the accompanying spouse could be denied. Ensure that you’re aware of the possible risks no matter which immigration pathway you choose.

Where can I learn more?

To learn more about studying in Canada, please visit the study section on Moving2Canada, or sign up for their free International Student Roadmap. If you’re ever seeking comprehensive immigration guidance and support, we recommend booking a consultation with one of these professionals.

In summary




Employer sponsorship

IEC Work permit (1-2 years) 2 months No
LMIA Work permit (1-3 years) 2-4 months Yes
Express Entry PR 4-8 months No
PNP PR 6-24 months + Depends
BC PNP Tech Pilot PR (and Work permit) 6-24 months + Yes
Study in Canada Study permit 2-6 months No

The goal of this page is to give you an idea of what the main Canadian immigration options are for construction and engineering professionals. It doesn’t cover every single program or answer every last question. If you’d like to take a deeper dive into all the programs available, please visit the comprehensive Canadian immigration guide on

I’m ready to immigrate to Canada. What do I do when I have my work permit or immigration status?

Talk to Outpost! Since 2011, we’ve specialized in finding work for construction and engineering professionals, with companies across Canada who value international work experience.

When you have your immigration or work permit status submitted or secured, get in touch and we can explore your opportunities when you immigrate to Canada.

We can help you find a role in Canada's construction sector.

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