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Ruairi Spillane

Ruairi Spillane

Outpost Recruitment

The construction industry in Canada is particularly strong. While natural resources are a key driver of construction industry across Canada, the overall industry remains strong since the commodity crash in 2014. This makes the Canadian job market in the construction and engineering industry particularly attractive for foreign workers. To make sure our community navigates this competitive scene armed with the best insights, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions about how to immigrate to Canada for work.

How does the construction market currently look in Canada?

The sharp drop in commodity prices affected construction activities for mining and oil and gas sectors in resource-rich provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.

In British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec, the construction sector has remained relatively steady due to booming real estate markets and increased infrastructure spending.

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In 2019, the stronger employment markets in terms of major cities include Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, with British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec being the strongest performing economies among the most populated Canadian provinces. If you are looking to avoid large cities, then Vancouver Island, Northern BC, and suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) also offer lots of opportunity.

I need a job offer to gain employer sponsorship via a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Is this possible?

The LMIA process serves as proof that no Canadian citizen or permanent resident is ready, willing and able to fill a specific position in Canada, and so the employer is allowed to hire a foreign worker. In order to prove this, employers must advertise the position for at least four weeks and potentially interview candidates who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

While Canada offers many immigration routes that allow employers and candidates alike to bypass the LMIA route, it may be an option in situations when the worker is unable to avail of an LMIA-exempt option.

From our perspective looking across construction roles, there are only a few specific roles for which obtaining a LMIA is a viable strategy. The prerequisite is that you are working for a tier-one contractor on large projects:

  • Senior Project Manager, Infrastructure / Buildings ($100m+ projects)
  • Project Director, Infrastructure / Buildings ($100m+ projects)
  • Design Manager, Infrastructure / Buildings
  • Superintendent, Infrastructure / Buildings ($100m+ projects)
  • Senior Estimator, Infrastructure / Buildings ($50m+ projects)
  • Commercial Manager, Infrastructure / Buildings ($50m+ projects)
  • Scheduler / Planner, Infrastructure / Buildings ($50m+ projects)

These are high demand roles (senior-level roles with general contractors on large $100m+ projects) where employers are finding it extremely difficult to hire local talent. Employer sponsorship is extremely unlikely in consultancy environment as they tend to be more conservative in terms of immigration processes. General contractors are the most common source of employer sponsorship in construction markets in Canada as they tend to look to international markets in times of skills shortages.

All I need is a job offer in order to obtain permanent residence (PR). Is this possible?

For example, you are sitting in the Express Entry pool with around 400 to 430 CRS points, which, based on recent Express Entry invitation rounds, may not quite be enough for you to obtain an invitation to apply for permanent residence. We understand the dilemma; all you need is a job offer and you will have enough points to gain an invitation, because that job offer is worth at least 50 points, likely putting you above the threshold to receive an invitation.

If you are in the Express Entry pool and have a potential employer who applies for a LMIA supporting your permanent residence candidacy, the processing service standard is 80 business days.

Employers may consider a ‘dual intent’ LMIA (which entails a $1,000 fee) if they need to fill a vacancy quickly but also intend to retain you permanently. This has the advantage of getting you to Canada more quickly on a temporary work permit first, while also helping you to boost your Express Entry CRS points total and giving the employer the confidence that you intend to (and can) stay in Canada long-term. It’s a win-win-win. Feasibly, this could get you to Canada and working within 4-5 months from first contact to arrival, while also putting you on a direct pathway to PR.

There is also an option — which we urge employers and candidates alike to avoid — whereby the employer may pursue a LMIA for the purpose of supporting your permanent residence candidacy only. This would help to boost your points, but you and the employer are still looking at at least six months (and more likely eight or nine months) from first contact all the way to you being in Canada, ready and able to work. Employers typically don’t like to hire forward by such a time span, as it’s difficult to plan this far ahead. Though this option does not entail a fee, the $1,000 fee for the option outlined in the paragraph above should not be a concern as it would get you, the candidate, working in Canada far more quickly. The main, and perhaps only, reason an employer would pursue this fee-free option for hiring Express Entry candidates is a lack of awareness of the alternative.

If you do not fit the requirements of Express Entry, it’s worth noting that there are a range of Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), and you may be eligible for at least one of these. Be warned that the ‘Come to Canada’ tool only covers federal immigration programs, so you may find a suitable PNP program to allow you to move to Canada.

When is the best time to start applying for roles?

The quick answer is around 4-12 weeks prior to arrival, but there are lots of exceptions. It all depends on your work status in Canada and where you are in the immigration process, your level of seniority, and the role itself. Depending on your role, there is such a thing as applying too soon, so working with Outpost to plan your job search strategy can be highly valuable. Here’s a brief note on each of these factors:

Work status in Canada

If you have secured the right to work in Canada by obtaining a work permit or permanent resident status, then you have removed one of the key obstacles in finding employment. Employer sponsorship is not common for construction roles in Canada (see above), so international job hunting without having the right to work in Canada is a difficult challenge. At Outpost, we have clients that provide sponsorship for some specific roles and project types where professionals are in high demand. Roles such as Senior Project Manager, Senior Estimators, and Commercial Managers on infrastructure and ICI (Institutional, Commercial and Industrial Buildings) are more likely to achieve employer sponsorship.

Job role

Niche roles such as Estimators, Quantity Surveyors, and senior-level management roles such as Project Managers, Superintendents, Commercial Managers, and Design Managers are harder to fill, so your job search can start much earlier given employers will always plan ahead. Junior / Intermediate roles are much easier to fill so employers typically don’t plan more than eight weeks ahead for these roles.

Level of seniority

Junior candidates are doing themselves a disservice applying for roles more than three months in advance of arrival as their application won’t be considered. Senior candidates can always apply 3-6 months in advance given that employers will likely plan ahead when hiring for senior roles.

I’m looking to get a job offer prior to flying out to Canada as I’m reluctant to give up my current role. Is this something that is possible in Canada?

We understand it’s a substantial risk coming to Canada with no job in-hand, especially since rental agreements may require a form of employment contact details to secure deposits and get accommodation. Gaining a job offer before landing in Canada will mostly depend on your seniority. Canadian employers are typically reluctant to commit to a job offer without a face-to-face meeting. It’s in the interests of both the candidate and the employer, as it will allow you to access first-hand the office, project, team, culture, etc.

The happy medium in all this is that as the move gets closer you will be able to engage with employers via video conference and the situation won’t appear as risky as it may seem earlier in the process. All actions are risky. The goal should be to research the employment market, build a relationship with a few employers, and then commit to the move and making things work in Canada. As you learn more about Canada and the employment market, it will feel more like an opportunity than a risk.

Potential strategies around this risk would be to consider making a trip to Canada for face-to-face interviews in advance of your move. This would allow you to finalize a role before serving notice in your current role.

How long will the job search take?

The hiring process in Canada can be quite slow, so allow 4-6 weeks for the whole process of your resume gaining traction, multiple rounds of interviews, and then negotiations to take place.  A hiring process taking less than 2-3 weeks from start to finish is considered extremely quick.

Learn more about the psychology of the job hunt.

Do clients look negatively on the 1- or 2-year Working Holiday visa? How do I overcome this obstacle?

Yes, while having a 1-2 year work permit is better than no permit at all, 1-2 years is considered an extremely short amount of time given international candidates will have a 3- to 6-month adjustment curve to the local market. Employers will expect a minimum 3-4 year return on their investment, so think and speak beyond the temporary work permit or you will not succeed. While one or two years may seem like a serious commitment to a new country, your future employer will likely be quizzing you on your intentions to stay beyond this term. Being unprepared for the “how long do you plan to stay in Canada?” question will nullify all your hard work in impressing the interview panel.

As a general rule, your temporary status will be the elephant in the interview room, so we highly recommend bringing up the topic before they do. Ensure you have researched your options around applying for permanent residence as you will need to convince your employer that you are at least considering a longer stay. Best focus on wording such as “relocation” and “arriving on a work permit initially” and ask questions around whether your employer will support your permanent residence application if they are happy with your performance. Actions speak louder than words, so if you can demonstrate research and potentially start your permanent residence process (e.g. sit an English test and gain your Education Credential Assessment), it will overcome this obstacle.

In terms of salary, are companies rigid on what is offered, or is there generally a bit of flexibility and negotiation?

It’s all open. Your CV/resume is how you see yourself, so if this doesn’t demonstrate how you can deliver value to a future employer then you are sabotaging your own job search. No point in waiting for the interview room before you begin to impress, as you must be able to do it on paper first. The employer will form of a view of what you are worth once they review your resume. A stronger resume means more interview opportunities and a higher starting salary.

Read our resume blog series to kick-start your job search:

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

Get started by registering with us—it's free!

Find out more

What are the standard benefits I should be looking for?

In addition to base salary, Canadian employers can (or in some cases, must) offer the following employment benefits:

  • Paid vacation days. Ten days is the statutory minimum requirement in Canada, though certain provinces set a higher minimum number of annual leave days. Typically, 12-15 days is considered standard, though most employers also reward loyalty with more days off the longer an employee remains at the company.
  • Coverage of public health premiums and extended health.
  • Car allowance (common) or company car if travel is required during work hours.
  • Fuel card (if a car is needed in order for you to perform your role).
  • Laptop, cell phone.
  • Pension plan contribution via RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) matching. If applicable, the employer may match from 5-10% of your contribution.
  • Employee share ownership.

Learn more about understanding your Canadian job offer.

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