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Brexit and Canada: Opportunities for construction and engineering workers

With the UK still fumbling on economic policy and dealing with a messy Brexit, there’s lots of reason to explore moving to Canada. An increasing number of construction and engineering workers in the UK are weighing up their options for working abroad. Canada is chief among the destinations where construction workers can not only continue their careers, but also watch them grow.

If you’re searching for an exit from Brexit, here are just a few of the benefits of choosing Canada.

  • A shortage of construction workers and engineers ✔
  • Increased activity in infrastructure and industrial projects ✔
  • Opportunities in Vancouver, Toronto and other locations across Canada ✔
  • Speedy immigration process, valuing your experience and language skills ✔
  • The opportunity to obtain permanent status in Canada, even citizenship ✔
  • Your family can join you, and won’t need to fork out for expensive private school for your kids ✔

If that all sounds too good to be true, let’s have a closer look at the market. Over-heating real estate markets in Vancouver and Toronto are likely to cool in 2023, but increased activity in infrastructure and industrial projects will drive recruitment needs as real estate cools off slightly.

That’s where Outpost Recruitment comes in. Since 2012, we have been helping British and Irish construction workers find roles in Canada, and our range of clients has grown. While the reality of Brexit may mean looking abroad when a couple of years ago this may not have been the case, focusing on a positive solution for you and your family, if applicable, will help you make the most of what may seem like a bad situation — a situation that is also an opportunity.

Outpost works with general contractors, subcontractors, developers and consultants who are hiring professionals across senior management, project management, operations, design, quality and commercial.

In Buildings & Infrastructure Contracting, we help our clients identify key Project Management, Design, Site & Commercial Management professionals.

In Engineering Consulting, we specialize in Civil, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical design and Project Management.

As for Cost & Project Management Consulting, our clients come back to us time and time again looking for workers in Cost Management, Project Monitoring, Infrastructure advisory, and client-side Project Management.

Here are some of our current in-demand roles:

  • Rail infrastructure – with record levels of rail construction across urban areas, there’s a constant need for civil / structural / MEP candidates with exposure to bulk earthworks, tunnels, elevated guideway, LRT systems, etc
  • LNG infrastructure – Seeking candidates with experience in heavy civil, ports and marine and early works phase of major infrastructure projects.
  • Marine infrastructure
  • Water infrastructure
  • Geotechnical / Ground engineering / Foundations
  • Hospital infrastructure – Project Managers, Design Managers, Superintendents and commercial professionals
  • Tenant Improvement / “Fit Out”
  • Tunneling & Rail Infrastructure – Project Managers, Design Managers, Superintendents and commercial professionals
  • Pipeline construction

You can visit our Jobs Board for details of each role.

Brexit doesn’t have to be a bad news story for your career. Please get in touch if you want to excel your career in 2019 and beyond.

How to Move to Canada from the UK

Young British professionals with a desire to work and travel can move to Canada from the UK on a two-year International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit up until they are 30 years old (this age varies between 30 and 35 for the other participating countries). “The IEC UK program has been heavily oversubscribed in recent years, so we expect well over 15,000 applicants for the 5,000 spaces available to UK citizens.”

For those over 30 years old, gaining permanent residency is the most viable route to working in Canada, as employer sponsorship is often difficult to attain. “Employer sponsorship tends to be available only to Senior Project Managers, Design Managers and Estimators with tier-one contracting experience or construction professionals with niche rail experience,” states Spillane.

Outpost Recruitment works with Canadian employers across civil, infrastructure and ICI buildings. Clients include global infrastructure contractors, leading Canadian contractors and consultancies, developers and subcontractors serving the Canadian market.

Outpost offers a range of knowledge articles to help international candidates prepare to be successful in the Canadian labour market. With more than five years of experience, Outpost can coach newcomers through the entire relocation process.

Despite the labour shortage, Canadian companies can be conservative when it comes to hiring international talent. Outpost provide our candidates with crucial coaching to help them assimilate to the local construction market. “International candidates often underestimate how challenging it can be to find work in a new country,” Spillane added.

More helpful resources

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Immigration to Canada for construction and engineering professionals

Welcome to the Outpost Recruitment guide to immigrating to Canada for construction and engineering professionals. The immigration experts at our sister website, Moving2Canada.com, helped us to develop this guide, which has been updated for 2023. Spending a few minutes now to become familiar with which Canadian immigration programs are open to construction and engineering professionals may save you time, money and stress in the long run.

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.

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.

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 candidates from the pool who have at least six months of eligible work experience within the past three years.

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.

The Global Talent Stream is a fast-tracked work permit option for workers in eligible tech and engineering occupations, or who get hired at eligible companies. It allows for work permit processing in as little as two weeks.

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.

Before using the tool, 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.

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?

CAD$250, including the IEC participation fee and open work permit fee for working holiday work permits.

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 skill level 0, A, or B) 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.

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).

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.

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 4–6 months from when you submit the application. In advance of this, additional time may be required to complete any relevant tests and obtain documents.

Take note: during the COVID-19 pandemic, Express Entry applicants residing outside Canada have been experiencing significant processing delays beyond the typical 4–6 months.

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, Moving2Canada.com, 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 Moving2Canada.com.

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.

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International candidate FAQ

How does the construction market currently look in Canada?

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.

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.

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 10 business days. However, it will take a few more weeks for the company to advertise the position in advance (yes, even if they actually want you, and only you).

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 2-3 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:

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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