Working in Canada

Vancouver, the Rocky Mountains, Lake Winnipeg or 200,000 km of coastlines - Canada, the second largest country in the world, certainly is attractive. No wonder, that many visitors feel their holiday in Canada is far too short, and they consider staying for a longer time to work there. But, even though Canada welcomes thousands of immigrants every year, it watches carefully that these people have skills, adequate financial means, good health and no criminal record.

Entry and residence

Thorough planning of your stay in Canada is compulsory before you book your flight and pack your suitcase. There are different formalities to be dealt with which depend on your envisaged career in Canada.

If you just want to get a first impression and some contacts, you should enter the country as a tourist which generally allows for a stay of 6 months in Canada. This can only be prolonged in exceptional cases and has to be requested at least 3 weeks before the end of your planned stay. Visitors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland are not required to have a Tourist Visa.

If you decide that you want to work in Canada for a certain time, you need to have a valid work permit. Nevertheless, your decision to enter the Canadian labour marked is shared by many people from all over the world. Every year 90,000 people enter Canada in order to work there temporarily. After HRDC confirms that a foreign national may fill the job, you apply to CIC (Citizenship and Immigration Canada - see links). Only so called 'Business Visitors' are exempt from this rule as they are allowed to work in Canada without a work permit. A Business Visitor is a person entering Canada due to international business relations, and who is not entering the Canadian labour market. The typical place of work of a Business Visitor is somewhere outside Canada.

In 2004, the Canadian Embassy is going to issue up to 500 Working Holiday Visas to German citizens aged between 18 and 35 which are valid for a period of 12 months. Germans can now apply for this visa - the offer is valid as long as supplies last. However, applicants will have to search for jobs themselves - excluded from this program are healthcare, teaching and child care jobs (see links).

If you want to burn all bridges and want to immigrate to Canada, you must apply for permanent residence.

As a business immigrant you have the choice of entering Canada as an investor, as an entrepreneur or as a self-employed person. In any case you will have to give proof of your profound business knowledge and experience and must invest a certain amount of money in Canada. Another way of obtaining a permanent residence is to immigrate as a "skilled worker". To qualify as a skilled worker/travailleur qualifié you need a combination of skills such as education, experience, knowledge of French or English, personal adaptability and other factors, which will be assessed by a points system. Your professional skills must be easily comparable to the Canadian labour market.

The period between your application and take off to Canada should not be calculated with too short notice: the usual duration for acceptance of your application is 15 months - if everything works out alright.

Job search and application

As you need a new job in Canada before you can apply for a work permit, your planning must be particularly thorough. In any case, it is definitely a good idea to make contacts and build a network while you are visiting Canada. These will help you later when it comes to finding a job. Your chances on the labour market are quite good if you have sound professional experience, good language skills, some contacts and one of the qualifications that are required in Canada. At the moment Canada has some demand for engineers, technicians, doctors and trained craftspeople. The boom sectors of Canadian business are biotechnology, the car and car components industry, information technology, telecommunications, aeronautical industry, agriculture, food and the timber industry.

Note also that Canada is a bilingual country and that some regions only speak French. This applies in particular to the French speaking province of Québec whereas English is a must for applications in the other Canadian provinces. Even though it is not obligatory to be fluent in both languages it definitely would be a clear competitive advantage.

Working Conditions

Fairly often Canada is considered a soft version of the American Way of Life: social differences are not as obvious as in the US, freedom and individualism, however, play a dominant role and the standard of living is comparable to that of the southern neighbour. Nevertheless, you should not make the mistake of expecting welfare state standards in Canada that are comparable to Germany.  The Canadian economy is based on competition, average salaries are lower than in Germany, employee protection laws or company bonus programs are the exception.

Despite these facts the quality of life is very high in Canada : in the last few years of the 20th century, the UN elected Canada seven times in a row as the country with the best quality of life. Furthermore, the overall economic situation is better in Canada than in Germany. Whereas the latter has an unemployment rate of more than 10%, the Canadian rate was down at 7.4% in December.

Health Insurance

Canada has a state health system. As the Canadian Provinces generally have a say in the politics of health and social insurances, the system is a bit complex. Thus, the system is usually financed by taxes whereas some provinces charge health insurance contributions. Accordingly, taxes are lower in these provinces. Only Canadians and foreigners with an unlimited residence permit are insured. If you stay for a limited period, you must take out private insurance.

As the range of services covered by the state insurance is very limited, many Canadians are additionally insured by their employers. Of course, such insurance is only valid as long as you are employed by your employer. Due to the very restricted insurance benefits which do not cover medication, emergency services or visits to the dentist, you should look for additional health insurance protection.