3 Ways to Immigrate: Move to Canada Without Work Experience

If you're hoping to immigrate to Canada but don't have prior work experience, you may still be able to move to the country without proof of previous employment. Our Ottawa and Orleans immigration physicians list three pathways that may be options for you.

How to Immigrate to Canada Without Work Experience

Suppose you're thinking of immigrating to Canada but don't have any work experience. In that case, you may be skeptical that you'll be able to remain in the country without some history of employment here.

However, we don't think you should give up just yet. Whether you'll be able to move to the country without work experience depends on a number of factors. There are also several pathways you can look at taking to get here, including visa and immigration programs that don't require applicants to have any work experience to be eligible to stay in Canada. 

Provided you can meet the requirements of a specific program, you may be able to seize an opportunity to become a permanent resident in Canada. Generally, these three programs offer applicants the best chance to live, work and study if they'd like to move to Canada without work experience. 

Post Graduate Work Permit Program

Recent graduates of designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada can obtain a work permit through the Post Graduate Work Permit Program (PGWPP), which allows them to build up enough work experience while they're in the country to either extend their work permit or advance to permanent residence. 

A government or provincial authority must designate a post-secondary educational institution as a Canadian DLI so international students can enroll in the school. 


Here are the requirements you'll need to fulfill to be eligible for a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP):

  • Have completed your academic, professional or vocational training at a DLI in Canada:
    • Have studied full-time
    • Have studied in Canada in a program of at least 8 months, but no longer than 3 years
    • Have a transcript and official letter from your DLI proving you've completed the requirements to obtain the qualification

The length of your qualification program would coincide with how long your PGWP would be valid. Here is some relatively simple data on how long you can stay on a work permit.

Finding the Length of Your PGWP
 Length of Study Program  Length of Work Permit
 8 months - 2 years  Same length as your study program (Doctoral and Master's candidates may be eligible for a 3-year work permit
 2+ years  3 years
 More than one program completed within 2 years  Length of both programs

How to Apply 

Individuals applying for a PGWP must apply within 180 days of receiving written confirmation (such as an official transcript) that they've completed their studies at their DLI. Once you receive your guarantee, go to the Government of Canada's website to apply for a PGWP. 

Application requirements vary depending on the country you're coming from. See a full breakdown of each country's requirements on the website. 

How can this lead to permanent residence?

You'll be able to live and work in Canada long enough to qualify for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) - one stream of Canada's Express Entry immigration program) once you get your PGWP. Keep in mind that under the CEC, you'll need to live in Canada for at least 12 months to gain permanent residence. 

Working Holiday Visa Program

If you're hoping to come to Canada for an opportunity to travel and work, your best visa pathway is the Canada Working Holiday Visa through the International Experience Canada (IEC). Specifically designed for young people traveling through Canada, this visa program is primarily targeted to those looking for contract or seasonal work in Canada (such as fruit pickers or ski instructors). Individuals will be allowed to earn money while they are in the country. 

Work Anywhere in Canada

This temporary open-work permit allows you to work for any company in Canada for your work permit. You can also move around the country and shift from job to job throughout Canada, as long as you're able to fund yourself. However, you must meet the requirements to receive a Canada Working Holiday Visa. 

What to Do Before You Apply

You'll need to meet several important criteria for this type of visa due to the open nature of the work permit and the fact that work experience isn't required. One of the most important requirements is that the Working Holiday Visa is only available to 35 countries around the world. If you are from any of these countries, you can apply for this visa: 

  • Australia
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan
  • Lithuania
  • Netherlands
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Sweden
  • Ukraine
  • Austria
  • Costa Rica
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Ireland
  • Korea, Rep
  • Luxembourg
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Slovenia
  • Switzerland
  • United Kingdom

  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Estonia
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • San Marino
  • Spain 
  • Taiwan

If your country isn't listed here, you may still be able to apply for a Working Holiday Visa through a recognized organization such as GO International, Stepwest or SWAP Working Holidays. 

While you can only get a Working Holiday Visa once in some countries, in others you can do so twice, but only in different streams. Even if you receive multiple invitations to apply for the IEC, you can't get a Working Holiday Visa if your country will not allow it. So be sure to check your country's status before applying.


Aside from confirming that you're from one of the 35 countries listed above, you should fulfill these other basic requirements to give yourself the best chance of success:

  • Valid passport
  • No dependent
  • Age 18-35 (for some countries, the cutoff is 30)
  • Round-trip ticket or enough funds to cover one
  • $2,500 to pay initial expenses
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Health insurance
How to Apply

The Canadian government puts applications into a pool for this draw-based visa program, then grants a Working Holiday Visa to the best applications. Once your eligibility for the visa is guaranteed and you've gathered your funds and documents, you'll need to take three significant steps:

1. Create an online profile. 
You'll need to answer questions based on the criteria listed above. 

2. Wait for the Working Holiday Visa draw. 
You'll receive an invitation to apply if you are successful. Once you get this invitation, you'll have 10 days to complete your profile. 

3. Apply within 20 days of receiving your invitation to apply. 
Find all the required portals and application forms on the Government of Canada's website. 

Other IEC Programs

Under International Experience Canada, people without any work experience may have a chance to work in Canada under two other programs. 

The Young Professionals Program

College or university graduates looking for employment in Canada can work for a Canadian company under this stream, even if they don't have previous work experience. To qualify for this stream, you'll need a signed employment letter from a Canadian company. 

International Co-op Internship

Geared to students who are still studying in their country of origin and are hoping to gain work experience in their field of study in Canada, the International Co-op Internship requires all applicants to have a job offer from a Canadian company. 

Family Sponsorship 

What if you don't plan to work or study here, but do want to come to Canada with family? The Canada Family Sponsorship program allows foreigners with a guardian, family member, common-law or conjugal partner or spouse to move to Canada without work experience. 

The program was designed to keep immigrating families together, and an individual only has a few requirements to fulfill to be eligible to sponsor family members. 

Who is eligible to be a sponsor?

A sponsor must be: 

  • Living in Canada
  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident
  • At least 18 years old 
  • Financially able to sponsor the applicant

However, certain people may not be able to become sponsors. For example, if you:

  • Receive social assistance (excluding social disability)
  • Have declared bankruptcy
  • Have not paid alimony or child support (if applicable)
  • Have previously defaulted on an immigration loan or performance bond
  • Sponsored someone else within three years after becoming a Canadian permanent resident
  • Were sponsored yourself and became a permanent resident of Canada less than five years ago
  • Have been convicted of a crime
  • Are in a jail, prison or reformatory
  • Are under some form of removal order

Review the Government of Canada's instruction guide to find out more about requirements you'll need to fulfill and what can disqualify you from sponsor eligibility for Canada Family Sponsorship.

How long can you be sponsored for?

Your age, the province you're in and your relationship to your sponsor will determine the answer to this question. For example, Quebec has slightly different laws than the rest of Canada, so check that you understand the laws of the province you plan to go to when considering immigration to Canada. 

 Person You Sponsor  Length of Undertaking in all Provinces (Except Quebec)  Length of Undertaking in Quebec
 Spouse, common-law partner or conjugal partner  3 years  3 years
 Child under 13 years old  10 years  10 years, or until age 18 (whichever is longer)
 Child 13 to 19 years old  Until age 22  3 years or until age 22 (whichever is longer)
 Parent or grandparent  20 years   10 years
 Other relative  10 years  10 years

How to Apply 

There are six steps to complete your application for Canada Family Sponsorship. They include:

1. Download your application kit.
Get your application from the Government of Canada's website. The kit will include your checklist, instructions to follow through the process and required application forms. 

2. Gather your documents.
Get the documents you'll need according to the government's checklist. Confirm you'll have all the necessary documentation to apply to the program. 

3. Complete the forms. 
Download and complete each application form on the Canadian government's website, then re-upload them to the Canadian immigration portal. 

4. Pay the fees. 
Pay the required processing fees. 

5. Review your application for common mistakes. 
Check that each form, document and fee are completed and paid before submitting your application. Any errors can delay your application, or prevent it from being processed. 

6. Submit your application. 
Submit your forms and documents to the Canadian government portal, then wait for your application to be processed. 

Do you want to learn move about immigration to Canada and how you can move here without prior work experience? Our doctors at Immigration Physician Ottawa can help. We can provide guidance on the application process and provide health exams and certifications as needed.
Contact us today to book an appointment.


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