How to immigrate to Canada as an engineer

Asheesh Moosapeta
Published: January 5, 2024

As Canada’s immigration system becomes more targeted towards the country’s economic needs, targeted professions have gained increasing prominence among new permanent residents—through both Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs).

Read on to learn more about what your possible immigration paths may be as an engineer in Canada.

Engineers are among the most sought-after professionals in Canada's workforce. Both federal and provincial immigration departments have declared their need for various kinds of engineers across Canada. As such engineers have an abundant number of opportunities to immigrate to the country.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

For simplicity’s sake, we can categorise pathways for engineers to immigrate to Canada into two categories:

  • direct permanent residence paths; and
  • paths that build eligibility for permanent residence (PR).

Direct permanent residence paths

Express Entry

Professional engineers looking to immigrate to Canada and gain permanent residence directly (without first needing a work permit), can make use of two paths that target their occupations: Express Entry and the PNP.

Express Entry is one of Canada’s main systems for economic immigration. It is an electronic system that encompasses three immigration programs:

This year, Express Entry has incorporated category-based draws to better address Canada’s labour shortages. These categories are made up of targeted occupations, that candidates with experience in those professions can be chosen under—and invited to apply for PR.

Engineers are included within the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) category. The engineering professions targeted include:

  • Civil Engineers (NOC Code: 21300);
  • Computer Engineers (NOC Code: 21311);
  • Electrical and Electronics Engineers (NOC Code: 21310);
  • Engineering Managers (NOC Code: 20010);
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineers (NOC Code: 21321);
  • Metallurgical and Materials Engineers (NOC Code: 21322); and
  • Software Engineers and Designers (NOC Code: 21231);

Note that while targeted professions can help those with experience gain PR, basic eligibility criteria for Express Entry must be met to be considered in category-based draws. To learn more about eligibility and process of applying for Express Entry click here.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

PNPs are Canada’s number one pathway for economic immigration. These are immigration programs that each province (except for Nunavut and Quebec (which runs its own immigration program) administers.

PNPs are designed to spread the benefits of immigration across Canada, and help provinces address their local labour, economic and demographic needs. As such PNPs have been targeting specific professions for much longer than Express Entry.

Each PNP has its own list of in-demand occupations, in which engineers often feature prominently. For example, British Columbia targets seven engineering professions with its PNP. For a more comprehensive look at what professions are targeted, you can read our article here, or do a web search for in-demand occupations for your PNP of choice.

Like Express Entry, basic eligibility criteria for the PNP must be met to be eligible for these targeted measures. Note that these can vary greatly between PNPs and their individual immigration streams. To learn more about the process of applying to a PNP, click here.

Paths to building eligibility for PR

If you find that you are lacking work experience eligibility for one of the direct permanent residence pathways, you still have options as an engineer to build eligibility while in Canada, and then apply for permanent residence once ready.

Due to Canada’s need for engineers in the labour market, Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) has also instituted different work permit pathways for engineers to live and work in Canada. These will largely be encompassed within the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), the International Mobility Program (IMP), and the Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).

Temporary Foreign Worker Program

The TFWP is a collaborative initiative managed by both Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and IRCC. The purpose of the program is to facilitate Canadian employers in addressing real labour shortages by recruiting international employees while ensuring priority is given to Canadian permanent residents and citizens for open job positions.

The program issues closed work permits (work permits tied to a specific employer and industry) and is structured so that a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required in support of the hiring. An LMIA, is a document that an employer in Canada may need to obtain before hiring a foreign worker. It assesses the potential impact that hiring a foreign worker could have on Canada's labour market. To facilitate the hiring of a foreign worker, the LMIA must be either neutral or positive. Note that the employer, and not the employee, must apply for an LMIA (and further the TFWP).

Engineers looking to work in Canada may stand a good chance of receiving a work permit through the TFWP. Due to the need for engineers in the Canadian labour market, there is a better chance that international professionals who are able to secure a job in Canada will get a positive or neutral LMIA and build professional experience in Canada (something which further contributes to PR eligibility).

Note that the TFWP is not in itself a program but contains a variety of immigration streams within it, through which immigration candidates must apply. Engineers may qualify for:

  • High or low wage streams of the TFWP, depending on the wage of their current engineering job; and
  • The Global Talent Stream (GTS) which provides expedited work permits for professionals with specialised education and skills. Engineers are a prominent group who receive work permits under this stream.

International Mobility Program (IMP)

The IMP is a government-driven initiative managed by IRCC. The primary goal of the IMP is to enhance Canada's wide-ranging economic, social, and cultural policy goals. Consequently, the program serves a dual purpose: it assists in meeting labor market needs by facilitating the arrival of foreign workers and contributes to strengthening Canada's diplomatic ties with the worldwide community. While similar in purpose to the TFWP, the IMP is distinct as it does not necessitate an LMIA for the hiring of a foreign worker in Canada.

Two significant components of the IMP that engineers can utilise are the Canada-United States-and-Mexico Alliance (CUSMA), formerly NAFTA) Professionals stream and the Intra-Company Transferees stream.

The CUSMA Professionals stream is a product of the tripartite agreement among Canada, the United States, and Mexico – the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA). This stream features a catalogue of around 60 job roles (engineering roles among them) that are eligible for a streamlined work permit, aptly named the CUSMA Professional work permit. Click here to learn more about the CUSMA work permit.

Alternatively, engineers can utilise the Intra-Company Transferee (ICT) work permit. The ICT program allows international companies to temporarily transfer key employees to a Canadian branch, subsidiary, or affiliate. Specifically, the ICT program is ideally suited for engineers who have been employed continuously by their overseas company for at least one year. Note that there is also a CUSMA intra-company transferee process that operates on a similar basis, for American and Mexican companies who have a branch, subsidiary, or affiliate in Canada.

Engineers can qualify through the specialised knowledge category, which recognises workers with unique and specialist company-specific knowledge or qualifications that are uncommon in the industry. This understanding can include proprietary technology, software, techniques, or procedures. To learn more about ICT work permits, click here.

Post-Graduation Work Permit

The final path by which engineers can build eligibility for PR while in Canada is through a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This is an open work permit, which means it allows holders to work for most employers in most industries.

The PGWP is issued after an international student completes their studies in Canada (at a Designated Learning Institution), for the duration equivalent to the length of their studies, for up to three years.

Due to the flexibility of this work permit, it can be a key path by which Canadian-educated engineers can both gain employment in Canada, and significantly aid their chances of attaining PR in Canada.

Discover if You Are Eligible for Canadian Immigration

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