12 Common Resume Mistakes by Expats

Happy 2022! It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. In thinking about how I want to use this blog going forwards, I’ve decided to incorporate more of my day job into my posts. That is: human resources with a specialization in recruitment.

Over the past seven years, I’ve reviewed thousands of resumes for various positions. Many of these resumes have been from immigrants and expats. There are common mistakes made by all applicants, and there are common mistakes made specifically by newcomers.

I’ve decided to use my recruiting knowledge to try to help anyone who is planning to move to Canada. You’ve got your work permit, landed in Canada, found accommodation, and now you need to find a job. Below is my list of 12 common resume mistakes that can reduce someone’s chances of getting a job, and why.

This content has been copied and modified from an article I created and shared on my LinkedIn page. I am not an employment lawyer or registered immigration consultant. All advice provided is based off my personal knowledge and experiences, and does not represent the views of any specific organization. This post is intended as a guide and I am not responsible for the outcome of any job applications.

1. Sharing Personal Information

There’s a tendency for some applicants to share personal details on their resume, including their date of birth and marital status. Even if this is the custom in your home country, I recommend not doing this because it can open up the possibility of unconscious bias and discriminatory hiring. Although age and marital status are protected grounds under Canadian human rights legislation, many employers are unfortunately still guilty of age bias against people from older generations. The only personal information you need to include on your resume is your name, phone number or email, and town of residence.

If you’ve arrived in Canada with permanent resident or citizenship status, it’s a good idea to mention this on your resume. If you’re on a temporary open work permit, mention in your cover letter that you are authorized to work full-time in Canada. Don’t mention your visa expiry date because it may turn some employers off. Instead, wait until this question comes up in a pre-screen call, by which time you will have hopefully made a good impression on the recruiter and they’ll be happy to move to the next stage regardless.

2. Wrong Location

Some people that are applying for jobs outside of their town/province will list their location as being in the area where the employer is based. While I can understand the motivation behind this, it can be frustrating for a recruiter to think they have a promising candidate, only to discover later in the screening process that there will be delays because the candidate would need time to find a new place to live. This is especially the case if the company isn’t able to provide a relocation package or needs someone ASAP.

Better practice is to list your actual address but make note on your cover letter that you are able and willing to relocate should an offer be received. If you already have accommodation organized, for example with a friend or relative, make this clear too.

3. Spelling Mistakes & Formatting Issues

Everyone makes typos from time to time. Some employers will excuse a spelling mistake, especially if the applicant is an ESL speaker and the position applied for does not require much writing. However, if you’re applying for a communications or secretarial position, the employer will be less forgiving. This is especially true now when there is so much competition for jobs. If you have a few typos before the hiring manager has even got halfway down your resume, it’s possible they will immediately put you in the reject pile, even if you have good experience.

Additionally, some resumes are very untidy and confusing to look at. They might have inconsistent font styles and sizes, only list employment dates for some positions and not others, or list their past jobs in random orders. To a hiring manager, a sloppily presented resume shows a lack of respect to the application process by suggesting it isn’t being taken seriously. Again, you might be rejected before the hiring manager has got to the bottom of the first page.

Make sure you list the job title, employer name, and employment dates for each position to create consistency and prevent confusion about your employment history. Generally, jobs should be listed in reverse chronological order with the most recent at the top.

4. Language & Terminology Differences

When I arrived in Canada, I was surprised by how certain terminology used in England wasn’t recognized in this English-speaking country. This includes job titles. For example, people in England say “waiter” or “waitress”, while Canadians tend to say “server”. In England, they often say “air steward” but here they say “flight attendant.” Some terms are quite obvious to translate, however, if a hiring manager is not familiar with the terminology you’re using on your resume and they have hundreds of applicants for one position, it’s very possible you’ll miss out.

When writing a resume, it makes sense to adapt your spelling to the country you’ll be working in. Canada uses a combination of British and American spellings, but generally it uses more Z’s than S’s (recognize vs recognise, analyze vs analyse, etc.).

5. Too Much Emphasis on Education

A mistake British applicants often make is listing all their education credentials on their resume. To be honest, this is often a waste of time and space because many Canadian hiring managers don’t know what an A-level, A*, or 2:1 is. Unless the job ad requests it, hiring managers don’t need to know each module you studied at university and what your grades were. In most cases, they are more interested in knowing about your practical experience.

If the job ad requests a resume and not a CV, keep it simple by just listing the highest level of education you have, your subject, and the year you graduated. If it’s required for you to list your degree grade, it’s best to convert it to the equivalent Canadian GPA.

Another issue with listing your entire education history in detail is that it can make you seem over-qualified for a position. PhD students in particular can have a difficult time finding jobs for this reason. If your resume shows you have a very specialized education but you are applying for a junior-level job that only requires a secondary school diploma, hiring managers might have concerns about your commitment.
Structure your resume based on the job specifications in the job description. If more emphasis is placed on practical experience over education, focus on highlighting the former.

6. Too Long/Wordy

Most employers in Canada will ask for a resume vs a CV. CVs are longer, with more details on education and experience. Some people think a resume should only be one page long. I disagree with this personally, but think three pages is a good maximum. Every time I’ve read a five-page resume, I’ve felt that it could have easily been condensed, with repeated or less relevant information removed. Brevity is key. Some job applicants say a lot on their resume without actually saying anything. Some repeat information through the disguise of different wording. A waffling resume might raise concerns about your ability to identify and select important information.

If you’ve had the same role for many years but performed it for a few different employers, consider using a functional resume style. In this format, you first summarize the main skills and experience you’ve demonstrated across all positions, and then list the employment organizations, titles, and dates after.

7. Unnecessary Employment Information

Following on from the above, some newcomers (commonly younger ones) feel a need to include on their resume every single job they’ve had. They perhaps think that showing they’ve been working since they were in secondary school will impress employers. Truth is, employers more often care about quality and not quantity. If you have a long resume that shows a variety of different jobs, it might be unclear to the hiring manager what your interests and best skills are.

If the job description notes they require someone with three years of experience in a specific role, the hiring manager is likely to lean towards the resume that has highlighted experience in that specific role, even if it’s the only work experience that’s listed. That’s because this resume will suggest a greater interest in and commitment to the job.

If you’re in your late twenties and have been working professionally since you were 21, there’s no need to include weekend jobs you had in your late teens. Focus on tailoring your resume to the position you’re applying for and include the jobs that show relevant skills.

8. Tailored to the Wrong Field

In addition to the above mistake of including too much generic information, there’s also a mistake of including too much specific information that’s irrelevant to the job being applied for.

If you have a retail background but are applying to be an admin assistant in the provincial government, having a skills summary that highlights your experience boosting revenue and exceeding sales targets is likely going to make the hiring manager wonder why you’re applying for the job. They might question your career goals and have concerns about commitment. Although the accomplishments you’ve listed might be impressive generally, if they’re not useful or applicable to the role, they won’t seem that valuable to the employer.

Depending on your career interests, it’s good practice to keep a template of resumes that can be modified for different positions, e.g. administration, customer service, marketing, etc. People with an engineering background might have one template for this, one for quality assurance, and another for project management.

9. Stretching

Stretching a resume involves exaggerating or embellishing certain details to sound more impressive. This could include adding a course that you haven’t yet finished in order to seem more knowledgeable, extending employment dates by a couple of months in order to suggest more commitment, adjusting a job title to suggest more seniority, or adding job responsibilities you didn’t have in order to appear more skilled and in line with the job specifications. These might seem like minor adjustments, but if reference checks reveals the discrepancies, it could raise concerns about how honest and trustworthy you are.

When preparing your resume and cover letter, remember that if offered an interview, you will need to be able to back up any statements you make with an example. There’s no point noting that you improved office processes if you can’t give an example of an occasion you did this and how.

10. Copy-and-Pasting Job Descriptions

Some applicants, including native English speakers and ESL speakers, will copy and paste a previous job description onto their resume when summarizing their employment history. Someone very experienced in reviewing resumes will be able to tell when this has happened. A potential issue with copy and pasting is that some employees don’t end up performing all duties listed in the job description. Perhaps they resigned or were let go before having a chance to take on some of the responsibilities. Inclusion of such content would therefore mean your resume is untruthful. A thorough reference check with a direct supervisor will verify job duties that were performed. Again, concerns about honesty might result.

There’s nothing wrong with referencing a previous job description to help you remember the duties you had, but the content should be rewritten in your own words.

11.  Tone

The tone of your resume is something that can inspire a hiring manager’s first impression of you as a person – in positive or negative ways. Sometimes, in an attempt to highlight their skills and experience, a candidate comes across boastful and this makes me wonder how good they would be at working in a team. On other occasions, a candidate has come across as quite casual and informal, which has raised questions about how professional they would be in the workplace and as a representative of an organization. Such impressions might be made consciously, or they might be completely unintended and the result of a language barrier. Before submitting a resume, ask a friend to read over it to assess how “likeable” you sound.

12.  Too Much Emphasis on Hobbies

Listing hobbies helps give the hiring manager an idea of the type of person you are, but should be approached carefully. Some people mention hobbies because they think doing so will make them seem like a good cultural fit. For example, they’re applying for a customer service position at a cricket ground, and they happen to love playing cricket. While this may seem like a good match, the hiring manager wants to be sure applicants will work hard and are not just applying for the job for any perks (like watching cricket for free!). If this candidate devotes their cover letter to talking about cricket and not about their relevant skills and job experience, the hiring manager will likely be suspicious about their motives and hesitant to move forward.

It’s fine to mention your interest in what the organization does, but keep this brief. I also recommend avoiding listing hobbies like “Going out with friends” or “Watching TV” because these don’t add anything of value.


I hope you find these tips helpful. Good luck with your application! 

Age & Assumptions | Working Overseas as a Millennial Woman

A few people have asked me what the most challenging thing is about living in another country. As you’d expect, one of the hardest things is being away from family and friends for long periods. The pandemic has really added to that challenge, with my flights this summer cancelled and no real certainty of when I’ll next be going home.

As a blonde and softly spoken immigrant woman from the millennial generation, the other challenging thing about living overseas for me personally has been having to occasionally deal with underestimating assumptions about my abilities from people I’ve met, whether in a personal or professional setting.

I write the above with a firm acknowledgment that I have benefited from white privilege through my life. I haven’t had assumptions made about me regarding criminal status. Restrictions on the schools I could attend or areas I could live in were not influenced by my race. I was able to move to North America free from expectation I’d face discrimination because of my skin colour, and I recognize how fortunate I am for that.

In this post I’m addressing societal attitudes towards young women, specifically assumptions about their abilities that appear to be influenced by a mixture of general stereotypes and unconscious biases.

I’m 28 years old, and three years ago shortly after I moved to Canada, I decided to stop wearing mascara to work. Make-up was already something I didn’t wear much of, but I was sick of getting styes and realized I didn’t care how I looked without it. Given my naturally fair facial features, an understandable effect of this is that people tend to assume I’m younger than I am. When I was 25, I went through security at Victoria International Airport and the female searcher said “So, you’re probably around 18, right?” I laughed it off, but afterwards I wondered why she couldn’t have just asked me to tell her my age, instead of telling me how old she thought I was.

When corrected on age, people will often tell you to “take it as a compliment” that they mistook you for younger. There comes a point when saying this just becomes annoying. It’s okay if people guess my age incorrectly; what isn’t okay is when people associate this assumed age with my abilities.

At a recent small barbecue, I met a man with a foreign accent who appeared to be in his late 60s. After he brought up New Zealand a couple of times, I asked where in the country he was from, and he reciprocated by asking me where I was from.  After I told him, he said, “So, do you have family here?”

When I returned home I felt irritated, and I realized it was because of the man’s question. This is a question I’ve received several times since I moved to Canada. Although part of me knew it was a reasonable question to ask, and although I knew the man meant well, I found it frustrating that his initial assumption had to be that I had moved to Canada with or to be with family. What’s wrong with simply asking “Why did you move to Canada?”? Why must there be the assumption that I couldn’t have immigrated by or for myself?

A few months after moving to Canada, I met with a recruiter to discuss the local job market for HR and recruitment roles. The woman implied my chances of being hired for a permanent job in my field were low because I was on a two-year working holiday visa. I left the meeting with my confidence dealt a blow, the woman’s skeptical expression and fake smile etched in my mind. I felt like her opinion of me had been formed at first glance, and she hadn’t really given me a chance.

That same afternoon, I attended another interview and was offered the job there and then. I work as a Staffing Consultant, connecting job-seekers with employers. My role involves interviewing people on a daily basis, and often these people are older than me. Before COVID-19 led to remote working and phone interviews, it wasn’t uncommon for me to introduce myself to a candidate and receive a blank or confused look in return. Sometimes I would even notice a brief look of disapproval. During interviews, some of these people would make faces at the way I pronounced certain words with my accent.

What’s important to note is that it wasn’t just men giving me this reception. There aren’t enough fingers on my hands to count how many times women have called me “sweetie”, “honey”, or “dear”. People from all genders have said “Oh, you’re so young!” in surprise. They have remarked with embarrassed faces that their son/daughter is “probably your age”. Others have scoffed when asked a question about a job on their resume and said “I think I worked at that company before you were even born”.

While some of these comments and terms of address are used innocently without the intention of causing offence, they are inappropriate and often come across as patronizing. For those with a sensitive ego, their implication in referencing my age is that I am not competent or experienced enough to help them, or that I do not deserve to be the person with authority in this working relationship.

What’s ironic is that we would never say the above comments to someone who appears to be over 60, because society tells us it’s rude to do so. While it’s always nice to feel I’ve changed someone’s initial opinion about me, it’s just a shame the assumption has to exist in the first place. With workers retiring later and Gen Z’s entering the workforce, different generations are working side by side more than ever, and I know I am not the only millennial woman who has been condescended or underestimated by older colleagues.

Having grown up in a society where blondes are still stereotyped as bimbos whose main skills are shopping and posing on the cover of lads’ mags, being underestimated is not new to me, but moving overseas has brought a new dimension to it. It’s not uncommon for someone to assume that I’m a student, or to look surprised when they learn I have a job that isn’t related to hospitality, tourism or retail. Of course there is nothing wrong with working these jobs; I just wish it didn’t have to be the assumption that they would be my only option as a young female immigrant.

A positive of this experience is that it’s given me a tougher skin. I’m getting better at not taking reactions or comments personally, and more confident at (politely) letting the person know they are inappropriate. I try to see such moments as an opportunity to change someone’s perspective towards younger women.

Another positive has been that it’s made me more mindful of my own stereotypes. There’s no denying the reality that everyone has their unconscious biases or believes in irrational stereotypes, whether inspired by society and the media, their upbringing, or other sources. I try to practise being open-minded in everyday life, which is only beneficial for my job. As someone who has been underestimated, it feels good to be in a position where I can endorse those young women (and others) who have been underestimated and overlooked as well.

If this post does anything, I hope it makes readers think about and perhaps reconsider a) their assumptions about the motivations of female immigrants, b) their assumptions about the capabilities of young female immigrants, and c) the way they address and speak to younger females in the workplace.


A 20-Something’s Guide to Getting Permanent Residence in Canada

My soft spot for Canada developed when I travelled through the country in August 2011, aged 19. It was this country that instilled in me a new sense of confidence, independence and adventure. Soon after my trip, I moved to London to start university, graduating from King’s College London in summer 2014 with a BA in History. I spent that summer in Canada and road-tripped through the USA, without a clear vision of what I wanted to “do” or “be”. Through a mixture of luck and initiative, I was offered a staffing and recruitment role in 2015, and found it to be a field I thoroughly enjoyed working in for the next two years. My relationship with London and England in general wasn’t blossoming quite as well, and I maintained my love affair with Canada through a trip in between contracts. The big and bustling city just wasn’t for me; I dreamed of mountains and lakes of British Columbia, of hiking on the weekend and smelling the ocean’s scent on evenings. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be doing with my life in 30 years’ time, but I did know that moving to this part of Canada would bring me much more happiness than my life in London. I identified for myself that I needed a big change. Neil Young sang “24 and there’s so much more”, and that was how I felt. Some people aspire to have a certain title, make lots of money and have a big house, but for me, living a healthy, active and happy life in a beautiful part of the world was the goal.

Canada is understandably one of the most popular choices for people looking to work and travel overseas; it has beautiful scenery, it’s relatively safe, and it has an immigrant-friendly government. Aged 24, I moved to Victoria in late December 2016 on a two year working holiday visa. Happily settled into a Canadian life, I submitted my application for permanent residence in June 2018 and was granted this status in December of that year.  Below is my guide to the process.

Peyto Lake, Alberta

Getting to Canada

When looking for information on the available opportunities for immigrating to Canada, the only website you should be consulting is the Government of Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) website. The easiest way to start your quest for Canadian permanent residence is to go on this website and apply for a working holiday visa via the International Experience Class system, which is open to applicants aged 18-35. Depending on your country’s agreement with Canada, you can get either a one or two-year work permit that allows you to work for any employer (barring those in the sex trade…). Applying for this is fairly simple and just requires you to enter some personal information including your age and citizenship. You are then entered into a pool from which candidates are randomly selected to apply for the visa, typically after two or three months. You then submit an application form with your personal details and the addresses/occupations of your family members, have a police criminal background check completed, and pay the fee. If your application is approved, you have a year in which to arrive in Canada, where upon arrival an immigration officer will ask you a few questions. You must be able to prove you have sufficient funds to survive for a few months without a job, and have purchased medical insurance to cover the duration of your visa.

Establishing Yourself in Canada 

I was lucky when I moved to Canada in that I already knew the area I would be living in and had a (now-ex) boyfriend whose family I was able to live with for the first few months. If you have enough money saved to rent a place from the beginning, there are usually many house-share listings available on websites like Kijiji or Craigslist. If you don’t have any handy connections and are worried about funds, consider signing up for work exchange programs like Workaway, HelpX or WWOOF. In exchange for around 5 hours’ work a day (gardening, labouring, looking after animals etc.), you receive free food and accommodation. This is a great way to save money while helping others, meet people and get to know your new neighbourhood. Some families really show their helpers an awesome time during their free time, whether it’s taking them camping, sailing or horse-riding. Just make sure you aren’t having too much fun that you’re not putting enough time into searching for a paid job! It’s worth pointing out here that because I had already seen a lot of Canada on previous trips, I was more eager to jump into hunting for a full-time job than I’d expect of someone who was completely new to the country.

Finding a Job

There are a few different programs through which you can apply for permanent residence, with certain criteria needing to be met in order to qualify for each. Naturally, work experience has a huge influence on whether or not you will be granted permanent residence.

The Canadian Experience Class program is a good option for 20-something applicants who only have a couple of years’ skilled work experience in total but have a full-time job in the same field in Canada. The Federal Skilled Worker Program suits older applicants with a solid education who lack Canadian experience but have worked in a skilled role for the past 10 years. Experienced carpenters, electricians, plumbers and so on should check out the Federal Skilled Trades Program.

Because of my age, amount of professional experience in England, and the permanent position I received with a Canadian company, I opted to go through the Canadian Experience Class for my PR application. This program requires applicants to have 12 months’ of full-time (1560 hours minimum) work experience with a Canadian employer in the past three years before applying. The job must also fall within the skills category of 0, A or B in the National Occupation Classification (NOC).  ‘0’ refers to managerial jobs in any field, whether this is Human Resources, hospitality, health care or construction. ‘A’ refers to professional roles that typically require completion of a degree, such as a physiotherapist, engineer or teacher. ‘B’ refers to skilled jobs that typically require post-secondary education or training, like legal assistants or electricians. To be brutally honest, working as a server or retail assistant won’t cut it. If you want another country to accept you as a permanent resident, you need to prove that you will bring skills required in the job market that are perhaps lacking among the Canadian population in that region.

If you are struggling with your job search, considering registering with an employment agency. After learning about your skills and preferences, staffing consultants will send you details of job leads with their clients. These are typically temporary roles but can often lead to permanent opportunities if the client decides the temp would be a good long-term fit for the company. I myself signed up with a local employment agency and completed a few temp assignments with the provincial government. While the wage was lower than I was used to and the work less challenging than I was used to, I knew that it was worth it in order to make useful contacts, enhance my resume with some Canadian experience, and ultimately increase my chances of finding a permanent job as a foreigner. Funnily enough, a few months after registering with them, the agency offered me a position as a staffing consultant when a vacancy opened up, and it remains my job to this day! While I definitely had some luck with the timing, I wouldn’t have been offered the role had I not made a good impression during my temp assignments. Moral of the story: let go of your ego and who knows where you will end up!

Sooke, Vancouver Island

Preparing for your Application

If your job is going well and you are confident in its longevity, half the hard work is done! The rest mostly requires organization, patience and frankly, quite a lot of money. To apply through the Canadian Experience Class program, you need to have worked continuously for 12 months. If you work on a shift basis, make sure you are getting enough hours to total the minimum 1560hrs amount at the 12-month mark. If you work a consistent Monday to Friday schedule, use your free time to focus on the other application prerequisites.

While there is no education requirement for the Canadian Experience Class program, getting your education assessed (if it was completed outside of Canada) will boost your points in the Express Entry pool. The Education Credential Assessment (ECA) verifies that your foreign education is equivalent to Canadian standards. It takes up to four months to be processed, so get organized early. Contact your old university or college requesting they send your certificate and transcripts to the organization conducting the assessment (I used the University of Toronto Continuing Studies). You also need to upload a copy of these certificates to the organization’s website, before paying the fee of $271 (as priced in 2017).

A language test must be taken before a candidate is eligible to apply for permanent residence. Yes, you read correctly: if you were born and raised in England, you must still take a test to prove your proficiency in English. I opted to just take the English exam through IELTS. Taking an additional French exam will give you more points, but it will also cost more money, so it’s not worth doing unless you’re super confident in your abilities. This exam involves a Reading, Listening, Writing and Speaking element, and requires half a day of your time (but you can take them on weekends!). Results are mailed out around two weeks later and are valid for a year. It cost me $309 to take the IELTS test. You might be thinking, “This is ridiculous, I’ve communicated in English for 24 years, I shouldn’t have to take a test”, but don’t expect to receive full marks on each test; I didn’t, and I’m a literary nerd. If I could re-take the test I would practise writing in pencil beforehand, especially because some people already struggle to read my handwriting in pen.

While you wait to reach the 12-month mark with your job, it’s also worth contacting your former employers in your home country to ask for references or copies of your contracts, as these will be required when proving your work experience later on in the process.

Applying for Express Entry

Express Entry is a points-based pool system that considers candidates’ age, education, work experience and language skills when assigning them with a rank. Draws take place throughout the year and candidates with the highest number of points are invited to submit a residency application. There are federal and provincial Express Entry options available, with the Provincial Nominee Program meaning a province can nominate you to apply. In the interests of money, I just went through the federal system.

Certain criteria need to be met before you are eligible to create an Express Entry profile. Once you have been employed for 12 months, completed your language tests, and had your educational credentials verified, go on the IRCC website. The ‘Come to Canada’ wizard has a questionnaire which determines what immigration programs you are eligible for. It asks you for your age, citizenship, marriage status and so on before inquiring about your work experience, education and language test results. Eligible candidates will receive a personal reference code to start their Express Entry application. You will only be eligible to apply through the Canadian Experience Class program if your dates of employment show you have held your position for 12 months. Entering the pool is free. (“Finally, a free component of applying for PR!”)

Submitting an Application for Permanent Residence

It’s important to remember that being in the Express Entry pool doesn’t guarantee you will receive an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for residency. It ultimately depends on how your points compare to other candidates. Some people wait for months to apply, others never get the invitation and have to re-apply the next year. I was fortunate (and pleasantly surprised) to receive my ITA after one week. Candidates have 60 days in which to submit an application so once again, organization is key. Candidates must request that their home country’s police force complete a criminal background check. This cost me £45 and the certificate took about 10-14 days to arrive in the mail. They must also complete a medical exam (including an x-ray, blood test and physical) to confirm they have no contagious diseases and will ultimately not be a drain on the country’s health system. The IRCC website helpfully lists all the clinics in your area that are authorized to perform medical exams for immigration purposes. I booked mine the day after I received my ITA because spots can fill up quickly, and all the tests were done within 10 days. The total cost of the medical exams is $340. Ouch. That’s an expensive way to find out that you’re in good health.

When applying through the Canadian Experience Class, you are asked to list all your previous work experience that falls under your current Canadian job’s NOC. Proof of this experience must be provided, including signed contracts or references that note your position title, duties, hours of work, and salary/wage. Your current employer must also write a reference letter verifying your employment status. Reading that my boss valued my contributions and intended to keep me employed for years to come definitely made all the work for the application seem worth it!

Employers wanting to hire a temporary foreign worker for a specific job must typically complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to confirm that a Canadian citizen is not available to perform the job, and this costs money. However, candidates currently in Canada on a working holiday visa obtained through mobility programs like the International Experience Class have an open work permit, and because this is a reciprocal program between the UK and Canada, their employer is subsequently exempt from needing to complete a LMIA and does not need to pay any fees to sponsor the application.

A passport photo, copies of your passport, your medical exam results and criminal background check results must also be attached in the online application, before you pay the submission fee of *gulp* $1050. You’d better really want to stay in Canada!

Whistler, BC

Next Steps

You’ve submitted your application and have collapsed on your sofa with a glass of wine. Now it’s a waiting game. Applications are usually processed within six months. While easier said than done, it’s best to try and forget about your application over the next few months. Unless you have a very dodgy criminal past or you do have a contagious disease, it’s likely that your application will be approved in time. Do yourself a favour and don’t call IRCC every few weeks in hopes this will make a difference; you will simply get through to an automated system and be told that your application is being processed, with no further elaboration provided. After a month or so you might get an email from IRCC and gasp in excitement…but it will likely just be a confirmation that you passed the medical exam.

Following submission of an application, you are considered to have ‘implied status’, which means you can continue working until a decision is made on your application. For additional peace of mind, you can apply for a Bridging Work Permit. I paid the $255 fee for this in October 2018, knowing that my visa was set to expire in late December and you cannot extend working holiday visas. On reflection I don’t think it was necessary for me to do this because my application was due to reach the 6-month mark on December 1st. Had I submitted my application in September, it would have been a different story. But given how close we were getting to December, I just wanted to be safe rather than sorry. (And frankly by this point, what’s a couple more hundred dollars matter anyway..?) Typically, my PR application was approved before I even received confirmation my BWP application was approved. I’m still waiting to hear back about a refund…

Confirming Permanent Residence 

A few days before reaching the 6-month mark, I received a letter from IRCC noting that my application was in the final stages. After reading this I think I did a little jig in my office. Candidates at this stage are instructed to send an Express post parcel to an office in Ottawa with copies of their passport, a form confirming their current residential address, two professional photos* taken for their PR card, and a self-addressed return envelope.

*When getting your photos taken, don’t make the mistake I did of going to London Drugs. I asked the employee in the photography section if the store took photos for permanent residence applications and he confidently told me they did, only for me to find out a month later that the $14 I paid was for two photos that were rejected because they didn’t meet the specifications for the PR card. Thankfully this had no impact on my application, but it was still stressful to find out. I also received no response when I emailed the customer service department with constructive feedback. 

On December 5th, a week after the initial letter, I received the email from IRCC confirming that my application for permanent residence had been approved! Even though deep down I had known there was no reason I shouldn’t be successful, it was still an overwhelming moment and I immediately broke into tears of both joy and relief.

Shortly after receiving this email, your parcel from IRCC will come back with your ‘Confirmation of Permanent Residence’ landing visa. Just when you think you’re all done and can put your feet up and write your emotional Facebook post, you are told that you need to show this letter to an immigration officer and have it signed and approved before officially obtaining PR status. There is an option to schedule an appointment with an officer in your town, but this can take up to 30 days. The other option is to leave the country and speak with a border officer on return. Living so close to Washington State, I decided to get things over with and paid $60 for a US day visa and return ticket for the Coho ferry.

On return from a sunny couple of hours in Port Angeles, I showed the border officer in Victoria my landing visa and then sat down with another officer who signed the forms and informed me of the terms I must follow in order to maintain PR status. While it can take up to several weeks for the photo card to arrive in the mail, the signed landing visa is your official proof that you have permanent resident status. The border officer also touched on the process of applying for citizenship (as if I wasn’t exhausted enough from this process to start considering that!) He was absolutely lovely and I particularly appreciated his recognition of the effort that goes into getting permanent residence. It truly is a long process that requires a lot of organization, patience and dedication. It was as I walked home from the immigration office, passing Victoria’s distinctive legislature buildings on the way, that I felt a weight lift from my shoulders.

Ultimate Dos and Don’ts

  • Do make sure you consult the IRCC website for official information on anything related to Canadian permanent residence. There are lots of visa-assistance or immigration law websites that don’t always give 100% accurate information, and many of them are ultimately looking to make money off people without visa success being guaranteed.
  • Do be organized with looking for a job, getting all your documents together and booking exam dates etc. Two years goes by quicker than you think, and timing can make all the difference. Save all relevant emails in one folder and keep any mail correspondence related to the application in one place, in case you need it for future reference.
  • Do be smart with your finances. Obviously you will want to enjoy your free time, but keep the main goal in mind before you splurge out on trips across the country (domestic flights in Canada are not cheap!). Consider setting up an application fund and putting some money from each pay cheque towards it.
  • Don’t apply for PR unless you are 100% sure you want to stay in the country for the next few years. Applying for PR is a big commitment and an expensive process if you are funding yourself independently. If you are in a relationship with a Canadian, ask yourself what other factors attract you to the country and if you would genuinely want to be there if single.
  • Don’t immediately consult an immigration lawyer for advice. Applying for PR is already costly before paying additional fees for the sake of having to do a little less work. The IRCC website isn’t perfect and ESL speakers may find it confusing, but at least try to understand it first before paying for advice you might personally not need.
  • Don’t complain to immigration officials about the processing times. Everyone is in the same boat, so being petulant and demanding about the status of your application won’t do you any favours.

Approximate cost of applying for Permanent Residence (application submission, medical exams, language tests, educational credential assessment, postage and other expenses)$2500

Salt Spring Island, BC

 Good Luck with your application!


Please note, this post is an unofficial guide to the process of obtaining Canadian permanent residence, based on my personal experience. The writer of this article cannot be held accountable for the outcome of a reader’s application.

Have you successfully obtained permanent residence in Canada? Please feel free to share any additional tips or experiences below.