How to Calculate Work Experience for Canada Immigration

30.01.2022

Accurately Calculating Work Experience for Canada Immigration

Work experience is calculated on full-time work, or the equivalent full-time work completed while working part-time hours.

How are full-time hours calculated?

IRCC says that 30 hours per week is considered “full time” for work experience purposes. So if you worked 15 hours per week for a full year you would have completed 6 months of full-time work.

  • A full-time work year is considered 1560 hours, being 30 hours per week for 52 weeks. 
  • Any hours above 30 hours per week are not counted. For example, if you work 40 hours per week, this does not add any more work experience above the 30 hours required to meet the full-time threshold.

In terms of part-time work, you can count multiple part-time jobs to find your hours of work experience. So if you work two part-time jobs, one at 10 hours per week and another at 15 hours per week, you would calculate your work hours for that period as 25 hours per week.

Which occupations can I count as work experience?  

For Express Entry, you can only count “skilled” work experience. Skilled work occupations are defined as jobs that are listed as skill types 0, A and B on the NOC list. You can check the skill type of your occupation here:

https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/immigrate-canada/express-entry/eligibility/find-national-occupation-code.html

Each of the three immigration programs has different requirements for Work Experience.

Federal Skilled Worker Program Work Experience Calculation

For the Federal Skilled Worker Program, your claimed work experience must be in the same NOC Occupation that you are applying to immigrate as.  

You will need to ensure that your work duties in that role cover all the essential duties and most of the main duties for the occupation as listed in the “lead statement”, which is a detailed description of the occupation and is attached to the NOC code.

You will need to check the details of your NOC occupation and the lead statement here :  

https://noc.esdc.gc.ca/Home/Welcome/

You can only count work experience gained within the past ten years, it must have been paid work (not volunteer) and importantly for FSWP applications, you must have at least one year of continuous, full-time work.

‘Continuous’ means that there were no gaps in your work during that year.  I.E. if you changed jobs with your first job ending and your second one starting 3 weeks later, then you don’t have continuous work because there is a 3-week gap. Your new position in the same occupation would have to have started the very next day to be counted as continuous.  

You can count part-time work towards your year of continuous work, eg. If you have two years of continuous part-time work at 15 hours per week, that would be the equivalent of one year of continuous full-time work.   

To find the full-time equivalent, compare your hours to the annual total of 1560 hours which is the number of hours considered a full-time year.

Remember that any hours over 30 per week are not counted.

Now, once you have met the minimum requirement of one-year full-time continuous work in your NOC code occupation, you can now add any other work experience you had that was for shorter periods than one year, and you can count skilled work experience in other NOC code occupations.

The important thing is that you meet that minimum one-year continuous work requirement, after that, skilled work you did before or after in any NOC code can be added on.    

Remember to include all your skilled work experience as you will earn more points the more work experience you have. The most points are earned once you have more than six years of work experience in the past 10 years.

 

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Federal Skilled Trade Program

To fulfill the work experience requirement, you need at least two years of full-time work experience in the skilled trade you will be applying for, within the past five years. 

You can count part-time work experience towards your total work experience.  

Unlike the Federal Skilled Worker program, as a Federal Skilled Trade applicant, you don’t have to have “continuous” work experience. This means you can count your work experience even if you changed jobs and had gaps between those jobs.

You can only count up to the full-time hours threshold, which is 30 hours per week. Even if you worked 40 hours, you can only count 30.

For a year of work, the threshold is 1560 hours. So if you worked 40 hour weeks for 11 months and had no job for one month of the year, you can only count the 11 months at 30 hours per week, so your total hours for the year would be 30 hours x 48 weeks = 1440 hours. 

You will need to ensure that your work duties in that role cover all the essential duties and most of the main duties for the occupation as listed in the “lead statement”, which is a detailed description of the occupation and is attached to the NOC code.  

You will need to check the details of your NOC occupation and the lead statement here :  

https://noc.esdc.gc.ca/Home/Welcome/

Importantly, you can ONLY count work experience for your skilled trade after you are qualified to independently work in the trade. This means that any work you did during your training or your apprenticeship can not be counted in your skilled work experience total.

Remember to include all your relevant work experience in the past five years, don’t just stop at the minimum of two years.

 

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Canada Experience Class (CEC) Program

To qualify for the Canada Experience Class Program, you must be able to prove at least one year of full-time work experience in Canada, in one or more skilled occupations, and that work must have been conducted within the past three years.

During your employment, you must have performed the tasks in the NOC description of the Occupation. Your work experience can be across a number of different NOC codes, so long as each are NOC 0, A or B occupations, known as the skilled occupations.

Certain types of Work Experience can not be included as Canadian Work Experience. Work you undertook while a full-time student, any work where you were self-employed in Canada, and any work that you did whilst not a legal temporary resident of Canada, can not be included.

Under the CEC rules, your work does not need to be continuous to be counted. It is ok if you changed jobs or had time not working between jobs. You can count all the time you were working. Make sure you only count your actual work time and don’t include the time when you were not working or between jobs. This will be investigated, so be accurate in your work experience claims.

If you worked part-time, you can include this work experience, you will need to work out what the full-time equivalent time of the work is.  

 

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How to Calculate Work Experience for Canada Immigration: Making Sure you have the Right Work References

Your work references are essential for proving your work experience to determine your Express Entry program eligibility and your CRS score.

Work references that do not include all the information that the Canadian Government needs are the most common problem people have when submitting their Canada Visa applications.

What should be included in a work experience reference for Canada Immigration?

Certain aspects of your work experience need to be verified to confirm you are indeed eligible for the permanent residency program and that you are awarded the correct points under the CRS points calculation.

The Canada work experience reference needs to include the following information:

  • it must be on company letterhead
  • it must be dated
  • it must state your referee’s name and contact details at the company
  • it must include your full name
  • it must state your starting date and ending date at the company – or state that you are still an employee.  If you did start and stop work with them, each start and stop date must be included.  ** give an exact date of starting and finishing at the company.  Don’t be vague by saying only a month or year.
  • it must state the hours you worked each week and if you were full time or part-time 
  • it must include your salary
  • if you were paid in cash (rather than bank transfer or deposit), the reference must state that you were paid in cash.
  • it must include the title of the position you held
  • it must include a description of the tasks and responsibilities of your role at the company. *** This is so important. This is how the immigration officer will determine that you have worked in the appropriate occupation or NOC code.  
  • it must be signed
  • the current position within the company of your referee must be mentioned

Most people manage to get references that cover all the information required to be covered. The one thing to stress is that you make sure the explanation of your roles and responsibilities is precise and detailed. You need more than just one sentence. Aim to list about 8 – 10 roles and responsibilities if possible, with a short explanation of each. A good guide is to consider the job description for someone starting out in the position. The detail from the job description on roles and responsibilities is the type of information you are after.

Self Employed Applicants

What about if my work experience is as a self-employed person, or in a company that I own?

Yes, you can count this experience in most situations, however, it must be fully evidenced.

As was covered in the previous chapter, Work Experience obtained in your own business is also accepted within the CEC class so long as that work experience was not inside Canada.  

How do I prove the company is mine or that I am self-employed?

It is harder to prove that someone is self-employed and what their work tasks are. As a self-employed applicant, you will need to prove your experience through a range of extra documents compared to someone who has been employed directly.

Canada will also require you to prove you are indeed the owner of the business, that you played an active role and the number of hours a week you worked. It can take more time and more documents to do this. Don’t be discouraged, being self-employed will not disadvantage your case, it just takes a little more time and effort gathering documents together.

What additional documents will I need to provide?

To prove you do indeed own the company, that it is operational, and that you have been paid for your work, you could provide:

  • A shareholder agreement
  • A company registration document that shows you are the owner
  • Insurance certificates
  • Company tax registration and returns
  • Company lease of business premises
  • Utility bills
  • Contribution to employee pensions
  • Invoices (from each year you are claiming work experience for, provide at least 5 for each year)
  • Supplier invoices (provide a range of at least 5 for each year)
  • Your salary receipts
  • Your bank statements showing you have been receiving payment for your work in your business.
  • Any Awards you have won 
  • Website including photos of your work
  • Letters from your accountant or solicitor
  • Anything that you can think of that will help prove that you own the company or are self-employed, that the business is active and operational, that you work there, and that you are paid for your work is a great start.

Now you need your self employed “work references” for Canada Immigration

How do I obtain a reference for self-employed work experience?

The Government of Canada is well aware of the difficulties for self-employed people of being unable to write their own work reference. They understand and expect that you will present the information they require via letters of reference from other people associated with your business.

Who should I have write my work references?

People you could ask to write references for you include:

Your employees, Your business partners, clients/customers, suppliers, accountant, bank manager, etc, anyone who can confirm information that is needed from the Government.  

Confirmation of you being paid, owning the business, and that the business is active usually occurs through other documentation you provide, such as your business registration certificates, pay transfers, tax returns for yourself and your business, supplier and client invoices or receipts, lease and utilities.

You will still need to confirm the hours you work, the role you work in, and very importantly, the tasks and responsibilities you perform in your position. This is to show that you qualify under the NOC code you are claiming to immigrate to Canada under and that you do indeed work full or part-time and have the relevant work experience.

Unlike an employee, you will require multiple references to help prove your case, and each reference you obtain may only be able to confirm certain aspects of your employment. Eg – a security guard for your office building could confirm that they see you each weekday arrive at 8 – 8.30 yet if their shift finishes before you usually leave they would not be able to confirm your leaving time and you would require someone else to confirm this. 

 

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How to Calculate Work Experience for Canada Immigration: Troubleshooting Common Issues with References 

What to do when getting your work references is not so simple?

There are many circumstances where you may not be able to obtain a work reference from a previous employer or maybe the reference you can obtain does not meet all the criteria required for proving your work experience.

Perhaps the company you used to work for has closed down, perhaps the company refuses to give you a reference or for some reason is not able to include all the required information. Maybe you were a contractor and not completely employed by the said employer, or maybe you were self-employed.  

Maybe the company has changed hands and the new owners don’t know you or have your records, or you were a self-employed single-person business. Many situations can occur.

What we will do here is approach a range of the common issues that people can face when needing to prove their work experience and explain what to do about it.

The Bigger Picture when looking how to calculate work experience for Canada Immigration

Canada simply needs to know for certain that you have the experience and skills that you claim to have and that it meets the requirements of the Permanent Residency program. They also need to compare immigration applicants from all over the world in a fair way. These are the overall aims of the assessment of work experience by the immigration officers. Keep this intention in mind when dealing with any difficulties in this area, always ask yourself, ”Am I providing enough?” “What else could I provide to make this easier for the assessing officer?”.

If you can’t get what you need from the company, you will have to prove your work experience another way.

Ideally, you will be able to get some kind of reference from the company or you had some kind of reference when you left. If you can get that, do get it, as it serves as a good starting point. And then the gaps can be filled in with other evidence. If you can’t get that, then you will need to make sure more evidence can be presented to cover off everything that needs to be proven.

You need to prove the dates you worked in that position, what your role was, what your tasks and responsibilities were, that you were paid, the hours you worked and your salary.

Start thinking about things that could help you prove this:

eg – your employment contract, your termination letter, your tax return, your pension fund showing employer contributions, your bank statements showing your pay arriving in your account, any correspondence you had while at the company that could help. You may have a number of these documents to hand.

You will likely also need some human confirmation. Do you have any contacts from your time working with that firm that would be willing to write a letter confirming the details that are needed? 

It is especially useful if that person was your manager or colleague. Ideally, you could obtain such a letter from more than one person. These letters should also include the person’s contact details, the position they held in the company, proof they actually worked at the company, along with the information about you.

These letters will not be on the company letterhead if they are no longer with the company. They will be standard letters and you should have them notarized.

Together, a bundle of documents can prove your work experience when a company reference in the correct format can not be obtained.

In this situation it is also best practice to swear an affidavit at a local notary or solicitor detailing the required information, and confirming under oath that you are unable to secure the required documentation. 

What about if I was a contractor through an agency?

If you were contracted through an agency, the agency can provide this reference or you could get a reference from the employer or organization you were contracted to on the basis of them stating you were a contractor. They will need to include all the information they can, especially the dates, if it was full time or part-time, how many hours you were contracted for, and your tasks. 

If this is not possible, try contacting one of the contacts or the team you worked with at the organization. Do the best you can, try and find multiple people to give you this type of reference if the agency or company cannot.

It is important to remember that only work experience as an owner of your own business that was obtained outside of Canada can be counted. Self-employed time in Canada will not count toward your Work Experience requirement.

How to Calculate Work Experience for Canada Immigration if I was a contractor or self-employed freelancer?

If you are self-employed you cannot simply give yourself a reference. The same goes with family businesses. Any reference from a family business will need other supporting documentation to show your tasks, dates of work, pay and such.

You can obtain references from clients, contracting agencies, or you could show your invoices, broken down timesheets, and their associated payments arriving in your bank account. If you had any suppliers or other people you hired to complete a contract for you, they could give you a reference. Your tax returns will help as well as invoices from across each year of the experience you are claiming.

How to Calculate Work Experience for Canada Immigration if I was paid in cash

It is ok if you have been paid in cash. There are still many parts of the world where this is standard practice and Canada Immigration understands this. So don’t panic. What you must do though is prove you were indeed paid in cash.

Why is proof of payment so important?

It is a core requirement of meeting the employment experience criteria that the work was paid.  This is why your reference letters must include salary.

How can I prove I was paid in cash?

If you were paid in cash, you should have that noted on the reference you obtain from your company. This is very important. They need to state your salary, and that you were paid in cash.  

If you can’t obtain that reference, then supplying company pay slips could help, and your tax returns will also support claims. You will need to supply some evidence beyond the reference anyway that correlates to your claim of being paid, so the payslips, salary certificates or pay summaries and tax returns will help greatly with this situation.

If you are claiming you were paid cash but you never declared it as income for tax purposes, you may struggle to prove your payment here. However, Canada Immigration has employment evidence dealt with at a local level as they understand workplaces and employments operate differently in different countries. 

An officer from the local office in your country will be the one following up your references and pay claims. They may visit your workplaces, speak to people there and inquire about you, they will understand the local employment processes and how to confirm your employment and verify the evidence you have provided them. Their intention is to verify your evidence, so you need to provide evidence to be verified, otherwise you won’t get to this stage.

 

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Attach a Letter of Explanation to the front of your alternative and supporting evidence

With all of these troubleshooting approaches, you will need to write a letter of explanation to go with them. This will be a standard letter, written by you, explaining why you don’t have the standard reference of the company for the work experience, and the information you have gathered and supplied to prove your work experience.

Do not leave it to the immigration officer to try and work it out for themself. It won’t be clear to them and they could come to incorrect conclusions. Do them the courtesy of making things as clear as you can for them to give them the best chance of being able to see that you have met the work experience requirement.

So here is a summary of the things you can do help you prove your work experience for Canada Immigration

1 – Get what you can from the company. Having them cover off some of the information is better than having nothing. If you have an old reference from them for some other purpose, include it.

2 – If you can find someone you used to work with – ideally your former manager or colleague, ask them to write a proper reference for you with the correct information. Have the letter from them as an individual including their contact information and proof they used to work there too – things like business cards etc. Have any letters like this notarised if possible. Aim to get more than one of these such letters, don’t rely on just one if you can obtain more.

3 – Include other ways to show you worked there and were paid.  For this, you could include; your employment contract, your tax return that shows your employer, your pension fund statement that shows the employers contributions, your bank statements that show payment arriving from your employer, old emails from the company that you might still have, business cards, awards you received, performance reviews you might still have, letters from former colleagues, letters from former customers or suppliers of the business you may have worked with. Anything that will help complete the picture of your employment. Provide as much as you can that is relevant.

4 – Write a Letter of Explanation to clearly explain the situation, why you don’t have a reference or why your reference is inadequate and the alternative information you have provided. Attach it to your supporting information and merge all your evidence together into a single PDF document.

What happens if the evidence I can provide is not enough?

In most circumstances people can prove their work, what their roles and responsibilities were, that they were paid, and dates of their employment. If you are in the rare group that, even with the extra evidence options are still deemed by the department of immigration to be inconclusive you will receive a letter about it asking for more information.

If the employment that you cannot prove fully was only for a small period of time or if you would still earn the same CRS points if it was not on your profile, things will be ok.  If you are over the maximum years of experience with your other employment already, then it won’t be enough to have your case rejected.

However, if, by not having this employment proven, you drop the CRS points you would be awarded, then it could well mean your points would drop below the points on offer in your round.  If this is the case you may well have your application rejected on this basis.

So, you need to take it very seriously and try to provide as much proof as you can to make sure that employment is counted towards your work experience.

When should I start gathering this evidence?

You do not need to have this evidence ready to submit your application for Express Entry, however, once you receive your Invitation to Apply you will only have 60 days to ensure you have everything uploaded and submitted to accept your invitation. 60 days is not a lot of time, and there is a lot to do in that period.

We always suggest that you start immediately in gathering your work experience references so they are ready for when they are needed. Some companies take a long time to get back to you and the more time you have to obtain alternative evidence if the reference falls short the better.

Do remember the immigration officer is fair. There is adequate opportunity to prove your employment through many different methods.

 

© Emigrate Canada 2022, How to Calculate Work Experience for Canada Immigration

 

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