How to get an Employment Reference Letter for Canadian Immigration?

How to get an Employment Reference Letter for Canadian Immigration?

Canada has set ambitious goals to attract immigrants to Canada. Most of these immigrants have unique skills, knowledge, and experience from their home countries. Canadians understand the value of these people and welcome them to Canada with open hearts. 

If you have work experience and seek permanent residency in Canada, you must clearly demonstrate to the IRCC that you have the required expertise and skills. The best way to prove this is with help of a letter of reference. 

Often, most applicants do not know how to ask for reference letters from their employers. The few applicants that manage to get letters of reference from their employers lack even basic necessary elements. Ultimately, which leads to delays or, even worse, refusals in some immigration cases. 

In this article, we will cover:


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What is a Letter of Reference?

A letter of reference (or reference letter) is a document that confirms the details of an applicant’s employment with a particular company. 

Reference letters can be used to obtain a work permit and permanent residence in Canada under economic streams. The purposes for both are different.

Purpose of letter of reference

  1. for Canada immigration,

Many economic streams work experience to qualify them. These include

  1. Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program;
  2. Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP);
  3. Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program. 

In fact, several Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) also require the same. 

All these programs use the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) to evaluate applications received. Here you get points based on the total years of experience you hold. The letter of reference act as proof that your work history is legitimate and aligned with the Canadian National Occupational Classification (NOC) codes.  So that you can prove that you meet the requirements of the economic streams you are applying. The IRCC will ask you to submit your letter of reference from current and previous employers to confirm the details you provide in your immigration application. 

  1. to obtain a work permit in Canada

You require the necessary combination of work experience, credentials, or language skills to perform the intended job in Canada. And when you apply for a work permit in Canada, you must meet these requirements. Here the letter of reference acts as proof to show the employers that you hold a necessary combination of work experience, credentials, or language skills. 

Please Note: The format of the employment reference required by Canadian employers may not be the same as that required for your immigration application. You may need to ask your employers for a new reference again once you start your job search in Canada. For example, for employment purposes, your references do not need to match specific NOC codes. However, you will need work experience that is relevant to the job in question.

Do I’ve to get a signed reference for every job I’ve had?” – Many people often ask us this question. The answer is quite simple: No. You don’t need to, and you shouldn’t.

You only need signed employment letters for the declared qualifying work experience. For example, if your current employer is willing to provide a letter that meets the work requirements and maximizes the points for qualifying work experience, then why do you need more letters?

Difference: Reference Letter vs Recommendation Letter

Many people get confused between reference letters and recommendation letters; there is a difference between them. 

Reference Letter

A work reference is a factual and objective letter that confirms that you have worked for a particular company. It further lists your duties and employment details, including your job title and dates of employment. However, it does not talks about your performance or positive attributes as an employee.

Recommendation Letter

A letter of recommendation is a formal personal note from your former employer, manager, client, colleague, or someone in your network, highlighting your qualities, skills, and attributes that make you an asset to their team or organization. 

A good letter of recommendation can be a compelling argument in your favor when being considered for a job in Canada. However, you do not need letters of recommendation from previous employers for your immigration application to Canada.

Pro-Tip: When you start looking for a job in Canada, it is beneficial to have someone vouch for you as an applicant. Letters of recommendation from someone in your professional network in Canada can highlight your skills and help hiring managers see that you are an asset to their team. 

Read our guide on networking for newcomers in Canada to learn more about how to build your network in Canada from scratch.

Format of Employment Reference Letter for Canadian immigration

There is no such thing as a “perfect” reference letter. No one exactly knows how the letter of reference should be worded. However, our licenced Canadian immigration consultants have a much better understanding of what might be acceptable to IRCC looking for within those pesky reference letters.

The ideal format for your letter of reference should be:

  1. Printed on company letterhead with the company’s contact information;
  2. Signed by your superior with their title and contact information.


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Here are some essential components every letter of reference must include to ensure you get awarded the full skilled work experience you are entitled.

  1. Your full name. Make sure that the name on your work certificate matches the name on your passport. Employers may sometimes refer to you by your first name or nickname. Avoid confusion wherever possible, and stick to the name in your passport.
  2. Company contact information. This should include the following mandatory information, with some suggestions from us:

  • Full address (with pin code).
  • telephone number, e-mail address, website address (our suggestion)
  • official seal of the company, if applicable (our suggestion)

  1. Signature of your immediate supervisor or human resources manager. So if your immediate supervisor no longer works at the company, have the letter signed by someone who knew you and holds an important position in the company.
  2. Business card of the person signing the letter. Do not forget to include it with the reference letter when you receive it (You only need to upload a digital copy of it).
  3. Confirm all the positions held within the company. In addition to confirming your various titles, the letter must include the following information for each position:

  • Job title with corresponding NOC (our suggestion);
  • Detailed list of duties/responsibilities;
  • Job status (if current job);
  • Dates you have worked for the company;
  • Number of hours per week;
  • Annual salary and benefits (if applicable).

You will need work reference letters from all the past and current employers you mention in your Express Entry profile. Make sure there are no discrepancies in the details listed in your employment reference letters and what you include in your immigration application. 

One of the most common reasons an Express Entry application is rejected at the permanent resident (PR) stage is due to deficient reference letters. If you can get each of your previous employers to include all of the information listed above, you will greatly increase your chances of receiving all qualified work experience points you deserve under Express Entry.

While dealing with previous clients and immigration applications, we have found that there is more flexibility with smaller companies when it comes to getting a letter of employment and that it is generally easier to get something that fits into the template of what an immigration officer is looking for.

However, if you are dealing with a larger company that has established departments (HR), it is generally more difficult because these companies have templates for documents with rigid guidelines that may not fit the format that Canada Immigration requires. Here HR has its own templates for letters of employment and is unwilling to personalize or edit them according to IRCC requirements.

Don’t worry; in the last section, we will tell you what to do when you cannot get a letter of reference from your employer. 

How to use NOC to Draft the Letter of Reference?

It is important to find the NOC (National Occupational Classification) code. Each NOC code contains a list of responsibilities and duties. You must find the correct NOC code that matches your job duties and responsibilities. This is one of the most important parts of your immigration process. If you are having difficulty finding the right NOC code for your occupation, contact a licensed Canadian immigration consultant.

Here’s the list of things you can do to use NOC properly for the letter of reference:

  • complete most of the job duties listed in the NOC code;
  • write your duties following the description in the NOC Code;
  • do not use the same order of job duties, and the number of job duties as stated in the NOC Code description;
  • always add two to three additional tasks that are not mentioned in the NOC code description;

Please Note: Do not copy and paste the tasks from the NOC code page into your letter of reference. IRCC will verify the reliability and authenticity of your letter. If IRCC believes your letter is not genuine and reliable, it will not pursue your application. As a result, it may initiate a further investigation, which may take time and extend the processing time of the application. In the worst case, it may also result in your letter of reference rejection.

How to get work Reference Letters from previous employers?

Start the process early

Obtaining employment references from previous employers can take some time, especially if you have had a long career. Ideally, you should contact your former employers before you receive an invitation to apply (ITA) and ask them for a letter of reference.

Be transparent and polite

When asking for reference letters, you may need to explain why you need these documents. Be courteous and keep your current employer informed of the status of your immigration application and the expected time frame for your move to Canada. This will help you maintain a positive professional relationship and avoid unnecessary delays in obtaining a reference letter.

Tell your employers exactly what you need

The letter of reference format may be different in your home country. So, clearly communicate what you need to your current and previous employers. You can also refer them to the Canadian Immigration Employment Reference Letter format as described above. If you can, provide them with a sample letter of reference that meets the Canadian Immigration requirements.

Set reasonable timelines

Give your employers at least a week to prepare the document and provide it to you. And if you have already received your ITA and are on a tight schedule to obtain the documents, follow up with the appropriate person at your company and politely ask if they can expedite the process.


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What to do when your boss does not provide a reference letter?

A reference letter from your past employers is the best way to prove your work experience for the purpose of immigration. However, getting these documents might not always be possible, especially if you ended your professional relationship with an organization on a bad note or if the person in charge is away. 

Now you must provide alternative documentation to verify your work history.

Here’s the list of documents you can give as an alternative:

  1. Paystubs or salary slips from the period you were employed with the organization.
  2. Bank statements that show salary being regularly deposited by the employer in question.
  3. Documents that prove your employment records, such as your offer letter, employment contract, joining letter, and resignation or termination letter.
  4. Signed affidavits from your co-workers in that organization.

We recommend you include a statement in your PR application explaining why you could not get the letter and mention the provided documents. The more information and documentation are included, the easier it is for the visa officer and the IRCC to believe the authenticity of your employment record. However, the decision is entirely up to the officials reviewing the application, and even with complete paperwork, there is no guarantee that the immigration application will be approved.

While this can leave you in a risky spot by not complying, you need to make sure that you set yourself up so that you provide as much as possible to show that you have done the job and did your best. 

Let us help you

Our team of expert Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCIC) has helped many people settle in Canada. If you also want to immigrate to Canada, Keel provides you with the best, fastest, and most transparent immigration application filing tech platform. 

Our streamlined immigration services will take care of your immigration process from the day you decide to change your life until settling in Canada. 

We will assign you a RCIC who will take care of your application and handhold you throughout the process to ensure all the paperwork is done right. 

Schedule your call today, and let’s make your Canada dream a reality. 

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