Sunday, 16 October 2016

work visa experience

My Work Visa Experience

While waiting for some renders to finish I was thinking about two people who recently asked me questions about my experience of applying for a work visa. So I thought i'd write a post based on my experience of processing a Canadian work visa. I've been through the process four times now, each time building upon the knowledge of the previous trip. To be honest, the first time I went, I was shitting bricks for lack of better words! Not for any valid reason, other than this was something unknown to me, and equally something that could have a profound impact on my life depending on the outcome of such a simple process. But, each time, it seems the Canadian people felt I was of some use and continued to grace me with their hospitality.

portfolio David Edwards Artstation

First Work Permit

The first time I worked in Canada was around 2010, if my memory serves me correctly. I was invited to work on a project for a few months in Toronto. At the time I was in the UK, I accepted the job after a brief phone interview and a few days later I was touching down in Canada. I recall having to print out various forms, contracts, resume etc to present at the point of entry. I recall there was a number of questions from a form about my experience at using software that was 10-15 years out of date. Some of which are completely unrelated to the specific field I work in. I explained this to the officer at the time to which he agreed that it didn't really make any sense and just told me to agree that I'm proficient. He asked if I had held a supervisory position for more than three years if I recall; I looked at him confused and he just told me to agree. Luckily he seems a little familiar with the subject matter and probably wondered with some confusion at the questions he was asking me and how displaced in time they were. The role I was providing was a specialist position that held weight by my skills and the number of years in that position; not by experience with primitive, out of date software or seniority over others; both of which do not validate exceptional proficiency in my field. After 15 or so minutes the officer allowed me to pass through. Unknown to me at the time, there was a fee for processing the visa. I felt a little shocked that the company neglected to tell me this prior to leaving the UK. More so because I live in a life where I don't always have $200 freely available and set aside to pay for visa fees. Luckily at the time I did have $200 available. So after paying the fee, my work visa was provided and attached to my passport and on I went into down town Toronto. I saved the fee receipt and this was reimbursed from the company within a few days. I later discovered that this wasn't the case for some other artists who didn't inquire or ask. So lesson there; always keep your receipt and present to the company for reimbursement.

Second Work Permit

The second work visa I had to apply for was two years later. While in Vancouver for a few months taking a break I was contacted by a local company asking if i'd be interested in a 12 month project. I was already in the area, and happy to stick around so decided to accept the offer. At the time I wasn't sure if this legally possible, because I was there on a tourist visa and wasn't sure if I could technically accept work while in the country under this visa status. However it didn't seem to be an issue; I'm guessing due to the LMO perhaps. The company that I was working for hired a work visa specialist. This is a person who basically does all the paper work for you, drives you out there and can speak on your behalf. In retrospect I don't feel this was necessary from the processing side. However they did become valuable when a minor issue presented itself at the border. This was the first time I had to deal with an LMO and the LMO (Labor Market Opinion) has a number of requirements that must be presented to the officer processing the application. One of those requirements said something like; "requires evidence of applicable education" and because I'm completely self taught and don't have any formal training, I didn't have any certificates or such evidence. So the officer, who was simply doing her job correctly, had to reject the application. The visa specialist I was with highlighted to the officer at the time, that this could be rewritten. While standing there, she phoned the person who approved the LMO and told them they needed to edit the LMO and reword it to read;
"requires evidence of applicable education, or evidence of equivalent work experience" which my resume clearly demonstrated. Unfortunately the LMO person wasn't available to make the change at the time. So we left and returned the next day with a new, fresh and reworded LMO. The officer who reviewed the application the second time, didn't seem to understand or recognize the need for a visa representative, he promptly told her to take a back seat and spoke only to me. He asked a few spot questions, such as what was the job title, where was I living. the duration of the contract etc. I feel they're probably asking these questions to verify who you are and perhaps if you didn't quite understand the position you were applying for then maybe this would be cause for concern on their behalf. After 15 or so minutes, we paid the $150 fee and I left with a shiny new work visa. This time the visa fee was included in the fee from the visa specialist. So she handled the payment on this occasion.

Third Work Permit

12 months later and my contract had come to an end, so having found a new studio I went through the process again, this time by myself and without a visa specialist. I still had the evidence required from the previous application, so I updated my resume and headed to the border. I presented the evidence, took a seat, and 10 minutes later the officer called me back, handed my new visa, took payment, and then off I went without any questions. I'm guessing perhaps when you already have a work visa, and applying for a new one, maybe they're less concerned, but this occasion seemed far more relaxed.

Forth Work Permit

Another 12 months later and I found myself again in the process of starting a new contract, and needing to apply for a new work visa. Like the previous occasion, this went by without any concerning issues. At one point when handing over the evidence, the officer asked me to provide something with my current address on. I didn't have a driver's license or any other kind of ID with my address. However I did have my address on my resume, and the officer was happy to accept this. Another minor issue was regarding the process fee. I checked their website prior to leaving for the border, and the website stated the fee was $150. However when I went to the cashier to process the payment, they told me it was $155, and was raised some months earlier. So on this occasion it seems the information provided on the website was incorrect. Luckily it was only a difference of $5, but in future I might consider calling them prior to setting off, to ensure I have the most up to date information.

Evidence required:

  • Contract 

Signed by both parties, clearly stating job title, duration of contract and the money offer.

  • LMO  (No longer exists, replaced with LMIA at the time of writing this)

Read this through carefully. The officer reading over the LMO will take the requirements literally, and if there's a requirement on there that isn't present in the application, then you will have the application rejected. From experience the LMO can be edited if required, but has to be edited by the LMO representative who signs the LMO. In my case, I had no formal education, so the LMO was rewritten to read; formal education or equivalent work experience.

  • Resume 

Ensure this has your name, age, address and cell number clearly visible at the top. On one occasion an officer asked me to present something with my current address on it. The only place I had this was on my resume, which she accepted for evidence of my address. Beyond that, clearly list the relevant previous positions.

  • Passport/visa 

An obvious one, but always good to be reminded about! Ensure your passport is in good condition with any relevant existing visas in there. Upon acceptance of the work visa, any old visa will be removed and replaced with the new one. The officer will highlight the dates in which the visa is valid and the date by which you must exit the country or apply for a new visa. I believe you can only work in Canada for four years, at which point you have to take a two year break, or apply for PR (permanent residency)

  • Professional Evidence 

Print out evidence of work. In my case this involved printing out several pieces of artwork, I also printed out a page with 9 credit/posters showing the movies I've worked on. I printed out my IMDB page and website home page.

  • Certificates, awards and publication 

I don't believe this is necessary, however any kind of recognition can be useful in supporting your application. For example I have my work in a number of online galleries. A number of websites that host these galleries provide a digital trophy; this is an award. If you've ever had your artwork published in a magazine or book, then this is strong evidence of recognition. Don't be concerned about the quality of the publication, it may be a local newspaper, or an international magazine; both are equally valid. If you've received certificates highlighting educational experience, then this will definitely be good to show.

This was the evidence that I provided as a British citizen. Depending on which part of the world you're from, you may be required to present other articles of evidence, such as police checks, bank statements, other forms of ID. Always good to check with your embassy or simply call a TSA agent and ask them.

Permanent Residency

A year later I applied for PR (Permanent Residency) with the assistance of an immigration lawyer and the company I was working with. In retrospect, I could have processed this myself without a lawyer, but I always feel it's good to make use of their experience and ensure the documents are water tight. Next step; Citizenship! And learning the national anthem! :)


  1. It’s really a great topic selected by you to discuss over here. Sometime it’s difficult to get approval on visa. Lot of people discuss such things online and try to find out solution for the same so sharing such things which relate to visa, can really help people.
    Thanks & Regards,
    Working Visa Australia

    1. Thank you for the comment! You're welcome. It's definitely a great discussion to have. I frequently receive emails from fellow artists in other countries asking about my experience and what to expect if and when they try to make their way to Canada. Sadly these rules are changing all the time, and the CIC website isn't always quite up to date as it should be! So I always say, in the end, the best bet is to simply call a border agent and ask them questions directly and if that has no fruition then try to contact CIC.

      Thanks again! :)

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