For those lucky enough to obtain an Invitation to Apply (ITA) under the new Express Entry regime, collecting those dreaded employer reference letters can be a royal pain. However, not every reference letter is accepted. So I’m going to explain exactly what you need to include in yours to ensure you get credit for your foreign work experience.
As a farm boy, I can remember my dad sending me and my brothers the 23 mile drive to White’s Hardware store in Carmangay, Alberta (that’s my dad’s wagon at the entrance to town), to pick up much needed farm supplies. There were times when we got to the store only to realize that we didn’t bring the money with us.
It would have been a long drive back home to face my dad to explain why we didn’t do as he asked. So we did what any local farm boy would do – we asked Mr. White if we could take the supplies and pay him the next time we were in town….essentially put it on our “tab”.
Fortunately for us, Mr. White knew our family well and trusted us to honour our word. We were able to return back to dad with only mild chastisement for having inconvenienced Mr. White.
However, the old adage: “Your word is your bond“, no longer exists in the world today. And it most definitely does not exist within the world of Express Entry.
It is essential to prove your skilled work experience
One of the most important components of an Express Entry application is skilled work experience. If you are not fully credited with this experience, it could make the difference between your Express Entry application being accepted or rejected.
In an ideal world, CIC would act as old Mr. White and trust in the integrity of people. After all, each time you electronically submit an immigration application, you are asked to “certify that any information provided by you is true, accurate, and complete.”
That should be good enough, right? Unfortunately, no.
One of the most common reasons an Express Entry application is rejected at the permanent resident (PR) stage is due to deficient reference letters.
The critical information that must be included within a reference letter
When Express Entry was first released, CIC did away with all of the old document checklists for the PR programs. When this happened, we were not exactly sure how reference letters were to be worded. Given the sometimes harsh consequences of failing to get them right, it left many of us immigration lawyers quite unsettled to say the least.
Fortunately, as time has passed, we now have a much better understanding of what CIC is looking for within those pesky reference letters.
CIC may still accept some reference letters that are not 100% perfect. However, in CIC’s world of “one touch” processing, who can really afford to take a chance?
I have set out below the essential components every reference letter must include to ensure you get awarded the full skilled work experience you are entitled.
“Tip: Ensure the reference letter is printed on company letterhead. Remember this needs to be an official document and anything less (such as an e-mail confirmation of employment) is just not going to cut it.”
- Your full name. Ensure that the name on the reference letter matches with the name on your passport. Sometimes employers will refer to you by your common or nickname. Eliminate confusion wherever possible and go with the name in your passport
- Company’s contact information. This should include the following mandatory information with a few suggestions of my own:
- full address (don’t forget postal/zip code, if applicable)
- telephone number
- e-mail address
- website address (my suggestion)
- stamped with the company’s official seal, if applicable (my suggestion)
- Signature of your immediate supervisor or personnel officer. People come and go from a business, so if your immediate supervisor no longer works there, have someone sign the letter who knew you and is in a position of authority within the company.
- Business Card of the person signing the letter. Don’t forget to ensure this is included with the reference letter when you receive it. Obviously you will only need to upload a digital copy of it to the Express Entry portal. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking it is no longer required in our new virtual Express Entry world.
- Confirm all positions held within the company. In addition to confirming your various titles, the letter will need to include the following details for each position:
- job title + corresponding NOC (my suggestion);
- detailed list of duties/responsibilities (see further information below);
- job status (if current job);
- dates you worked for the company;
- number of hours per week;
- annual salary; and
- benefits, (if applicable).
Let’s be honest. There is no “perfect” reference letter. However, if you can get every one of your prior employers to include all of the information above, you will significantly increase your chances of being awarded all of the skilled work experience points you deserve within Express Entry.
Stay tuned to future blogs, where I will address the process of determining your proper NOC for each position you are claiming under Express Entry.
Make sure to share your e-mail address with me so that you can be placed on my notification list when new information is released on my website.
Explore Additional Resources
- CIC’s instructions for Express Entry: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/profile.asp
- NOC 2011: http://www5.hrsdc.gc.ca/NOC/English/NOC/2011/Welcome.aspx
- CRS Tables: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/express-entry/grid-crs.asp
- Program Criteria for each PR category (FST, FSW, CEC): http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/immigrate/skilled/apply-who-express.asp
Upcoming speaking engagements you might like to attend
I will be speaking at the follow upcoming events. If you would like to register, please follow the links below for further information. Let me know if you will be attending as I would love to meet you in person.
- Human Resource Institute of Alberta’s Canadian Immigration Law Event (Sept 23, 2015)
- Canadian Institute’s Immigration and International Worker’s Forum (Oct 27-28, 2015)
Question for our Next Podcast
Have you had your Express Entry application returned, or refused? If so, let me know and I will share in Season 1 – Episode 3, some helpful suggestions for improving your chances of success on the second attempt.
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