It’s not to prove you are a good worker or person, reference letters for Canadian immigration must prove you did the job you are claiming.
When most people think of reference letters, they envision a document from a previous employer that speaks highly of you and testifies to your work ethic. This makes sense because when a new employer is deciding whether they want to hire you, they want to see that someone else thought you were trustworthy enough to do the same.
But your application for Canadian immigration is not a hiring interview. It’s to verify you meet the requirements to immigrate as well as the details you claim in your application.
What reference letters do I need?
You will want to show reference letters for at least four years of full-time employment (or equivalent part-time) experience, in the last ten years. Not all of your previous employment needs to be documented but the more you provide, the stronger your case will be.
What is the perfect reference letter for Canadian immigration?
The ideal format for your reference letter should be:
- Printed on company letterhead with the companies contact information
- Signed by your superior with his or her title and contact information
The content of your reference letter should include:
- Your official job title
- The dates of your employment
- Your salary per week
- Your average hours per week
- A detailed list of your employment duties
The employment duties you mention in your reference letter should be similar to at least some of the duties of the NOC code you indicate in your application. The general rule is that the duties you mention in your letter of reference should match the lead statement (the initial paragraph under the job title) of the NOC code and a substantial number of the employment duties listed.
I’m afraid to ask my supervisor for a reference letter
This is a common problem many applicants face. People might be afraid to ask because they don’t want their employer to know that they might leave their job to move to Canada.
You can pursue two routes to get around this issue; the honest way and the slightly less honest way.
In the honest route, you can explain to your employer you are applying for Canadian immigration but that process takes time. Even if you are selected immediately after applying to Express Entry, it takes six months to process. After that, you have one year to land in Canada.
Landing in Canada can be as simple as a short holiday to collect your visa and then you can return to your home country. You only need to live in Canada for two out of every five years to maintain your permanent residence. You can honestly inform your employer that you do not need to move to Canada for four years from the date you are asking for your letter.
The less honest route would be to tell your employer you need the letter for another reason. It could be for a loan or a temporary visa for a holiday.
I can’t provide a letter of reference but I need it for my application
If you can’t provide a reference letter, there are some ways to get around this but be aware that it is up the discretion of the visa officer if they will accept it. Whatever you chose to provide in lieu of an official letter of reference from your employer, you should also include a letter of explanation. This letter of explanation will explain to the visa officer why you cannot provide an official reference letter and outline the alternative documents you are providing and how they support the employment claimed in your application.
If, for example, you can prove employment duties, but you can’t prove hours/week, you can try to submit an employment contract that states your position is full-time. You can also provide payslips that confirm this information if possible.
If you can’t prove employment duties, this will be difficult to overcome. You can try to get a sworn affidavit from a colleague attesting to your employment duties but this might not be accepted.
Finally, get creative and think outside the box. If you are a chef, submit a picture of you working in the kitchen. If you are an artist, submit a copy of a media article that you were mentioned in.