How To Write a Flawless Immigration Reference Letter

As an employed adult, you’ve probably received at least one reference letter from a former employer highlighting your employment history at the company. This is something your potential new boss would require during the recruitment process for a job you’ve applied for. Immigration reference letters are a different ball game altogether.

All applications for Canadian Permanent Residency (PR) are subject to the Express Entry completeness check. When applying, you will need to submit your complete electronic application for permanent residency within two months of receiving an invitation to apply (ITA). This application, along with all supporting paperwork, will have to be submitted electronically via your online profile.

Your Express Entry process will start as soon as a complete application has been submitted. One of the most important documents you’ll need is your Immigration reference letter. While on your personal online profile, you’ll be prompted to load a reference letter from each employer for every job you add.

Who should submit an immigration reference letter?

As the primary applicant, you’ll need to submit an immigration letter. If your spouse or common-law partner has worked in Canada, they’ll have to do so as well.

What is an immigration reference letter?


Your application for Canadian immigration is required in order to verify that you meet the requirements to immigrate, as well as verify your claims in your application.

If you want to apply for permanent residency (PR) in Canada via an economic immigration route, your employment history is something that plays a huge role in achieving success with your application. To prove the legitimacy of your credentials and work experience, you’ll need to supply immigration reference letters from all the companies you’ve worked for.

4 things to add to your letter to make it flawless

1. It should be a formal, official document

Because of the serious nature of immigration, your reference letter needs to take the form of an official document. The document will have to be printed on the letterhead of the company you worked for, with all the company’s contact details.

2. List all relevant personal information

Include all your contact information: your name, telephone numbers, address and email address. Make sure that all the information is accurate to avoid delays or possible rejection.

3. Include all employment details

Listed in the letter should be the details of every position you’ve held while at the company. Include whether you are currently in the position, the dates of employment, your job description detailing your core duties within your role, working hours, salary details and benefits, if there are any. These details will help the visa officer identify whether you’ve selected the correct National Occupational Classification (NOC) code.

What is an NOC code?

The Refugees Immigration Citizenship Canada’s (RICC) immigration programs use the NOC system to determine whether a job, skill set or employment experience meets their conditions for eligibility. Each NOC code has a lead title (first paragraph below job title) and a set of duties. Should you find that your job description doesn’t match the one in the NOC code, the duties should.

The employment duties you mention in your reference letter should be similar to at least some of the duties of the NOC code that you’ve indicated in your application. The general rule is that the duties you mention in your letter of reference should match the lead statement of the NOC code and a substantial number of the employment duties listed.

4. Add your line manager or HR officer’s details

Provide the details of your direct manager or that of a relevant human resources official. Make sure to have the responsible manager’s name and job title printed below the signature.

The letter must be stamped with the company’s stamp. Try to attach your manager’s (or whoever is signing) business card if your letter doesn't have a stamp. This adds authenticity to the letter.

What if I’ve Worked in Canada?

If you’ve worked in Canada, you will have to submit copies of your Canadian tax slips, as well as notices of assessment received from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). These documents should detail the amount of years you’ve worked in the country.

What if I’m self-employed?

If you’re self-employed, you’ll have to submit proof that you own a business, all business registration documents such as your articles of incorporation, income statements and statements from your clients that confirm you’ve done work for them.

How to ask your current and former employers for an immigration reference letter


Don’t wait for the last minute

Getting these letters together can take time, so start as soon as you can. When applying to Express Entry and Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), you will be required to send all paperwork, including work reference letters. This must be done within two months of the receipt of your invitation to apply for permanent residency.

Your approach should be honest and polite

There’s a chance that you’ll have to motivate why this letter is required. You need to be open and polite to your current and previous employers about the process. Fill them in about the timeline of your process and when you'll need the document from them and be considerate by not rushing them.

Be precise about what you need from them

The IRCC lists exactly what should be stated in reference letters for Canadian immigration applications. You’ll have to outline exactly what you need to your current and former employers. Consider sharing an immigration reference letter template for them to follow.



What if I’m unable to get this?

This letter is the ideal way to confirm your employment history. However, if there is absolutely no way of obtaining one, you could try to to prove everything by providing some other documents. These documents may include: payslips, letters of appointment, employment offers, letters of promotion, certified letters from former colleagues, images documenting your work life and the work you’ve done.

You can also provide a signed letter detailing the reason you are unable to secure an immigration reference letter.

  • A flawless reference letter doesn’t guarantee success. That decision ultimately lies with the officer dealing with your application.
  • Regardless of the paperwork you provide, the employment record you supply should be complete, correct and truthful.
  • Supply as much information as you can. This will amplify your credibility and improve your chances of getting your visa.

What about proof of ties?

Before making the decision to grant a work or study permit or visitor visa, the immigration officials will need to be convinced that you will definitely exit the country once your documents expire. If you’re able to prove that you have solid ties to your homeland, immigration officials are likely to be confident that you’ll go back home once your visit, course or job is over.

What you’ll have to demonstrate:

  • A close relationship with family members residing in your country
  • Your current job status
  • Viable future job prospects at home
  • Proof of ownership of a business, properties or other major movable or non-movable assets

What if I’m not a citizen of the country in which I live?

If you don’t have citizenship in the country you’re currently living in, your immigration standing in this country will affect your assessment. You should be able to prove that you will return to your country once your stipulated period is over. Should your residency be close to expiration, they will look into your ties in the country you have citizenship in. This may not be very strong if you haven’t lived there in a while.

Remember, whichever of the above applies to you, you have to be as thorough as possible with all the information you are asked to provide. The way your immigration reference letter is constructed can influence the outcome of your submission. Supply as much information about your work experience as possible to ensure the best outcome.

Setting off to a world of new opportunities in Canada is no small feat. Doing so alone can feel like an even greater summit to climb. But the journey doesn't have to be an isolated one. Our accredited Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (RCICs) are here to guide you through each step and will provide you with all the information you need, optimizing your chances of visa approval.

Our ICCRC-approved RCICs will evaluate your eligibility, ensure that you tick all the documentation lists and will submit all your paperwork to the Canadian government for you. Secure opportunities in the Great White North today.