How to Immigrate to Canada as a Lawyer

With its robust economy, diverse cultural landscape, and commitment to upholding the rule of law, Canada is an attractive destination for legal professionals seeking to establish themselves in a dynamic and welcoming environment. The Canadian legal landscape encompasses a diverse array of laws and regulations at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels, governing areas such as criminal justice, civil rights, immigration, and business operations.

As a former British colony, Canada, except for Quebec, follows the common law system inherited from England. This system relies on precedent, meaning court decisions in past cases guide future rulings in similar situations.

Discover our guide on navigating the immigration process to Canada as a lawyer, ensuring a smooth transition and successful integration into the Canadian legal landscape.

Permanent Residency Pathways to Canada as a Lawyer

Permanent residency programs to canada for lawyers

The following are the immigration visa pathways you can use to immigrate and obtain Canadian permanent residency (PR) in Canada.

Express Entry System

The Express Entry system is a popular choice for lawyers, offering a point-based approach. Candidates receive points based on

  • Age,
  • Education,
  • Work experience,
  • Language skills (English and French), and
  • Adaptability.

A high score (generally above 67) increases the chances of receiving an Invitation to Apply (ITA) for PR. The skilled immigration programs you can apply to should you receive an ITA and meet the eligibility requirements include the Federal Skilled Worker Program (FSWP), Federal Skilled Trades Program (FSTP), and Canadian Experience Class (CEC). While Express Entry allows for a quicker application turnaround (as fast as six months) once the ITA is received, the initial competition can be high.

Find out more about the Express Entry system.

Provincial Nominee Program

Each Canadian province and territory has its own Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), catering to specific regional needs and offering streams tailored to demanding professions, including law. These streams often have lower requirements than the Express Entry system and can expedite processing times.

PNPs for lawyers in Canada are outlined in the table below:

Canadian Provinces PNP Streams, Category and Programs For Lawyers
British Columbia (BC) BC Skilled Worker Stream
Manitoba Skilled Worker Overseas Stream
Newfoundland and Labrador Skilled Worker Category
New Brunswick Skilled Workers Stream
Nova Scotia Skilled Worker Stream
Ontario Foreign Worker Stream
Quebec Skilled Worker Program
Prince Edward Island Skilled Worker Outside Canada Stream
Saskatchewan International Skilled Worker Category
Yukon Skilled Worker Program
Northwest Territories Skilled Workers Program

Learn more about Canada’s PNPs.

Immigration Pilots

Canadian immigration pilots to address specific labor market needs. These pilots can present unique opportunities for lawyers seeking to work in particular sectors or regions. If you want to immigrate to Atlantic Canada as a lawyer, you can use the Atlantic Immigration Pilot (AIP), which is a federal immigration program designed to address labor market needs in Canada's Atlantic provinces New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.

Alternatively, if you want to apply your legal services in rural Canada, you can use the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) program to support the economic development of Canada’s rural and smaller communities by attracting skilled foreign workers like lawyers.

Find out more about Canada’s immigration pilots.

Business Immigration

If you have aspirations to open your law firm in Canada, then you can use the Start-up Visa program, a business immigration pathway designed to attract immigrant entrepreneurs with the potential to create innovative businesses that can compete on a global scale and create jobs for Canadians.

Family Sponsorship

If you’re a lawyer with close family members with Canadian citizenship or permanent resident status, family sponsorship might be a viable option. This program allows qualifying family members to sponsor you for permanent residency status in Canada.

Find out more about family sponsorship in Canada.

Temporary Residency Pathways to Canada as a Lawyer

Several temporary residency pathways can be stepping stones for lawyers seeking to gain experience and explore working in Canada.

Temporary Foreign Worker Permit

The Temporary Foreign Worker Permit (TFWP) allows employers to hire foreign workers, including lawyers, to fill positions where qualified Canadians are unavailable by applying for and obtaining a positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). The experience gained using a TFWP can be used to apply for Canadian PR using the Canadian Experience Class.

International Mobility Program

The International Mobility Program (IMP) facilitates short-term work exchanges between Canada and participating countries. Under this program, you may qualify for a LMIA exempt work permit as a lawyer for international agreements, e.g., CUKTCA, reciprocal youth agreements with other countries, and the Intra-Company Transfer Program. You can apply for the CEC for permanent residency with the work experience gained using Canada’s IMP.

International Experience Canada

The International Experience Canada (IEC) offers two streams relevant to lawyers: the International Co-op and Young Professionals (YP) programs. These programs allow young professionals from participating countries to gain work experience in Canada for a limited duration. Using the work experience gained from these IEC programs, you can apply for Canadian PR using the CEC.

Eligibility Requirements to Become a Lawyer in Canada

eligibility requirements to become a lawyer in canada

To practice law in Canada, you must meet the following eligibility requirements.

Work Experience

In Canada, the work experience needed to become a lawyer in Canada includes articling for a registered legal organization for nine months to a year. Examples of registered legal organizations in an apprenticeship include law firms, government agencies, or non-profits.

Educational Qualifications

The educational qualifications you need to be a lawyer in Canada include two to three years of undergraduate studies in a designated learning institution (DLI) or, if you’re immigrating to Quebec, completion of a college program, a bachelor's degree from a recognized law school and successful completion of the bar examination in the legal jurisdiction where you’ll practice law.


You need certificates to practice law in Canada, including foreign transcripts and qualifications accredited by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) and an Educational Credential Assessment (ECA) if applicable. An ECA is used to verify the validity and equivalence of foreign degrees, diplomas, or certificates to Canadian standards.

You can receive an ECA from Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) designated organizations such as the Comparative Education Service at the University of Toronto, World Education Services (WES), and International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES).

Professional Associations and Regulatory Organizations

The professional associations and regulatory organizations you must register with to practice law in Canada will largely depend on where you settle. Each province and territory has its independent law society responsible for regulating the legal profession within its jurisdiction. Canadian law societies include:

These law societies set licensing requirements, conduct licensing examinations, and oversee the ethical conduct of lawyers. For example, lawyers in Ontario must be licensed to practice with the Law Society of Ontario. Initially, as a foreign lawyer, you must apply for and obtain a Foreign Legal Consultant (FLC) permit to give legal advice in Ontario as required by By-Law 14.

Lastly, you must register with the Canadian Bar Association and Federation of Law Societies of Canada, the national organizations representing the legal profession and all law societies in Canada respectively.

How Long Does The Immigration Process Typically Take For Lawyers Moving to Canada?

The application processing timeframe can vary significantly depending on several factors, such as your chosen immigration pathway and individual circumstances. To minimize application processing times, we recommend you seek professional guidance from an experienced immigration consultant or lawyer, prepare well by gathering all necessary documentation in advance, and respond promptly to IRCC requests.

Learn more about the IRCCs application processing times.

What Are The Benefits of Being a Lawyer in Canada

what are the benefits of being a lawyer in canada

Canada offers a compelling environment for lawyers seeking a fulfilling and successful career. Here's a closer look at some of the key benefits:

Financial Security For Lawyers in Canada

While salaries can vary based on factors like experience, practice area, and location, lawyers in Canada generally enjoy a good standard of living. According to Canada’s Job Bank, the median income for practicing lawyers in Canada is 147,614.39 CAD, which is significantly above the national median after-tax income of 92,849.58 CAD according to Statistics Canada.

Diverse Legal Career Paths in Canada

Canada's legal landscape offers diverse practice areas, catering to various interests and specializations. Whether your passion lies in criminal law, family law, immigration law, or corporate law, there is ample opportunity to carve out a specialty and pursue a fulfilling legal career in Canada tailored to individual preferences and strengths.

Work-Life Balance in Canada

While the legal profession can be demanding, Canada prioritizes a healthy work-life balance. Initiatives like paid parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and reasonable working hours, all administered by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), contribute to a healthier work environment for lawyers.

Global Opportunities

Canada's strong legal system and international connections open doors for global collaboration and cross-border legal work. This can be particularly appealing if you’re a lawyer looking for a career with an international dimension that will enable you to fulfill your desire to work and travel worldwide.

Learn how Canada can open doors for global job seekers.

Prestige and Recognition

The legal profession in Canada is highly regarded, with lawyers often receiving respect and recognition from the community. Lawyers are regarded as pillars of integrity and guardians of justice, earning admiration for their commitment to upholding ethical standards and promoting the common good.

The esteemed reputation of the legal profession opens doors to various opportunities and enhances one's professional and social standing in the broader Canadian society.

Continuous Learning Opportunities

The legal landscape is constantly evolving, and lawyers in Canada are encouraged to engage in ongoing professional development. Law societies offer various programs and resources to support continuous learning, including seminars and webinars, mentorship programs, workshops, and legal conferences, ensuring lawyers remain at the forefront of their field.

Learn about continuous learning opportunities through Canada’s professional immigrant networks.


Will my Legal Experience From Another Country be Recognized in Canada?

Legal experience from another country may be recognized in Canada. Still, it often requires an evaluation process such as an ECA to determine its equivalency to Canadian standards, which can be facilitated by immigration consultants or legal professionals experienced in international credential evaluation.

How Can I Improve My Chances of Immigrating to Canada as a Lawyer?

To enhance your chances of immigrating to Canada as a lawyer, consider obtaining additional certifications or qualifications aligned with the Canadian legal system, building a strong network within the Canadian legal community, and ensuring your language proficiency meets or exceeds requirements outlined by Canadian immigration authorities.

Can I Practice Law Immediately Upon Immigrating to Canada as a Lawyer?

While immigrating to Canada as a lawyer, the ability to practice law immediately depends on how quickly you can obtain a license, which may involve passing bar exams or assessments and meeting specific provincial regulations.