For those lucky enough to obtain an Invitation to Apply (ITA) under the Express Entry program, 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.

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. 

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 best way to make sure you complete your Express Entry Application right and avoid most common mistakes is of course, by subscribing to Canadian Immigration Institute’s Express Entry DIY Course here. But if you want to try your luck and do it on your own keep reading through.

When Express Entry was first released, IRCC 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 IRCC is looking for within those pesky reference letters. IRCC may still accept some reference letters that are not 100% perfect. However, in IRCC’s world of “one touch” processing, who can really afford to take a chance?

The critical information that must be included within a reference letter

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:

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).

“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.”

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.

Again, you might want to chck out our Canadian Immigration Institute’s Express Entry DIY Course here and make it all right from the first try. In this course you will get over 56 video lessons full of invaluable insights and tutorials on how to complete your Express Entry Profile and eAPR. In this course you will also find sample documents, tools and worksheets all designed to assist you in making your application as good as it can be.

If you want, however, get some professional help and would need assistance from a Canadian Immigration Lawyer consider booking a consultation with one of our lawyers at Holthe Immigration Law by going to

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