How to Immigrate to Canada as a Lawyer

  • May 24, 2024
  • 5 min
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Immigrating to Canada as a lawyer involves navigating specific pathways and meeting detailed requirements set by the Canadian government and provincial law societies. This comprehensive guide provides an overview of the process, including statistics and practical advice to help lawyers from around the world establish their legal careers in Canada.

Understanding Canadian Immigration Options

Express Entry System

The Express Entry system is Canada's primary method for managing skilled worker applications for permanent residence. It employs a point-based system known as the Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS), which evaluates applicants on several factors:


Younger applicants tend to receive more points.


Points are awarded based on the level of education, with additional points for Canadian degrees or diplomas.

Work Experience:

Both Canadian and international work experiences are valued, but Canadian experience scores higher.

Language Proficiency:

Fluency in English or French is crucial, with tests like IELTS or CELPIP used to score applicants. Typically, the CRS cut-off scores for lawyers have ranged between 470 to 500 points over the past year, although these scores can vary with each draw.

Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)

PNPs allow Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals who wish to immigrate to Canada and who are interested in settling in a particular province. Each PNP has its criteria for selecting candidates, often targeting specific occupations in demand within the province:


The Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program (OINP) offers a Human Capital Priorities Stream, which sometimes targets skilled professionals like lawyers, especially when there's a local demand.


Receiving a provincial nomination adds 600 points to a candidate's overall CRS score, virtually guaranteeing an invitation to apply (ITA) for permanent residence.

Credential Recognition and Licensing

National Committee on Accreditation (NCA)

Internationally trained lawyers must first have their credentials assessed by the NCA, which decides whether an applicant’s foreign legal training is comparable to a Canadian law degree:

Assessment Outcome:

Many applicants are required to complete additional exams or take courses in Canadian law. On average, the NCA issues decisions requiring supplementary education in around 60% of cases.

Bar Exams

After satisfying the NCA requirements, candidates must clear the bar exam in the province where they intend to practice:

Preparation and Success Rates:

The bar exams cover Canadian law extensively and typically feature both multiple-choice and open-ended questions. The average pass rate for the Ontario bar exams is approximately 70%, indicative of the exam's challenging nature.

Job Market and Employment

The legal job market in Canada varies significantly by region and specialization. Large cities generally offer more opportunities but also feature intense competition:

Employment Statistics: According to Statistics Canada, the legal profession has a relatively low unemployment rate of about 3%, reflecting steady demand for legal services. Income Details: Starting salaries for lawyers in metropolitan areas like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal can vary widely, starting from around CAD $75,000 and reaching upwards of CAD $100,000. Specialized fields such as corporate law or intellectual property often offer higher compensation.

Practical Steps for Immigration

Language Proficiency:

Achieve a high level of proficiency in English or French. Most provinces require a minimum score on language tests like IELTS or CELPIP for professional licensing.

Education and Credential Assessment:

Apply to the NCA for credential assessment immediately upon deciding to immigrate. This process can take up to a year.

Express Entry Profile:

Create a profile under the Express Entry system. Enhance your CRS score through additional education, work experience, or language scores.

Provincial Nomination:

Consider applying for a PNP, which can significantly increase your chances of receiving an ITA for permanent residency. Networking and Professional Development: Engage with Canadian legal professionals through forums, associations, or by attending legal seminars and workshops in Canada or virtually.


Immigrating to Canada as a lawyer requires thorough preparation, from credential recognition to understanding the legal job market. By following the outlined steps and keeping updated with the latest immigration policies and labor market trends, lawyers can significantly enhance their chances of successfully establishing their legal careers in Canada.

- Harsh Shah