A Guide to Moving Abroad for Recently Qualified Accountants … Canada

Following on from the recent CASSI and Barden webinar trainee and recently qualified accountants considering a move abroad Brian O’Connor ACA, Team Lead with Barden and expert in recently qualified accountants careers, checks in with Siobhán Sexton ACA, Business Lead with Barden and expert in Recently Qualified Accountants careers, who shares THE best advice when moving to Canada.

So Siobhan, who have you reached out to for the most up to date information about moving to Canada?

I spoke to my colleague from my time In Toronto, Feven Yeshanew – she has over 7 years’ experience in Accounting and Finance recruitment in Canada and the US. She currently works with BJRC Recruiting as an Associate Director and they recruit in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

What is the market like in Canada at the moment?

It is still busy for qualified CA’s, and accountants with 0-5 year’s PQE are still in high demand.

Real estate, tech, cannabis industries were impacted slightly by hiring freezes recently, but more traditional Fortune 500/more established companies are hiring. Smaller, more start-up businesses are still hiring, just less often.

What kind of roles do qualified accountants typically move into when they go to Canada?

Roles tend to be called either SFA – Senior Financial Analyst or Senior Accountant. SFA roles are a hybrid role or purely Analyst focused roles, and Senior Accountant roles are minimum 80% reporting/compliance with a small element of budgeting/forecasting, so it is important to look at the spec as they tend to be different to Ireland.

Strategic finance roles are very popular and can be harder to get into.

If you have 1/2 years’ experience outside practice, you are even more attractive to potential employers.  Companies are now also more open to people not coming directly from practice, ie: trained through industry which is good news.

Do people typically take on permanent or contract jobs when they move over?

There has been a slight hesitation to hire people on visas into perm roles as companies are questioning the long-term plans of people on visas. Therefore, you may have more chance of getting a contract role if on a visa. And these roles can lend themselves to going perm.

In saying that, Irish CA’s are generally regarded highly, given the similarity of training and experience/economies so you do have a strong chance of getting a perm role or a better contract.

Is there anything from a VISA point of view that I should be aware of?

Absolutely, unfortunately it is very difficult to work in Canada without a working visa. But the process isn’t overly complicated. In order to apply for the 2-year IEC working holiday visa for Canada, you must meet a number of criteria:

  1. Be a citizen of Ireland.
  2. Have an Irish passport that expires after your working holiday in Canada.
  3. Are between 18 and 35, inclusively.
  4. Proof of $2,500 CAD equivalent or more in savings.

The process can take anywhere between 6 weeks to 3/4 months, depending on each individual’s personal requirements so do plan ahead. You then have 12 months to activate your Visa from the date it is granted.

Should I try to get a job before I move over or when I arrive? How long does it usually take to get a job in Canada?

There is more of an appetite if you’re here on the ground – little things like having a local address and cell number can help. Most interviews are now in-person at some stage of the process also. It could take up to 3 months though so do be prepared for this and have enough savings to keep you ticking over.

Start networking before you go – reach out to people you may know on the ground and/or recruiters. Another option is an internal transfer potentially.

What is the likelihood of sponsorship if you wanted to stay for more than two years?

So it is different to Australia in that you don’t need sponsorship. You can apply for Permanent residency (once you have one year of work experience in Canada within the last 3 years) and this is valid for 5 years. And then you can apply for Citizenship after 7 years in Canada. Bigger companies will help with the PR process to retain people.

It is pretty straightforward to get PR after 2 years as CA’s are in demand, which helps when looking for a job.

What experience is seen as being particularly valuable for companies taking on qualified accountants moving to Canada?

Data analytics, modelling is becoming a bigger thing for companies in Canada. Companies are beginning to utilise AI functions as part of day-to-day analysis and accounting roles. They are thinking more of “How do we use the data” so people love to see this experience. Having good detail on your CV of your experience gained to-date is also key.

What is the average pay rate for a recently qualified accountant in Canada?

Anywhere between $80-95k CAD. There are outliers of course – eg: perm v’s contract. And benefits in a perm role are really strong – in Toronto, you have OHIP after 3 months – Free massages, free physio, free dentist!

What is the best time of year to get hired?

There is no right or wrong time to move to Canada – July/August is quiet as people are on holidays though. The only thing to consider is the weather if you are moving to Toronto – it can be up to negative 30 from January to March which could make apartment hunting a little tricky. But they are really well prepared for it – it’s their norm.

Any time from post year-end on can be a good time (February/March) as people have more time to hire.

What 3 tips would you give to a recently qualified accountant looking to relocate to Canada from Ireland?

  1. Have 3-6 months’ rent in your pocket, it can be expensive to live there – have enough savings – processes are slower than here in Ireland – it’s the Canadian way! Rent has gone up ($2-2.5k for a one bedroom condo) – Don’t limit yourself from a location perspective. Being flexible on location will make you more attractive both when looking for a job and somewhere to live.
  2. Be open to new roles in new industries – Be curious – Mining, Real Estate, FS and large tech/software, AI, start-ups are rapidly growing industries in Canada. They can be really good to get new experience in – don’t say no to a role just because it is outside your comfort zone, think of bigger picture. And be open to areas/industries outside of downtown.
  3. Say yes to everything (within reason) – Networking is key! Start it before you move! Have a call with someone, if someone asks you out for dinner or drinks, go. If someone mentions a sports club or book club, go! And enjoy meeting new people from all different backgrounds. And network, network, network. I can’t reiterate this enough when it comes to life in Canada! The Irish community are great to help each other out.

About Siobhán…

Siobhan Sexton ACA is Business Lead with Barden and is an expert in recently qualified accounting careers and recruitment.

Originally from Cork, Siobhán Sexton ACA trained in KPMG Cork in the Tax Department and she is ACA qualified since 2017.

Siobhán also worked as part of the Management Consulting team in KPMG Dublin during her training contract. She worked predominantly on pharmaceutical, IT and construction clients.

This experience gives her a unique insight into the finance, accounting and professional service markets.

Following the completion of her training contract with KPMG, Siobhán joined Barden Dublin in March 2017 as part of the Recently Qualified Accountants team.

In 2018 she took a sabbatical to travel to and work in Canada. During her time in Canada, Siobhán worked with both Michael Page and Robert Walters Recruitment. On returning to Ireland, Siobhán relocated to her hometown of Cork and now works with our Recently Qualified Accountants team in Barden Cork.

Contact Siobhán at siobhan.sexton@barden.ie or via LinkedIn.

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