What Visa Do I Need to Work as a Vet in Canada?

Holly Anne Hills MRCVS

Vets are in high demand in Canada and fall into the demand or shortage professions (Canada NOC List, code 3114). With an average salary of $70-145,000 on top of the incredible scenery and lifestyle Canada has to offer, it’s no wonder it’s one of the most popular countries to emigrate to.

There are two essential bits of official ‘paperwork’ you’ll need to sort out before you can head off to your new life – a visa and a veterinary licence. You’ll need to bear in mind that this can take time, and typically it can take between 6-12 months to go through the entire immigration process.

Depending on your country of origin some citizens are classified as visa exempt, which means usually you can visit Canada for up to 6 months as long as you have a valid passport and an electronic travel authorization (eTA). But if you plan to stay longer and wish to work, you’ll need either a Permanent Residency or a Temporary Work Visa.  Permanent Residency is usually the best route, especially if you plan to stay long-term. Once you gain permanent residency, you’ll need to live in Canada for at least 2 out of every 5 years.

So how do you get started with the process? Here’s our step-by-step guide on how to gain your veterinary license and visa to work in Canada. 

Register with The Vet Service today to speak with our North America and Canada Advisor to make your dream of working and living in Canada a reality. With a in-depth selection of permanent vet jobs, locum vet jobs, and graduate vet jobs available, your choice is endless.

1. Determine Your Eligibility

The first step you’ll need to take when starting the process of obtaining a visa to emigrate to Canada is to determine your eligibility. This can be done simply and quickly online via a visa agent and will help to guide you as to which visa process is the most appropriate for you before proceeding. Contact us for further information on this.

2. Accreditation of your Qualifications

In order to practice as a vet in Canada, you’ll need to be licensed to practice in your home country. You’ll then need to get those qualifications accredited in order to obtain your license to practice in Canada. Membership to some country associations for example the AVMA or equivalent does meet Canada’s standards, but you’ll still need to jump through a few hoops to get your license to practice there. To check if your licence is accepted within the standards please speak with one of our team.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association are responsible for registering and accrediting vets in Canada. But before you can apply for registration with them, you’ll need to obtain a Certificate of Qualifications from the National Examining Board – this means you’ll need to take exams in order to register. You’ll need to factor in a cost of around $700 for this.

The NAVLE (North American Veterinary Licencing Examination) is compulsory for all vets wishing to practice in North America or Canada. You’ll need to register to take the exams, and there are usually a couple of sittings each year. It is comprised of 3 exams, and it may sound daunting, but there is ample support available to help you through the process and don’t forget our advisors are on hand to guide you to the next step.

Once you have passed your exams and gained your Certificate of Qualifications, you will then be able to apply for a provincial license to practice in the region you have chosen to live and work.

3. Apply for your Visa

There are a large number of different routes to obtaining a visa to live and work in Canada. For vets, there are a few ways that are advised to be the best route, and most likely to be successful. Those are –

  • Express Entry system
  • Provincial Nominee Program
  • The Rural and Northern Immigration Program
  • The Atlantic Immigration Pilot

The Express Entry System is the fastest and easiest way to obtain your visa. This system works on points using the Canadian Comprehensive Ranking System which takes into consideration your age, qualifications, English and/or French language skills, any relevant work experience, and where relevant your partner’s skills. Support is available to ensure you maximise your score, but having a job offer in place, or a Provincial Nomination can really help to increase your score. For this reason, if you are set on moving to Canada to work as a vet, it can be extremely beneficial to search for jobs and line up a role before you apply for your visa. With the help of the The Vet Service, you will be able to find the right role for you, as well as gain support obtaining your visa, taking your exams, and ensuring your move goes as smoothly as possible.

The Provincial Nominee Program allows skilled workers to live and work in Canada. You’ll need a valid job offer for at least 1 year, and if your skills match those needed or desired in your chosen province you can receive a nomination worth 600 points in your visa application – almost a guarantee of an offer to reside permanently in Canada.

You’ll need to remember that all this comes at a cost – obtaining your visa via the Express Entry route could cost you between $1000-1500. Having a job offer before you apply can help as many jobs overseas offer attractive relocation packages as well as support throughout the visa application process.


Emigrating to Canada is generally straightforward, and as a vet, you’re in a very strong position to obtain a Permanent Residency visa and score highly in the Comprehensive Ranking System. Planning is essential – you’ll need to take into consideration the date of your NAVLE examinations and factor this into the timescale you have for your move. As well as taking into account the 6-12 months it can take for your visa to be processed. Usually, vets are offered Permanent Residency quickly, due to being able to get a high score.

Having a job offer in place will put you in a much greater position throughout the visa process. You may even wish to make a short trip over to Canada as a tourist to visit a few clinics and meet your prospective new colleagues before accepting a role. Remember that most employers will also be able to support and assist you throughout every stage of your move, as well as offer financial support and attractive relocation packages that can help to reduce the costs involved.

You are already on the right path to rediscovering your new Canadian veterinarian career by reading our blog. We have a variety of visa blogs live on our education hub if Canada isn’t your first choice to relocate to.

Don’t forget to check out our other Visa blogs:

Or check out roles right across the USA or in a state near you.

We can help you find your next job with options globally including International Vet Jobs, Vet Jobs in The USA, Vet Jobs in Australia, Vet Jobs in New Zealand, Vet Jobs in Canada, Vet Jobs in the UK, and Vet Jobs in Ireland.