Working in Montreal

The most important thing that expats wanting to work in Montreal should know is that the official language of business and daily life is Quebec French. While the city does have a significant number of Anglophone residents, they only account for a small portion of its population.

The unique culture and politics of the wider Quebec province has effects on an individual level for workers in the city, aside from language. While city residents have access to more state benefits than elsewhere in Canada, the average salary in Montreal is lower than the national average for major cities. Taxes also tend to be higher. Expats interested in starting a business in Montreal will also have more government intervention and bureaucracy to contend with than elsewhere.

Job market in Montreal

Montreal’s economy is still one of the largest among Canadian cities. Some of its main industries include electronics, aerospace, medical research, information and communications technology (ICT), and textile manufacturing. The city also has a strong service industry which includes civil and mechanical engineering, finance and education, with six universities serving the city.

Broadly speaking, Montreal has an interesting mixture of Canadian working culture and European influences. People in the city tend to be fairly fashion conscious both in work and in public life. More vibrant offices have casual dress codes but, even then, collared shirts are common. In more formal business environments people opt for a conservative yet stylish dress code.

There is a widespread emphasis on individualism and equality, but some firms more closely resemble the elaborate hierarchies found in larger, more traditional European corporations.

Typical business hours in the city are from 9am to 5pm and sometimes 7pm, from Monday to Friday. By law, local stores are allowed to be open from 9am to 9pm during the week, and 9am to 5pm on weekends. Getting to one's office should not be a problem as the public transport system is excellent in Montreal.

Finding a job in Montreal

The majority of expats who relocate to Montreal do so having already secured a position. In many cases, they are transferred by the company to an office in Quebec. For those who haven't secured a job, the best place to start the search would be online. Company websites and job portals are a useful source of information. The classified sections of online newspapers also have listings of job opportunities. 

City residents have a legal right to be served in French, making it far more difficult for an expatriate who does not speak French to find a job in Montreal. There are part-time opportunities for foreign students studying at one of the city’s universities, such as McGill, but it would still be easier to find employment if they speak the language.

English-speaking expats who don’t have any networks in the city are advised to start French lessons as soon as possible and to secure a job before they arrive. Many of the positions available in Montreal require their candidates to be able to speak, read and write in French. There are, however, programmes aimed at migrants who are unable to speak French such as Yes (Youth Employment Services) Montreal, a non-profit organisation that assists with finding employment and starting businesses.

Expats wanting to work in Montreal have to have permanent residence in Canada or go through the procedure to get a work permit for Canada, as well as meet the selection requirements of the Quebec Government. This is because, according to law, Quebec is able to select which applicants are able to apply to the Canadian government for permanent residence in the province. Permanent workers have to fill out an official immigration application and, if their application is successful, they will receive the Certificat de Selection Du Quebec (CSQ). The Certificate of Selection is the official document for immigration issued by the government of Quebec.

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