The rules on immigrating to Canada via a Work Permit change over time as the government tries to protect both foreign workers from exploitation and the Canadian labor market. This page discusses the general outline of what you need to know to file for a Work Permit, and provides links to the Canadian government agencies that manage this process. A Work Permit is appropriate for individuals who are neither Canadian citizens or permanent residents to work in Canada.
For alternative ways to immigrate to Canada, you should read our post on “Immigrating to Canada“. Given how complex an immigration application can be, you may want to consider using an immigration attorney. If so, you should read our article on “Hiring an Immigration Attorney.”
What is required for a Canadian Work Permit?
There are 4 requirements to getting a Canadian Work Permit:
- A Job offer. With limited exceptions, the first thing you need in order to begin applying for a Canadian Work Permit is an offer to come work for a registered Canadian company
- Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA). Once you have received a letter of acceptance, almost all Canadian work permits require a verified LMIA, formally called a Labor Market Opinion (LMO). To obtain this verification, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will assess the offer of employment to ensure that there will be no negative impact on the Canadian labor market. Details and reasoning for why any Canadian applicants were not hired will be required from the prospective employer. Once a person obtains a positive LMIA they may apply for a Canada work permit.
- Certification. Applicants must have the required credentials to perform the job in Canada. If the offered position is one of Canada’s regulated occupations, certification to practice the profession in Canada is required for application eligibility.
- Application. The required forms and documents need to be submitted for processing and can be found on the CIC website
Where Do You Get a Canadian Work Permit?
Residents or citizens of countries that do not require a visitor’s visa to enter Canada (TRV) can obtain a work permit at the border if they have fulfilled all of the other requirements.
Residents or citizens of countries that do require a visitor’s visa to enter Canada must apply for their Canadian work visa at the visa office responsible for your country.
There are many different types of Work Permits and each have a different set of requirements.
LMIA Based Work Permit
A Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) based work permit is available to individuals who are neither a Canadian citizen nor a permanent resident and are applying for positions that are facing labor shortages in Canada and are unfilled by Canadian.
- Valid job offer from a Canadian employer
- Not be inadmissible to Canada for any reason such as criminal, medical or financial reasons
- A verified LMIA must be obtained, via application to the ESDC. Once verified, a second application must be submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) for the actual work permit.
- Only valid for a set period of time
- Tied to a specific employer
- Can only legally work for the employer named on their work permit and cannot switch employers once in Canada
Post-Graduate Canadian Work Permit
A post-graduate work permit is available to graduates of Canadian academic programs. The applicant does not need to have a current job offer.
- Applicant must have a valid study permit.
- Students who complete an academic program between 8 months and 2 years in duration will receive a Canada post-graduate work permit, eligible for the same period of validity as their Canada study permit.
- Foreign students who have studied on a valid Canada study permit for more than 2 years will be entitled to a three-year Canada Post-Graduate work permit.
- Applications must be submitted within 90 days from the time of confirmed academic program completion.
- The permit provides entitlement to work for any employer without any additional verification.
- Canadian permanent residency programs can also be offered to individuals who have graduated from a Canadian academic program and who have work experience.
- In cases, foreign workers and foreign students are entitled to have their spouse accompany them. Spouses will be entitled to an open work or study permit.
- Instances where individuals may not be eligible for a Post-Graduate Work Permit include; participation in specific programs, such as the Canada-China Scholars Exchange Program, being part of a long distance learning program, or having received education funding from certain sources (i.e. the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development).
Open Work Permits
An Open Work Permit allows immigration of the accompanying spouse of a foreign student and common-law partners of certain foreign students and foreign workers. The permit is not tied to a specific employer, and allows study at any Canadian educational institution.
- Must be a spouse or common-law partner of a certain type of foreign student who is currently studying or working in Canada.
- There is one exception. Foreign workers in the province of British Columbia are entitled to have their working age (18-22 years old) children and their spouse accompany them on an open work permit in Canada.
- At this time, only foreign workers in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia are entitled to have their dependent children accompany them to Canada on an open work permit.
Post-Graduate Work Permits
Post-Graduate work permits are issued for the same period of validity as an individual’s previous study permit. To be eligible you must have graduated from a Canadian academic full-time programs of at least 8 months in duration. In addition you must be:
- Be 18 years or older
- Must have a document from the relevant school (transcript, official letter, certificate, etc.) that confirms you have completed and passed all your program requirements
- Must apply for a work permit within 90 days of when it was confirmed that you completed your program, and have a valid study permit when you apply for the work permit.
Working Holiday Visa
The Working Holiday Visa program is designed for visiting youth seeking Canadian work experience. Requirements include:
- Individuals must be from a country that has an agreement with Canada for this program
- Between the ages 18-35
- Proof of citizenship and residence of country of origin needs to be provided
- Applicant must not have any medical or criminal issues causing inadmissibility
- NOTE: Applicants from some countries will not be able to apply if you are over the age of 30. To see if your country participates in the Working Holiday program, click here.
- A Working Holiday Visa can provide the opportunity for young people to work in Canada for up to 2 years.
- A job offer is not needed in order to qualify.
- This types of work permit will not allow you to work in certain fields such as healthcare or with children, as in most cases a medical exam in not required.
Work Permit Exemptions
Individuals performing a specific type of work may apply for an exemption and enter Canada without a temporary work permit.
There are limited reasons a person may be granted a Work Permit Exemption:
- working in an on-campus job at their school.
- Business visitors and individuals performing a specific type of work (i.e. clergy, crew members in the transport industry, expert witnesses, performing artists, news reporters, film crews, athletes and their coaches. For a full list of jobs that do not require a work permit visit here.)
Warning About Work Permit Scams
There are many employers who advertise fraudulent job offers, and applicant individuals should beware of any Canadian job offer that asks for money. Once a job offer has been received, it is advised to do as much online research about the company as possible and to try to speak with someone on the phone, even if it is overseas.
Canadian Immigration Resources
Ezbordercrossing.com can provide you with a good start to your immigration process but this is not a comprehensive list of all the information you will need. In addition, the rules on immigration change constantly so always check official government sources. Below are the primary Canadian agencies that are involved with the immigration process: