Immigrating to Canada is a complex process, and one of the key steps for many newcomers is obtaining a work permit. In this article, we will explain the different types of work permits available for immigrants in Canada, including employer-specific work permits, open work permits, and spousal open work permits. We will also cover the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) process and the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP), which are critical for understanding the requirements and limitations of each type of permit.
What is a Work Permit?
A work permit is a document from IRCC that allows foreign workers to take on employment in Canada. Work permits are either employer-specific or open, meaning it can be for one specific job with a specific employer or for any type of work with any employer in Canada.
Who Needs a Work Permit?
Generally speaking, anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident and wishes to work in the country must apply for a work permit. Even if you are an international student studying at a Canadian educational institution, you may still need a work permit if you want to take on part-time or full-time employment.
Applying for a Work Permit in Canada
Most immigrants need a work permit to work in Canada. There are two types of permits for work. An employer-specific work permit and an open work permit.
Types of Work Permits:
There are 2 types of work permits, open and employer-specific. An open work permit allows you to work for any employer in Canada, while an employer-specific one requires a valid job offer from 1 specific Canadian employer. Both of these types of permits require that applicants meet the necessary eligibility criteria set out by the IRCC.
Employer-Specific Work Permit
What is an Employer-Specific Work Permit?
An employer-specific work permit outlines the specific name of the employer you are allowed to work for, the duration for which you can work, and the location of your job (if applicable).
Employer-Specific Work Permit Eligibility:
For an employer-specific work permit application, your employer must provide you with:
- A copy of your employment contract
- Either a copy of a labour market impact assessment (LMIA) or an offer of employment number for LMIA-exempt workers (your employer can get this number from the Employer Portal)
Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
An LMIA is a document that employers in Canada may need to obtain before they hire an international worker. An LMIA will be granted by service Canada if there is a need for an international worker to fill the job in Canada. It will also demonstrate that no worker in Canada or permanent resident is available to perform the job. A positive LMIA is also called a confirmation letter. If an employer requires an LMIA, they have to apply for one.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP)
The TFWP allows employers in Canada to hire foreign workers temporarily to fill jobs when Canadian workers are not available. Employers submit applications requesting permission to hire temporary foreign workers. These applications are assessed by Service Canada which also conducts an LMIA to evaluate the effects of these foreign workers on the Canadian labour market. Employers must comply with certain obligations in order to be allowed to continue to hire foreign workers. The TFWP is regulated through the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Open Work Permit
What is an Open Work Permit?
An open work permit enables you to be hired by any employer in Canada unless the employer is listed as ineligible (https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/employers-non-compliant.html) or regularly offers erotic dance, massages, or escort services. Open work permits are only given under specific situations. To see which work permit you are eligible you can answer the questions under “Find out what you need” link on the government of Canada immigration page (https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/work-canada/permit/temporary/need-permit.html).
An open work permit is not job-specific, therefore, you will not need Employment and Social Development Canada to provide an LMIA or show proof that your employer has given you an employment offer through the Employer Portal.
Spousal Open Work Permit
As of October 21, 2022, partners or spouses have to submit their permanent residence application online. They will then receive an acknowledgment of receipt (AoR) letter that confirms their application is being processed. Once they receive the AoR letter, they can apply for an open work permit online.
Open Work Permit Eligibility:
Applicants may be eligible for an open work permit if they:
- are an international student and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program;
- are a student who is no longer able to afford their schooling;
- are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to their job while under the employer-specific work permit;
- applied for permanent residence in Canada;
- are a dependent family member of someone who applied for permanent residence;
- are the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student;
- are the spouse or common-law partner of an applicant of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program;
- are a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member;
- are under an unenforceable removal order; or
- are a young worker participating in special programs.
How to Apply for Bridging Open Work Permits?
A bridging open work permit (BOWP) allows you to continue working in Canada while you wait for a decision to be made on your permanent residency application. One is eligible if they applied to one of the following permanent residence programs:
- Permanent residence via Express Entry
- Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
- Quebec skilled workers
- Home Child-Care Provider Pilot or Home Support Worker Pilot
- Caring for children class or caring for people with high medical needs class
- Agri-Food Pilot
The eligibility criteria for BOWP depends on whether you live in Quebec or in other provinces or territories in Canada. If living in Quebec, you must apply as a Quebec skilled worker. To be eligible you must live in Canada and plan to stay in Quebec. You may leave Canada while your application is being processed. If your work permit expires and you leave Canada, you cannot work when you return until you receive approval for your new application. You must also hold a Certificat de sélection due Québec (CSQ) and be the principal applicant on your permanent residency application. You must also have either a current work permit, an expired permit but maintained your worker status, or be eligible to restore your worker status.
If applying via the PNP, to be eligible for a BOWP you must be living in Canada and plan to live outside of Quebec when you submit an application for your BOWP. You must be the principal applicant on your application for permanent residency. You must also have either a current work permit, an expired permit but maintained your worker status, or be eligible to restore your worker status. Notably, there must be no employment restrictions as per your PNP nomination.
You can apply online for a BOWP, or on paper if you are having problems applying online. There are other eligibility criteria for the remaining permanent residence programs and one of our immigration professionals can assist you in understanding the pathways throughout your application process.
Eligibility requirements for all work permit applicants
Eligibility for a work permit may change depending on whether you are applying from inside or outside of Canada.
- demonstrate to an officer that you will exit Canada when your work permit expires;
- You must demonstrate that you have the finances to support yourself and any family members during your stay in Canada, as well as enough money to return home;
- You must follow the law and have no criminal record (you may need to provide a police clearance certificate);
- not present a security risk to Canada;
- be physically healthy and, if necessary, get a medical check-up;
- not plan to work for an employer listed as “ineligible” on the list of employers who failed to comply with the conditions;
- not plan to work for an employer who regularly offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages; and
- Provide the officer with any other requested documents to confirm your eligibility to enter the country.
Although anyone can apply for a visa before entering Canada, depending on your country or territory of origin, you may need to meet specific requirements set by the visa office.
You can apply for a work permit inside Canada, only if:
- you have a study or work permit that is valid;
- your spouse, common-law partner, or parents have a valid study or work permit;
- you have graduated and your study permit is still valid, then you are eligible for a post-graduation work permit;
- you have a temporary resident permit that is valid for six months or more;
- you’re waiting for a decision on an application for permanent residence from inside Canada;
- you have filed for refugee status;
- the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada has recognized you as a convention refugee or protected person;
- You are allowed to work in Canada without a work permit but you need a work permit to work in a different job; or
- you’re a trader, investor, intra-company transferee or professional under the Canada – United States – Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).
How do I apply for a work permit in Canada?
To apply for a work permit, you must fill out the application form and include all necessary documents and fees.
- Learn more on how to apply for a work permit.
Appealing a refusal
If your application for a work permit is refused, you may have the right to appeal this decision. You must do this within 15 days of receiving the refusal letter if you have applied from inside Canada.
Work Permit Extensions
Can you extend an open work permit?
If your work permit is near expiry, you must apply to extend it at least 30 days before expiry. You can apply online to extend a work permit. If you apply to extend your permit before it expires, you are allowed to stay in Canada while your application is processed. If you applied to extend your permit and it expires after your application is submitted, you are authorized to work without a permit until a decision is made on your application. You can continue to work under the same conditions as outlined in your work permit. Employer-specific work permit holders need to continue with the same employer, job and work location while open work permit holders can change jobs.
If you applied to extend your work permit online, you will receive a letter that you can use as proof that you can continue to work in Canada even if your permit expires while your application is being processed. Note that this letter expires 120 days from when you applied. If a decision is still not made by that expiry date, you can still continue to work until a decision is made.
Other Types of Work Permits in Canada
Facilitated LMIA (Quebec)
Facilitated LMIA allows employers to apply for an LMIA without showing proof of recruitment efforts, making it easier for employers to hire foreign workers for select occupations. This only applies to employers in Quebec. This includes specialized occupations whose list is updated yearly. According to the facilitated process, the job offer wage will determine if the employer needs to apply for an LMIA under the Low-wage Positions stream or the High-wage Positions stream, each of which have their own requirements. If the employer is offering a temporary foreign worker a wage that is at or above the median hourly wage of the province or territory, they must apply for an LMIA under the high-wage position stream. If the wage is below the median hourly wage for the province or territory then the employer applies under the low-wage position stream.
The facilitated LMIA includes high demand occupations and industries experiencing labour shortages in Quebec. The list of occupations can be found, in French only, here (https://www.quebec.ca/emploi/embauche-et-gestion-de-personnel/recruter/embaucher-immigrant/embaucher-travailleur-etranger-temporaire). These include occupations classified under the National Occupational Classification (NOC) training, education, experience and responsibilities (TEER) 0-4.
Global Talent Stream
The global talent stream allows employers to hire in-demand workers or uniquely skilled talent in elect occupations to help their businesses grow. This program allows employers in Canada to use highly-skilled global talent to expand their workforce to meet client-specific needs and to be competitive on a worldly scale. It is part of the TFWP designed to allow employers to access unique talent to help their business grow. It is also intended to fill positions for in-demand highly-skilled positions as listed under the Global Talent Occupations List (https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/foreign-workers/global-talent/requirements.html#h20).
If hiring via this stream, the employer needs to develop a Labour Market Benefits Plan, which shows the employer’s dedication to activities that will positively impact the Canadian labour market. This plan would undergo yearly Progress Reviews to evaluate how well the establishment is adhering to their commitments. Note that Process Reviews are separate from compliance-related obligations under the TFWP.
Visitor Visa to Work Permit in Canada
The Difference Between a Work Permit and a Work Visa
A visa allows entry into the country. A work permit allows the foreign national to work in Canada.
Eligibility for the Temporary Visitor Visa to Work Visa Policy
Typically visitors cannot apply for work permits from within Canada. Until February 28, 2023, a temporary public policy has been issued that allows some temporary visitors in Canada to apply for a work permit from inside Canada. To be eligible, you must be in Canada at the time of application, and apply for an employer-specific work permit until February 28, 2023. Note that this policy does not apply to those who applied before August 24, 2020 or after February 28, 2023. You must also have a valid visitor status when you apply for the work permit. If your status as a visitor has expired, you must restore your visitor status prior to applying for a work permit. If it has been less than 90 days past your the expiration of your visitor status, you can apply online to restore it.
Can You Change a Student Visa to a Work Permit?
The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) Program
The PGWP program allows intentional students who have graduated from designated learning institutions (DLIs) in Canada to get an open work permit. Notably, work experience in TEER categories 0, 1, 2, or 3 gained through the PGWP program allows graduates to apply for permanent residency via the Canadian experience class within the Express Entry program. Students that have completed their study program can work as per Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) section 186(w) while a decision is made on their PGWP application, if they meet all of the criteria below:
- Current or previous holders of a valid study permit when applying to the PGWP program
- Enrolled at a DLI as a full-time student in a vocational, professional training, or post-secondary academic program
- Had the authorization to work off Camus without a work permit
- Did not go over the maximum allowable work hours
Overall, obtaining a work permit in Canada is a multi-step process that requires careful consideration of your individual circumstances and qualifications. Whether you are applying for an employer-specific permit or an open permit, it is important to work closely with your employer and understand the requirements of the LMIA and TFWP. By familiarizing yourself with the different types of permits and the application process, you can increase your chances of success and take the first step towards a rewarding career in Canada.
This blog post is for informational purposes only. Please consult a professional for advice.
Contact Pax Law’s Canadian Work Permit Lawyers Today
If you need help understanding the process, filling out your application, or appealing a refusal, reach out to Pax Law’s experienced immigration lawyers. Pax Law is here to help and can provide legal advice when it comes to applying for a work permit in Canada. If your application for a work permit has been refused, Pax Law can help you judicially review (appeal) the refused application.
At Pax Law, our experienced Canadian immigration & work permit lawyers can provide assistance with all aspects of obtaining an open or employer-specific work permit in Canada.
If you are interested in applying for a work permit in Canada, contact Pax Law today or book a consultation.
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Work Permit FAQ
Is it worth hiring an immigration lawyer in Canada?
Absolutely. There are many immigration pathways, multiple legislations, and a huge number of case law that relate to each immigration stream. A Canadian lawyer experienced in immigration law is well-suited to make an immigration application submission and to defend the same, should the application be rejected by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (the “IRCC”).
How long does it take for an application to be approved?
The applications take anywhere from three (3) to six (6) months on average. However, processing times depend on how busy IRCC is, and we cannot make any guarantees.
Do I need a work permit if I have a valid visitor record, study permit or temporary resident permit?
The answer is: it depends.
You need to make an arrangement for a consultation with one of our immigration lawyers or Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultants (“RCIC”) to find answers to your questions.
How much does a work permit application cost?
There are many different work permits and the legal cost for making the application, depending on the type, starts from $3,000.
Can you conduct a work permit assessment for me?
There is no such thing as a “work permit assessment”. A labour-market impact assessment (LMIA) is a process that is required in some work permit applications. Service Canada conducts LMIAs. However, Pax Law can assist you with the LMIA process.
How many years does a work permit last?
It depends on the type of the program, the employment of the applicant, and various other factors.
What is the minimum salary for a work permit in Canada?
There is no minimum salary for a work permit in Canada.
Can I get a Canada work permit without a job?
Yes, for example, spouses of a study permit holder can get an LMIA-exempt open work permit.
I was denied a Canadian work permit. Can I appeal the decision or apply again?
Yes, we can take the refusal to the Judicial Review to have a judge of the Federal Court review the refusal and hear our arguments on whether the refusal was a reasonable decision by the visa officer.
What is the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)?
In short, it is a process in which the authorities make a determination on whether a job position is needed in Canada or not.