Canada issues hundreds of thousands of work permits each year, to support its economic and social objectives. Many of those workers will seek permanent residency (PR) in Canada. The International Mobility Program (IMP) is one of the most common immigration pathways. IMP was created to advance Canada’s diverse economic and social interests.

Eligible foreign national workers can apply to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) under the International Mobility Program (IMP) to obtain a work permit. Canada also allows its residents and eligible spouses/partners to obtain work permits under the IMP, to enable them to gain local work experience and be able to support themselves financially while they live in the country.

Getting a Canadian Work Permit under the International Mobility Program

Obtaining a work permit under the IMP can be led by you, as the foreign national worker, or by your employer. If the prospective employer has a vacancy, and you fall under one of the IMP streams, that employer can hire you. However, if you are eligible under IMP you could also work for any Canadian employer.

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For your employer to hire you through the IMP, they must follow these three steps:

  • Confirm the position and you qualify for an LMIA-exemption
  • Pay the $230 CAD employer compliance fee
  • Submit an official job offer through the IMP’s Employer Portal

After your employer completes these three steps you will be eligible to apply for your work permit. As an LMIA-exempt worker, you may qualify for expedited work permit processing through the Global Skills Strategy, if your position is NOC Skill Level A or 0, and you are applying from outside of Canada.

What are the LMIA-Exemptions to Qualify for IMP?

International Agreements

Many of the LMIA-exemptions are available through international agreements between Canada and other countries. Under these international free trade agreements, certain classifications of employees can transfer to Canada from other countries, or vice versa, if they can show the positive impact of the transfer to Canada.

These are the free trade agreements Canada has negotiated, each with a range of LMIA-exemptions:

Canadian Interest Exemptions

Canadian Interest Exemptions are another broad category of LMIA-exemptions. Under this category, the LMIA-exemption applicant must demonstrate that the exemption will be in the best interest of Canada. There must be a reciprocal employment relationship with other nations or a significant benefit to Canadians.

Reciprocal Employment Relationships:

International Experience Canada R205(b) allows you to take up employment in Canada when Canadians have established similar reciprocal opportunities in your home country. Entry under reciprocal provisions should therefore result in a neutral labour market impact.

Academic institutions may also initiate exchanges under C20 as long as they are reciprocal, and licensing and medical requirements (if applicable) are fully met.

C11 “Significant Benefit” Work Permit:

Under the C11 work permit, professionals and entrepreneurs can enter Canada temporarily to establish their self-employed ventures or businesses. The key to impressing your immigration officer is clearly establishing the “significant benefit” for Canadians. Will your proposed business create an economic stimulus for Canadians? Does it offer job creation, development in a regional or remote setting, or an expansion of export markets for Canadian products and services?

To be eligible for a C11 work permit, you must meet all of the C11 Visa Canada requirements outlined in the program guidelines. You will need to inarguably demonstrate that your self-employment or entrepreneurial business venture can bring substantial economic, social and cultural benefits to Canadian citizens.

Intra-Company Transfers

Intra-Company Transfers (ICT) are a provision designed to aid in the transfer of employees from a foreign-based company to its related Canadian branch or office. If you work for a company that has parent or subsidiary offices, branches, or affiliations in Canada, it may be possible for you to obtain a Canadian work permit through the Intra-Company Transfer program.

Under IMP, executive, managerial and specialized knowledge employees of a company can work in Canada temporarily, as intra-company transferees. To apply for the International Mobility Program, companies must have locations within Canada and offer intra-company transfers to their employees.

To be eligible as an intra-company transferee, you must provide a significant economic advantage to Canada through the transfer of your technical knowledge, skills, and expertise to the Canadian labour market.

Other Exemptions

Humanitarian and Compassionate Reasons: You may apply for permanent residence from within Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds (H&C) if the following are met:

  • You are a foreign national currently living in Canada.
  • You need an exemption from one or more requirements of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (IRPA) or Regulations in order to apply for permanent residence within Canada.
  • You believe humanitarian and compassionate considerations justify granting the exemption(s) you need.
  • You are not eligible to apply for permanent residence from within Canada in any of these classes:
    – Spouse or Common-Law Partner
    – Live-in Caregiver
    – Caregiver (caring for children or people with high medical needs)
    – Protected Person and Convention Refugees
    – Temporary Resident Permit Holder

Television and Film: Work permits acquired through the Television and Film category are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). If the employer can demonstrate the work to be performed by you is essential to the production, and foreign and Canadian production companies filming in Canada,

If you are applying for this type of work permit you will need to provide documentation to demonstrate that you meet the requirements for this category.

Business Visitors: The Business Visitor work permit exemption, under paragraph 186(a) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR), allows you to enter Canada to engage in international business activities. Per the definition in section R2, these activities are considered to be work, as you may receive wages or commission even though you are not directly entering the Canadian labour market.

Some examples of activities that fit the Business Visitors category include attending business meetings, trade conventions and exhibitions (providing you’re not selling to the public), procurement of Canadian goods and services, foreign government officials not accredited to Canada, and workers in the commercial production industry, such as advertising, or in the film or recording industry.

International Experience Canada:

Each year foreign nationals fill out the “Come to Canada” questionnaire to be candidates in one of the International Experience Canada (IEC) pools, get an invitation to apply, and apply for a work permit. If you’re interested in the International Experience Canada program, fill out the questionnaire, and create your Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) account. You will then submit your profile. During the 20-day period,
your employer needs to pay the $230 CAD employer compliance fee through the Employer Portal. Upon payment of the fee, your employer must send you an offer of employment number. You can then apply for your work permit, uploading any supporting documents, like police and medical exam certificates.

Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP): Eligible skilled worker candidates living in Canada can apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit while their permanent residence application is being processed, including eligible spouses/partners of Canadian citizens/permanent residents. The objective of the BOWP is to allow people who are already in Canada to continue working at their jobs.

By virtue of working in Canada, these applicants are already providing an economic benefit, so they do not need a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

If you have applied for permanent residency under one of the following programs, you may be eligible for a BOWP:

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP): The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) is the most common work permit under the IMP. Eligible foreign national graduates of Canadian designated learning institutions (DLIs) can obtain a PGWP from between eight months to three years. It’s important to verify that the program of study you’re pursuing is eligible for a post-graduation work permit. Not all are.

PGWPs are for foreign students who have graduated from a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI). A PGWP is an open work permit and will allow you to work for any employer, for as many hours as you desire, anywhere in Canada. It’s a great way to gain valuable Canadian work experience.

How Government Officers Make LMIA-Exempt Work Permit Approvals

As a foreign national, your proposed benefit to Canada through your work must be deemed significant. Officers typically rely on the testimony of credible, trustworthy and distinguished experts in your field to determine whether your work is deemed important or notable.

Your track record is a good indicator of your level of performance and achievement. Officers will also look at any objective evidence you can provide.

Here is a partial list of records that can be submitted:

  • An official academic record showing that you have earned a degree, diploma, certificate, or a similar award from a college, university, school, or other institution of learning relating to the area of your ability
  • Evidence from your current or former employers showing that you have significant full-time experience in the occupation for which you are seeking; ten or more years
  • Any national or international achievement awards or patents
  • Evidence of membership in organizations requiring a standard of excellence from its members
  • Evidence of being in the position of judging the work of others
  • Evidence of recognition for achievements and significant contributions to your field by your peers, governmental organizations, or professional or business associations
  • Evidence of scientific or scholarly contributions to your field
  • Articles or papers you authored in academic or industry publications
  • Evidence of securing a leading role in an organization with a distinguished reputation
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