Canada operates the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP).
The difference between the two programs is that the TFWP requires a labour market test, known as the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
Canadian Work Permit Types
There are two types of work permit programs in Canada:
- Temporary Foreign Worker Program: A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required for a foreign national to obtain a work permit
- International Mobility Program: An LMIA is not required for a foreign national to obtain a work permit
The purpose of the LMIA is for employers to demonstrate to the Canadian government that the hiring of a foreign worker will not have a negative impact on Canada's existing workforce.
The federal department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) wants to ensure that the hiring of foreign workers will not displace existing workers in Canada nor place downward pressures on their wages. Workers that need an LMIA fall under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).
Although the LMIA process is the rule, there are many different LMIA-exempt work permits, resulting from free trade agreements, such as the former North American Free Trade Agreement, now known as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, or CUSMA. These free trade agreements enable foreign workers to apply for a work permit without their employer having to obtain an LMIA.
In addition to these employer sponsored work permits, there are a number of work permit options available to foreign workers who do not yet have a job offer, including working holidays, post-graduate work permits, and open spousal work permits. Workers who do not need an LMIA fall under the International Mobility Program (IMP).
These are among the common scenarios under which one can work in Canada:
These work permits require the employer to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment as part of the process.
Certain circumstances allow for individuals to work in Canada without first obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment.
These are issued under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (formerly NAFTA), allowing work without an LMIA.
These permits will allow a company to bring certain employees to Canada from its offices abroad without a LMIA.
In many cases, business visitors may work in Canada without a work permit, so long as they meet certain conditions and don't enter the Canadian labour market.
Post-Graduation Work Permits
After graduating from a Designated Learning Institution, international students in Canada may work for up to three years.
Evaluate Your Work Permit Options
I already have a job offer in Canada
If you have a job offer from a Canadian employer and are unsure of what to do next, check out our Work Permit Services to get an introduction on what you need to acquire the proper authorizations to work in Canada. Cohen Immigration Law would be happy to assist you with the process from beginning to end.
I have a job offer in the province of Quebec
The province of Quebec has its own requirements for working in Quebec. To start, you are required to obtain a document called a CAQ as part of the process. You should also note that Quebec has its own list of occupations that allow for an expedited Labour Market Impact Assessment to be issued.
I am a citizen of the United States or Mexico
Canada has a special relationship with the United States and Mexico that allows certain individuals to work in Canada. The former NAFTA is now called the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) allows individuals to work in Canada under a CUSMA work permit. CUSMA is broken down into four categories, covering professionals, intra-company transfers, traders and investors, and allows such individuals to circumvent the traditional work permit process.
I am a Canadian business looking to hire a foreign worker
If you are a Canadian employer who is looking to hire a worker from abroad, we would be happy to advise you on the proper steps to bring that worker to Canada. Our Work Permit specialists will discuss your business needs with you, the qualifications of the worker that you have in mind, and the options that you have for getting that worker to Canada. Depending on your needs, you may need to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment.
Alternatively, there may be specific programs that are geared toward addressing your needs on an expedited basis through an exemption, such as through an intra-company transfer.
I am a tech worker
Canada offers many different work permit pathways to global tech talent that have a job offer in the country including through free trade agreements such as CUSMA. One of the most prominent pathways is called the Global Talent Stream. The Global Talent Stream enables tech talent to obtain federal government authorization to work in Canada within one month.
I am in the TV and film industry
Labour Market Impact Assessments are not required for TV and film workers in Canada, but foreign workers and producers must still comply with Canada's work permit requirements.
I would like to work in Canada as an entrepreneur
In addition to Entrepreneur Work Permits, be sure to look into Canada's Entrepreneur Start-Up Visa Program if you have business management or entrepreneurial experience.
I would like to work in Canada as a self-employed individual
There are a number of programs that allow self-employed individuals to work in Canada under certain circumstances. If you are looking to work in Canada on a self-employed basis, the process may be a bit complicated.
I am a currently studying or have recently graduated from a Canadian educational institution
Depending on the amount of time that you have studied in Canada, you may be eligible for a Post-graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This work permit is an excellent opportunity for you to develop Canadian experience, especially if you are looking to apply for Canadian immigration under Express Entry, the Provincial Nominee Program, or through Quebec.
Canadian employers wishing to employ a foreign worker in Canada must first obtain authorization from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), otherwise known as a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Canadian employers must demonstrate that employing a foreign worker will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market in most cases, and that there is currently no Canadian citizen or permanent resident available to fill the position.
This is typically accomplished by advertising the position on several venues, thus demonstrating there was no suitable Canadian for the job. A LMIA is a very rigorous and comprehensive process that is subject to a high level of scrutiny from the government, and thus must be completed without errors.
If you have a work permit that is about to expire or if you need to make changes to the conditions of your work permit, you need to submit a new application at least 30 days before your work permit expires. You are not allowed to extend your work permit beyond your passport's expiry date.
An open work permit is one that enables a foreign worker to work for any employer in Canada. Open work permits do not require foreign nationals to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment or a job offer when applying to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for a work permit.
Closed work permits require a foreign worker to only work for the employer who has obtained a positive LMIA and provided them with a job offer. If a foreign worker is no longer going to work for this employer, they need to apply to change the conditions of their work permit if they wish to continue to legally work in Canada.
The PGWP is available to international students that have completed an eligible program of at least 8 months of full-time studies at a Designated Learning Institution (DLI). The purpose of the PGWP is to enable international students to gain professional work experience which they can go on to use to become eligible for a Canadian immigration program.
If you meet the PGWP's eligibility criteria, you can submit your application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The ultimate length of your PGWP depends on the duration of your studies in Canada. The maximum length of time of a PGWP is 3 years. Generally speaking you can only obtain a PGWP once. By the time your PGWP has expired, you either need to have obtained Canadian permanent resident status, or obtained another temporary permit, or leave Canada.
Your spouse or common law partner can apply for a work permit so long as they meet the eligibility criteria of an LMIA-required or LMIA-exempt work permit. One option available to Canadian citizens and permanent residents is the Spousal Open Work Permit.
The Spousal Open Work Permit allows eligible individuals living in Canada to obtain a temporary work permit while their spousal sponsorship application is being processed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). This work permit enables the person awaiting sponsorship to work for any employer in Canada.
Yes, you can apply for a work permit on its own or in combination with a permanent residence application. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) recognizes the concept of "dual intent."
No, there are no limits. Each work permit has a validity period. Certain work permits do not have limits on the number of times they can be extended while work permits such as the Post-Graduation Work Permit can only be obtained once. If you have a work permit that can not be extended, you can apply to obtain a work permit under another category in which you are eligible.
Your work permit will contain conditions, including those that will be written on the work permit itself.
If you are on a closed LMIA-required work permit, for example, conditions will include the type of work you can do, which employer you can work for, where you can work, and how long you can work.
There are other standard conditions that apply to all foreign workers such as being required to leave Canada at the end of your stay.
Yes, assuming your work permit remains valid, you can submit an application to have it extended while you are living in Canada.
IRCC strongly encourages you to apply for your work permit before you travel to Canada, however some foreign workers are eligible to apply for one upon arrival.
Individuals who want to apply for a work permit at a Canadian port of entry (POE) must meet the following conditions:
- be eligible for an electronic travel authorization (eTA) or be able to travel to Canada without a visitor visa
- meet all of the other requirements of the work permit stream you are applying under