Guide to Canadian Work Permits

Your Guide to Work Permits is a valuable resource for anyone interested in obtaining work permits in Canada. Whether you're an aspiring immigrant or a temporary worker, this guide offers essential insights and practical guidance to navigate the Canadian work permit process. Covering eligibility criteria, application procedures, and more, it's your key to pursuing career opportunities in this diverse and welcoming country, known as the Great White North.

Understanding the Canadian Work Permit

A Canadian work permit is the authorization granted to individuals from foreign countries to engage in employment within Canada. Generally, to work in Canada, a work permit is required. However, there are certain circumstances where you can work in Canada without the need for a permit or a specific job offer.

Understanding the Canadian Work Permit

Key Eligibility Criteria

Regardless of your application location, you are required to meet the following criteria:

  • Demonstrate to an immigration officer that you intend to leave Canada upon the expiration of your work permit.
  • Provide evidence of adequate financial resources to support yourself and your family members during your stay in Canada and your return home.
  • Comply with Canadian laws and maintain a clean criminal record, which may necessitate the submission of a police clearance certificate upon request.
  • Pose no threat to Canada's security.
  • Maintain good health and undergo a medical examination if deemed necessary.
  • Do not intend to work for an employer marked as "ineligible" on the list of employers who have failed to comply with employment conditions.
  • Do not intend to work for an employer who regularly offers services like striptease, erotic dance, escort services, or erotic massages.
  • Furnish any additional documents requested by the immigration officer to establish your admissibility to the country.

Applicants under the Global Skills Strategy are only eligible for the two-week application processing period if they apply from outside of Canada.

A Step-by-Step Work Permit Application Process

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you through the process of applying for a work permit, ensuring a smooth and informed journey toward securing employment abroad.

Stage 1: Employer Submits Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) Application

In the first stage, the Canadian employer initiates the process by applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The LMIA is a crucial document that assesses the impact of hiring a foreign worker on the Canadian labour market. This step aims to ensure that there are no suitable Canadian workers available to fill the job position.

Stage 2: Employer Extends a Temporary Job Offer

Once the LMIA application is approved, the employer extends a temporary job offer to the foreign worker. This offer specifies the terms and conditions of employment, including job responsibilities, duration, salary, and any other relevant details. It is an essential requirement for the work permit application.

Stage 3: Foreign Worker Submits Work Permit Application

In the third stage, the foreign worker applies for a work permit. This application should be made to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The application includes the job offer, LMIA confirmation, and other supporting documents. The foreign worker must meet all eligibility criteria and provide accurate information to facilitate a successful application.

Stage 4: Work Permit Issuance

Upon approval of the work permit application, a work permit is issued to the foreign worker. This document grants them the legal authorization to work in Canada and outlines the conditions of their employment. The foreign worker can then travel to Canada and commence their job in compliance with the terms specified in the work permit.

Transitioning from Work Visa to Permanent Residency in Canada

If you are presently employed in Canada and have submitted an application for permanent residence, you may qualify for a bridging open work permit if your existing work permit is set to expire within four months or less. This provision allows you to continue working while awaiting a decision on your permanent resident application. To be eligible for this option, you must have applied under one of the following immigration programs:

Transitioning from Work Visa to Permanent Residency in Canada

  • Federal Skilled Worker Program
  • Canadian Experience Class
  • Federal Skilled Trades Program
  • Provincial Nominee Program
  • Caring for Children Class
  • Caring for People with High Medical Needs Class

Additionally, you must meet the following criteria:

- You are currently within Canada.

- You possess a valid work permit with an expiration date within four months.

- You select "Open Work Permit" as the work permit type when completing your application.

- You have paid the required work permit processing fee and the Open Work Permit Holder fee.

Approximately 200,000 New Foreign Workers Choose Canada Annually!

Canada serves as an alluring destination for numerous skilled foreign workers hailing from various corners of the globe. Every year, nearly 200,000 skilled foreign workers opt to come to Canada, availing themselves of Temporary Canadian Work Permits. There's no reason why you can't be among them!

To work temporarily in Canada, foreign skilled workers need a job offer from a Canadian employer and must obtain a Temporary Foreign Worker Permit from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Additionally, if you or a family member are in the process of applying for a Permanent Resident (PR) card, you can explore the option of an 'Open Work' permit. 

The Application Process for a Temporary Canadian Work Visa

Obtaining a temporary Canadian Work Visa involves four fundamental steps:

  • The employer initiates the process by applying for a labour market opinion (if required).
  • The employer extends a temporary job offer to foreign workers.
  • Foreign skilled workers submit their work permit application.
  • Upon approval, the work permit is issued.

Step 1: Labor Market Impact Assessments (LMIA) - Formerly LMOs

Before embarking on the application process for a temporary Canadian Work Visa, in most cases, it is necessary to meet the requirements for a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), previously known as an LMO, from Service Canada. It's essential to note that a temporary tourist visa does not grant eligibility to work in Canada.

Distinguishing Between LMOs and LMIAs

The main difference between LMOs and LMIAs is that LMIAs are more stringent and require employers to do more to demonstrate that they cannot find a qualified Canadian worker to fill the position.

High-wage LMIAs are processed more quickly and have fewer requirements than low-wage LMIAs. However, employers must still develop a transition plan to show how they plan to permanently fill the position with a Canadian worker in the future.

Low-wage LMIAs have more requirements and are more difficult to obtain. Employers must show that they have advertised the position widely and that there are no qualified Canadian workers available. They must also meet a cap on the number of low-wage foreign workers they can employ.

Some TFWs are exempt from LMIA applications. These include skilled workers covered under the NAFTA agreement, intra-company transferees, International Experience Canada participants, post-graduate temporary work permit holders, bridging open work permit holders, and participants in private academic exchanges.

Here is a table that summarises the key differences between LMOs and LMIAs:





Less stringent

More stringent


Fewer requirements

More requirements

Processing time



Cap on foreign workers

No cap

Cap on low-wage foreign workers

Exempt TFWs

Same as LMIA

Same as LMIA

Step 2: Employer Issues the Temporary Job Offer

Following the issuance of a positive LMIA, the employer is responsible for forwarding a copy of the LMIA and a comprehensive 'job offer letter' to the foreign skilled worker.

Canadian regulations require employers to create a formal employment contract, often referred to as a 'Job Offer Letter.' This letter must encompass the following details:

- Job title for the position.

- Job description outlining responsibilities and duties.

- Specific requirements for the temporary job.

- Start and end dates of employment.

- Salary particulars.

- Name and address of the employer.

Step 3: Application for a Work Permit by the Foreign Skilled Worker

Once the foreign skilled worker has the LMIA and 'Job Offer Letter' in hand, they can proceed to apply for a Canadian Temporary Work Permit. If the employer is based in the province of Quebec, the worker may also need to obtain a Certificat d'acceptation du Québec (CAQ) for temporary work in Quebec. 

In certain instances, when applying for a temporary foreign worker permit, an interview with a visa officer may be required. If the visa officer determines that the foreign worker's employment will not adversely impact employment opportunities for Canadians and that the worker meets the necessary qualifications for the position, a Canadian Work Permit will be issued.

Note: Some applicants from specific countries may be required to undergo medical examinations in certain cases.

Step 4: Receiving a Canadian Temporary Work Permit

Upon the skilled foreign worker's arrival in Canada, a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will issue the Canadian Temporary Work Permit at the point of entry. Depending on the worker's country of citizenship, it may also be necessary to obtain a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) to enter Canada. There are a few additional minor steps and processes involved in securing a work visa.

'Open Work Permits' for Permanent Resident Applicants

Starting from December 15, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada introduced a significant change by enabling permanent resident applicants to acquire work permits during the processing period of their applications. This policy alteration empowers permanent resident applicants to engage in employment while awaiting a decision on their applications.

Business and Corporate Work Visas

If you are considering sending your employees to Canada, you should explore the option of applying for the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) Canada Visa. Applying for an Intra-Company Transfer visa provides the company and its employees with an opportunity to bypass the LMIA application process, as this work permit falls under the LMIA-exempt category.

To learn more about the Intra-Company Transfer and discuss your options, you can schedule a consultation.

Mandatory Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) for Visa-Exempt Travellers

Visa-exempt foreign nationals intending to fly to or transit through Canada are required to obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Notable exceptions include U.S. citizens and individuals holding a valid Canadian visa. Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, and Canadian permanent residents are not eligible to apply for an eTA.

Please note: If you are stateless or travelling with a travel document issued to non-citizens, such as a foreign passport or a refugee travel document, you must apply for a visa to visit or transit through Canada.

  • Canadian Work Visas for Skilled American Workers

Are you a United States citizen seeking employment opportunities in Canada? If so, you can expedite your journey to working in Canada through the NAFTA agreement. An increasing number of Americans are applying for Canadian work permits, and if you qualify, you should consider seizing this opportunity. 

Canada's robust economy is attracting numerous U.S. citizens in search of work. The advantage is the NAFTA Agreement, which streamlines the process of obtaining a Canada work visa for Americans and Mexicans.

To be eligible, you will need a job offer from a Canadian company in an occupation listed in the NAFTA agreement, along with proof of qualifications, including work experience and education, and U.S. citizenship.

Family Sponsorship and Inclusion in Canadian Immigration

Canada offers various pathways for family members to stay together when migrating to the country. Spouses and dependent children, for instance, can be included in the initial Canada work visa application for new immigrants. However, other family members, such as grandparents, require sponsorship by Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Under the Express Entry program, dependent family members of work visa applicants can be granted permanent residence in Canada. This affords them the same privileges to live, work, and study in the country.

 The Express Entry program serves as a valuable mechanism for connecting family members of Canadian work visa recipients with the broader Canadian community, promoting family unity in the immigration process.

Working in Canada with a Student Visa

Since June 2014, individuals holding Canadian Study Permits who meet specific eligibility criteria have been permitted to work on or off-campus without requiring an additional work permit. To be eligible to work up to 20 hours per week, the following conditions must be met:

  • Possession of a valid Canadian Study Permit.
  • Enrollment as a full-time student.
  • Enrollment at an authorised designated institution in Canada, including Canadian universities, community colleges, collège d'enseignement général et professionnel (CEGEP), publicly funded trade or technical schools, or private institutions authorised by provincial statute to confer degrees.
  • Enrollment in a post-secondary level program in Canada, or pursuing secondary-level vocational qualifications or post-secondary level qualifications in Quebec.
  • Enrollment in a program that grants a degree, diploma, or certificate.
  • Enrollment in a program with a duration of at least 6 months.

Employment While Visiting Canada

A common scenario arises when individuals visit Canada as tourists and come across employment prospects during their stay. It's essential to clarify whether you can work while on a visitor visa in Canada. The straightforward answer is no; you are generally not permitted to earn income in Canada while holding a tourist visa. It's important to note that there are two distinct types of Canadian Visitor Visas: Single Entry and Multiple Entry.

The Multiple Entry visa, alternatively known as the Canada Tourist Visa with a 10-year validity, allows for more flexibility in terms of multiple entries during its duration. However, the fundamental restriction on employment remains the same for both types of visitor visas.


Who needs a work permit to work in Canada?

In Canada, most foreign workers require a work permit to legally work. However, some individuals may be exempt from this requirement, such as Canadian citizens, permanent residents, and those with open work permits.

What are the different types of work permits available in Canada?

Canada offers various types of work permits, including employer-specific work permits, open work permits, post-graduation work permits, and more. The specific type you need depends on your situation and eligibility.

How do I apply for a work permit in Canada?

To apply for a work permit, you typically need a job offer from a Canadian employer and may need to go through the employer-driven process. You'll need to gather necessary documents, complete the application, and pay the required fees.

Can I change my job or employer while on a work permit in Canada?

Yes, it is possible to change your job or employer while on a work permit in Canada, but you usually need to apply for a new work permit if you switch jobs. The process may vary depending on the circumstances.

Is it possible to extend or renew a Canadian work permit?

Yes, many work permits can be extended or renewed in Canada, provided you meet the eligibility criteria and submit your application before your current permit expires. The specific requirements may differ based on the type of work permit.

Are there any restrictions on work permits in Canada?

Work permits in Canada may come with certain restrictions, such as the type of job you can do or the location where you can work. It's essential to be aware of and adhere to any such limitations specified in your permit.

Do I need a job offer to apply for a work permit?

In most cases, yes, you need a job offer from a Canadian employer to apply for a work permit. However, there are exceptions, like open work permits, which do not require a specific job offer.

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