As a Canadian immigration consultancy, we receive many requests for work permits or questions regarding employment in Canada. You can find a comprehensive breakdown of how to work in Canada below.
What is a temporary foreign worker?
A temporary foreign worker is anyone who is not a permanent resident or citizen of Canada and has been authorized to work in Canada. Most of the time, temporary foreign workers hold either on an open work permit (such as a Post-Graduation Work Permit or Spousal Open Work Permit), or an employer-specific work permit which is based on an LMIA. The Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program allows Canadian employers to hire foreign workers to fill temporary jobs when qualified Canadians are not available.
Who can apply for a work permit?
If a person is eligible, they can apply for an Open Work Permit. Eligibility for an open work permit can be based on many different factors, such as the applicant’s country of nationality, the type of job held by their spouse, or a pending PR application. There are many types of open work permits available, such as:
- IEC Working Holiday visa
- Spousal Open Work Permit
- Bridging Open Work Permit
- more below
If a person is not eligible for an open work permit, then they may be eligible to apply for a work permit based on a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).
A Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) can apply for an LMIA-based work permit once they have received the following from a Canadian employer:
- A job offer / offer of employment
- A contract of employment
- A copy of the LMIA from the employer, and
- The LMIA number
If a prospective TFW does not have the above, the work permit will not be issued. We will discuss about LMIAs below.
There are also certain employer-specific work permits which are LMIA-exempt such as Intra-Company Transferees and CUSMA (NAFTA) work permits.
What is an LMIA?
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document that an employer in Canada may need to get before hiring a foreign worker (TFW). Essentially, an LMIA gives an employer permission to hire a worker who is not a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or work permit holder. LMIA applications are submitted to Employment and Social Development Canada, not to IRCC. The applicant for an LMIA is the employer, not the worker.
LMIA application decisions will either be positive or negative. A positive LMIA will show that there is a job which needs to be filled for a Canadian employer. It will also show that no Canadian worker or permanent resident is available to do the job and that there is a genuine labour shortage. A positive LMIA is sometimes called a confirmation letter. A negative LMIA means that the ESDC has reason to believe that there are suitable candidates within Canada who may be available to work.
It is the employer’s responsibility to hire any prospective employee who may be a Canadian or permanent resident before they consider applying for an LMIA to seek foreign workers.
Does everyone need a work permit?
Not everyone requires a work permit to work in Canada. Sometimes, workers have authorization to work in Canada without being issued a work permit, such as in the case of a performer or an athlete traveling to Canada for a concert or big game. In this case, the worker would enter Canada as a visitor (they must have a visa if they are from a country where a temporary resident visa (TRV) or visit visa would be required). To find out if you need a work permit, we recommend you visit the IRCC Work in Canada temporarily page.
If you do not meet any of the roles mentioned, you will most likely need a work permit to come and work in Canada.
What types of work permits are available?
Let’s start with what types of work permits are available for temporary foreign workers in Canada.
- Open work permit – this allows you to work for any employer in Canada except the ones mentioned below.
- Employer specific work permit (or closed work permit) – allows you to work only with an employer specifically mentioned on your work permit
You cannot work with businesses:
- who are listed as ineligible on the list of employers and who have failed to comply with the conditions, or
- who regularly offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages.
What is an employer-specific work permit?
An employer-specific work permit lets you work in Canada according to the conditions on your work permit, such as:
- the name of the specific employer you can work for
- the position you can work in
- how long you can work
- the location where you can work (if applicable)
Before you submit your application for an employer-specific work permit, the employer who wants to hire you must complete certain steps and give you either a copy of a Labour Market Impact Assessment or an offer of employment number to include in your application.
What is an open work permit?
An open work permit is not specific to one employer or position, and as such you do not need to have:
- a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada, or
- proof that an employer has submitted an offer of employment through the Employer Portal and paid the employer compliance fee.
In most cases, you will have to pay the open work permit holder fee along with the work permit fee. Check the fee list for the most up-to-date application fees.
Is anyone eligible to apply for an open work permit?
Not everyone can apply for an open work permit. However, you may be eligible for an open work permit if you:
- are an international student who graduated from a designated learning institution and are eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
- are a student who’s no longer able to meet the costs of your studies (destitute student)
- have an employer-specific work permit and are being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to your job in Canada
- 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
- are a temporary resident permit holder
- are a young worker participating in special programs.
In each of these situations, you must meet additional criteria to be eligible as listed below.
Who can apply for a work permit?
There are specific requirements you need to meet depending on where you are when you apply for your work permit. But regardless of where you apply or which type of work permit you apply for, you must
- not have contravened the conditions of a prior entry to Canada;
- prove to an immigration officer that you will leave Canada when your work permit expires;
- show that you have enough money to take care of yourself and your family members during your stay in Canada and to return home;
- obey the law and have no record of criminal activity (we may ask you to give us a police clearance certificate);
- not be a danger to Canada’s security;
- be in good health and have a medical exam, if needed;
- not plan to work for an employer listed with the status “ineligible” on the list of employers who failed to comply with the conditions;
- not plan to work for an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages; and
- give the officer any other documents they ask for to prove you can enter the country.
How do I find a job in Canada?
There are several ways to find a job in Canada, depending on your education and experience. You may apply through popular job sites, employer websites or recruitment services.
Here are some of the popular job sites that you may consider:
There are several recruitment services who may also be able to connect you with prospective employers. You may also want to consider applying through job sites that are very specific to your industry or field of expertise. You will find many of them in Canada.
Do I need to pay to get a job?
No, you do not have to pay anyone to find a job. Be aware that there are many recruitment agencies or fake immigration consultants who may promise you a job and may even show you an LMIA for a job that meets your needs and will ask for a payment.
Remember! As an employee, you are not required to make any payment, other than the work permit holder fee:
- If you are applying for an employer-specific work permit, you must pay the work permit processing fee.
- If you are applying for an open work permit, you usually have to pay the open work permit holder fee and the work permit processing fee at the same time.
Other than this, you do not have to make any payments. Click here to learn how to spot a fake immigration consultant or lawyer.
Can I apply for a work permit from outside Canada?
Yes, you can. Anyone can apply before they enter Canada. However, there may be visa office requirements that you need to meet depending on what country or territory you’re applying from. Make sure you follow the instructions for how to apply.
How can I apply for a work permit if I’m in Canada already?
Certain types of work permit applications can be submitted for processing within Canada if the worker is already inside Canada when the application is submitted. Other types of work permit applications are still processed outside Canada at the visa office responsible for applications in the applicant’s country of nationality, even if the applicant is already physically inside Canada. Either way, an application for a work permit can still be submitted for an applicant who is physically inside Canada when the application goes into process.
I need more information, can you help?
You’ve come to the right place. For more information and to apply for a work permit, or even to know what to expect after filing your application, reach out to our team today.