A work permit is a legal document that allows a foreign national to engage in employment in Canada. Each year, Canada issues about half a million work permits to temporary foreign workers from around the world.
Canada is a prime destination for many foreign nationals seeking employment opportunities. Working in Canada is also an excellent first step for those who wish to immigrate to the country permanently.
Who can work in Canada?
Most foreign nationals need a permit to be able to work in Canada, with some exceptions.
To apply for a work permit, most applicants will need a Canadian job offer supported by a labour market impact assessment (LMIA). There are some exceptions to this requirement, where foreign workers can apply for a work permit without a LMIA, or a job offer. For example, a recent graduate of a Canadian Designated Learning Institute (DLI), or the spouse of someone who already has a Canadian work or study permit.
Candidates who are eligible to apply for a work permit must also meet the following requirements
Demonstrate their intention to leave after their work authorization expires; and
Demonstrate that they have sufficient funds to support themselves and their family in Canada and to return to their home country; and
Not be inadmissible to Canada on criminal or medical grounds; and
Plan to work with a qualifying employer; and
Are able to provide any documents requested that demonstrate their right to enter Canada.
Types of Canadian work permits
There are many different options for obtaining a Canadian work permit. Some work permits require a job offer from a Canadian employer, some require that the employer provide a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), while others require that a person has some sort of connection to Canada (previous education, spousal sponsorship, etc.). Please refer to the following categories below to determine the work permit which best suits your qualifications:
Requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
LMIA-Exempt but requiring a job offer or employment contract
Open Work Permits (no job offer or LMIA required)
- Post-Graduation Work Permits (PGWP)
- Spousal Sponsorship from Inside of Canada
- International Experience Canada (IEC) (working holiday visa)
- Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)
- Spouse Accompanying International Student or Worker
Immigration Tip: Canadian permanent residents do not require a work permit to work in Canada. Permanent resident status gives a person the legal right to live and work anywhere in the country. Find out more about permanent immigration options for professional and skilled workers.
How to obtain a Canadian work permit
The process for obtaining a Canadian work permit varies greatly depending on which type of work permit a person is applying for. For example, an international student studying in Canada will oftentimes be automatically issued authorization to work part-time as part of their study permit authorization.
Most closed work permit applications require that a foreign national has an official job offer from a Canadian employer which is supported by a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). Even those who are LMIA-exempt or exempt from requiring a work permit should be aware of the unique documentation they need to prepare in order to ensure they are granted entry to Canada. There are two general pathways for obtaining a Canadian work permit: a closed (restricted) work permit and an open work permit.
Closed work permits are tied to specific employers, this means that a foreign national issued a closed work permit must remain working with the same employer at the same location unless they change their work permit.
If I have a Canadian job offer, am I eligible to apply for a work permit?
Having a Canadian job offer does not necessarily mean you are eligible to apply for a work permit. A job offer must meet certain requirements to be considered valid for certain work permit applications. In most cases, in order to be eligible for a work permit, an applicant’s job offer must be either:
It is important to note that the province of Quebec has its own process for determining the validity of an offer of employment.
What am I allowed to do on a Canadian work permit?
Your physical work permit outlines the specific restrictions attached to your authorization. These limitations will mainly be determined by the type of work permit you are eligible for. Conditions may include the type of work you can engage in, where and for whom you can work, and how long you can work in Canada. All work permit holders are prohibited from working at a business where is are grounds to suspect a risk of sexual exploitations of some workers.
Work permit holders are not permanent residents of Canada and must leave the country by the end of their authorized stay. However, if you are working in Canada and would like to remain permanently, complete our free assessment form to receive a full evaluation of your immigration options.
Can my family be included on my work permit application?
If you are applying for an employer-supported work permit, you may be eligible to have your spouse and dependent children accompany you to Canada.
If your children are school-aged and are in Canada, they may attend Canadian educational institutions without requiring a separate study permit. Your spouse or partner may also be eligible to apply for an open work permit, allowing them to work for any employer in Canada.
How much does a Canadian work permit cost?
The processing fee for a closed work permit is $155 CAD per person or $255 per person for an open work permit. If you are restoring a work permit or applying as a group of performing artists, additional fees will apply.
How do I apply for a work permit?
The application procedure is different depending on which type of work permit you need. The first step is determining which work permit is best for you. If you need help figuring out the application, simply contact us and a member of our team will assist you with scheduling a consultation.
What documents are required to apply for a Canadian work permit?
The documents required for a Canadian work permit will depend on the type of work permit you are applying for. Applicants may need to provide the following documents as part of their work permit application:
- Completed application forms
- Proof of status in Canada (if applicable)
- Family member’s proof of status (if applicable)
- Labour Market Impact Assessment (if applicable)
- Written offer of employment (if applicable)
- CV/ résumé
- Marriage certificate (if applicable)
- Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) (if applicable)
- Proof that you meet the job requirements
- Valid copy of your passport
- Copy of education credential
- Medical exam results (if requested)
- Evidence of financial means to stay in Canada and return to home country
- Proof of payment for applicable government fees
- Recent passport-sized photos
Biometrics for Canadian work permits
IRCC currently has a temporary measure in place that exempts applicants applying for a work permit from within Canada. Candidates outside of Canada are still required to provide biometrics upon receiving a biometrics instruction letter.
Follow the government of Canada’s instructions for how to give your biometrics on their dedicated page.
Police clearances for Canadian work permits
The visa officer reviewing your application may ask you to provide police clearances certificates. Depending on where you are applying from, this document may be part of your application checklist and must be provided with your initial submission.
Work permit applicants may be required to provide a police clearance certificate from any country that they have lived in for 6 months or more past the age of 18.
Medical exam for Canadian work permit
Foreign nationals that apply to work in Canada may need to complete a medical exam, depending on their intended length of stay, where they have lived, and what occupation they will work in.
If you intend to work in Canada for less than 6 months, you will likely not require a medical exam, with some exceptions. In the case that you intend to work in a job that brings you into close contact with people or are an agricultural worker that has been to certain countries, you will need a medical exam.
If you are planning to work in Canada for longer than 6 months, you will be required to take a medical exam if one of the following conditions applies:
- You have lived in or travelled to one of the countries listed on Canada’s ‘Find out if you need a medical exam’ page for 6-months or longer, or
- You intend to work in an occupation where you will be in close contact with people listed in the above-mentioned hyperlink
Medical exams must be completed with a panel physician designated by IRCC. You can find a panel physician near you on IRCC’s Find a Panel Physician webpage.
Applicants have the option to take an upfront medical exam. This involves contacting the panel physician directly and taking the exam prior to submitting a work permit application. If you do not provide your medical exam results with your application, the IRCC officer will send instructions on how to complete the medical exam and provide a deadline for when it needs to be completed.
Photo requirements for Canadian work permit
Foreign nationals applying for a Canadian work permit must provide a passport-sized photo with their application. The photo must be according to IRCC’s specifications.
How long will it take to process my work permit application?
The processing time for a work permit application depends on the type of work permit and the applicant’s country of residence at the time of application. Processing times range anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
How long will it take to process my LMIA application?
There are two types of Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) applications: a regular LMIA and a simplified LMIA. The simplified LMIA is only available in the province of Quebec. The regular LMIA is processed on a case-by-case basis with processing times varying greatly from applicant to applicant. Generally, it takes a minimum of five months to receive a response on a regular LMIA application.
If an employer is eligible for Canada’s Global Talent Stream, they may qualify for expedited LMIA processing. The simplified LMIA completed for Quebec employment is usually processed in approximately two to three months.
What is the rate of success for work permit/LMIA applications?
It is impossible to give a rate of success for work permit/LMIA applications, as all applications are processed on a case-by-case basis. If an applicant meets the requirements of the LMIA, their application should be approved. However, applications are assessed by individual officers, each exercising their own discretion in choosing whether or not to approve a work permit application.
How can I check the status of my work permit application?
If you submitted an online work permit application, you may check the status through your online account. If you submitted a paper-based application, you may check the status by linking it to an online IRCC account.
Reasons a work permit application is refused
Receiving a work permit refusal can be devasting. There are many reasons a work permit can be refused. If it is unclear why your application was refused, applying for GCMS notes may help get a better idea, and can help address the officer’s concerns if you decide to reapply. Here are some common reasons for a work permit refusal:
- The officer was not convinced that you could adequately perform your intended work;
- The officer was not convinced that you would return to your home country at the end of your authorized stay in Canada;
- You do not meet the criteria for the work permit you applied for
How can I include my spouse and dependents on my work permit application?
If you are applying for a closed Canadian work permit, your spouse may be eligible for an open work permit.
If your spouse is eligible, they will need to apply for their own work permit. In most cases, they must apply for this permit online.
How do I activate my work permit?
How you activate your work permit will depend on where you are applying from and how you are applying.
Activating your work permit after applying from within Canada
If your application is approved after applying for a work permit from within Canada, you will receive an approval letter from IRCC. In the case that you applied online, the approval letter will appear in your account. If you submitted a paper-based application, the letter would arrive at your mailing address. Once you have received your approval letter, your physical work permit will arrive by mail. The permit will arrive already activated and you can use it to work in Canada.
Activating your work permit after applying from outside Canada
If your application is approved after applying from outside of Canada, you will receive a letter with instructions on how to obtain your physical work permit at the Canadian port of entry (POE). In the case that you applied online, the instruction letter will appear on your online account. If you applied on paper, you would receive the letter to your mailing address.
Activating your work permit after applying from the port of entry
Certain applicants may be eligible to apply for a work permit at the port of entry to Canada. If you are applying for a work permit at the border, you will need to bring documents that support your eligibility. If approved, the officer may print the work permit right away at the border. This work permit can be used right away.
How to find a job in Canada
It may feel daunting to begin the search for employment in Canada. Thankfully, there are many resources for those seeking an official job offer from a Canadian employer. When beginning the job hunt, we recommend making use of Canadim’s job hunt resources, listed below. Be sure to take the time to prepare your resume and tailor your social media presence before sending out any applications!
Certain positions in Canada may require a person to know their National Occupation Classification Code (NOC Code). This code is used to classify all types of employment by Canadian standards. Canadim has put together a tool to assist with finding your NOC Code as well.
Benefits of working in Canada
Working in Canada has many benefits. Canadian labour laws ensure that workplaces have a high-degree of safety and that all employers follow certain laws and regulations to ensure the well being of their employees. As well, Canadian wages are competitive and foreign nationals are required, by law, to be offered wages equivalent to their Canadian counterparts.
Finally, some Canadian work permits enable the spouse and children of workers to accompany them to Canada. Another significant benefit for those interested in immigrating to Canada permanently is that by gaining Canadian work experience, a foreign national may increase their eligibility for a number of Canadian permanent residency programs. The following programs award value, in varying degrees, for Canadian work experience:
- Express Entry
- Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs)
- Quebec Immigration Programs
- Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program
How can I extend my work permit?
Generally, temporary foreign workers that are eligible to extend their work permit must apply online. If you plan to extend your work permit, it is recommended to do so at least 30 days before the expiry date of your current permit. While this is a recommendation, technically an applicant has until the last day of expiry to apply for the extension request.
Contact us to learn more about whether you are eligible to extend your work permit.
What is my work permit number?
You can find your work permit number on the top righthand corner of your permit and begins with the letter “U”.
Can I work in Canada without a work permit?
Foreign nationals must obtain a work permit to work in Canada with few exceptions.
Can I get a Canadian work permit without a job offer?
Foreign nationals interested in working in Canada usually require a written job offer from a Canadian employer to apply for a work permit. However, there are some circumstances that allow foreign workers to apply for an open work permit without a job offer, which allows them to work anywhere in Canada, for any employer.
Do Canadian work permits have an age limit?
Foreign workers must be at least 18 to obtain a Canadian work permit. There is no maximum age for work permit applicants unless applying under the International Experience Canada (IEC) program.
Can I apply for Canadian health insurance while on a work permit?
Health care in Canada is administrated by each province and territory, which operate their own insurance plan. Certain provinces allow work permit holders to apply for provincial health insurance coverage. Most provinces require residents to be physically present for a certain number of days before becoming eligible for health insurance.
What is the difference between a Canadian work permit and visa?
A Canadian work permit authorizes foreign nationals to work in Canada, whereas a visa is a travel document that is used to enter the country.
A visa, or, temporary resident visa (TRV), is a physical sticker placed in your passport that acts as a travel document, allowing foreign nationals to enter Canada or transit through a Canadian airport.
If you leave Canada, you cannot return without a valid visa or eTA, even if you have a valid work permit.
Do I need IELTS to apply for a Canadian work permit?
Canada does not require individuals applying for a work permit to write the IELTS or any other English or French language exam. However, if the job offer specifically requires French and/or English skills, and the applicant is from a non-French or English country, evidence of language abilities such as a language test could be required by the officer.
How long are Canadian work permits valid?
Canadian work permits are typically valid for a period of 1-2 years, with some exceptions. A visa officer will usually not issue a work permit for longer than the validity of an applicant’s passport or past the validity indicated on the applicant’s Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). A work permit will also not be issued for longer than the foreign national has applied to stay in Canada for, or beyond the duration that is required for the job offer. The length of a work permit may also be shorter depending on the program the applicant is applying under.
Do I need my Canadian work permit to enter Canada?
If you travel outside of Canada, you will need your work permit in addition to a valid travel document to re-enter. A work permit allows you to work in Canada, but alone does not permit you to travel to Canada. To come to Canada, you will need either a temporary resident visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), in addition to a valid passport.
Can my employer sponsor me to work in Canada?
Canadian employers don’t “sponsor” candidates to work in Canada but can assist in bringing foreign workers by securing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or submitting an electronic job offer (LMIA exempted categories).
Canada requires that any Canadian employer who wishes to hire a foreign worker must obtain an LMIA or submit an electronic job offer. Once an employer secures an LMIA or the “A” number (electronic job offer), it can be used to apply for a Canadian work permit.