Most foreign nationals need an open or employer-specific Work Permit to work in Canada. To work means to enter a Canadian labour market, not simply conducting international business activities for the remuneration paid from a source outside Canada. In general terms, Canadian economic and social development policy prescribes that a foreign national can be authorized to work in Canada only if the Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada are not qualified to perform the job offered.
How To Get A Work Permit In Canada
You need a Work Permit if you want to work in Canada. A Work Permit authorizes a foreign national to work temporarily in Canada. Work is deemed to be any competitive activity for which one receives remuneration in the form of commission, salary, or payment for a service.
Most of the times, you can apply for a work permit if a Canadian employer offers a job to you in Canada. In that case, Canadian employer needs to receive a confirmation letter that allows the employer to hire a foreign worker unless it is not required for the job. Confirmation letter is also called a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), previously known as a LMO. The Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) assesses applications for a LMIA and issue a confirmation letter if no Canadian worker (citizen or permanent resident) is available to do the job offered to a foreign worker. Once the employer gets a positive LMIA, a foreign worker can apply for a Work Permit that is Employer-Specific.
Some Canadian immigration programs allow you to apply for an open work permit, in which case you will not need a job offer and confirmation letter/ LMIA. Still, you will need to meet the requirements of the immigration program.
Rarely, a work permit is not required for some jobs or programs in Canada that is discussed in more details below.
Other General Work Permit Requirements
If your employer sends you a confirmation letter/ positive LMIA or if you are applying for an open work permit, you still must meet general requirements by showing that you:
- will leave Canada when your work permit expires;
- have enough money to stay in Canada and to return home;
- have no record of criminal activity;
- are not a danger to Canada’s security;
- are in good health;
- do not plan to work for an “ineligible” employer;
- do not plan to work for an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages.
Types Of Work Permit
There are two types of a Work Permit – an Open Work Permit and an Employer-specific Work Permit.
1. Open Work Permit
If you hold an open work permit, you can apply for any jobs in Canada and work for any employer in Canada. There are Canadian immigration programs that allow you to apply for an open work permit, which does not require a LMIA.
Foreign Nationals Who Can Work For Any Employer In Canada
You can apply 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;
- a destitute student – an international student who’s no longer able to meet the costs of your studies;
- applied for permanent residence in Canada or is a family member (spouse or common-law partner, dependent children, and their dependent children) of that person;
- the spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker or international student;
- a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member;
- under an unenforceable removal order;
- a temporary resident permit holder, or
- a young worker participating in the International Experience Canada program.
2. Employer-Specific Work Permit.
If you are a holder of an employer-specific work permit, you can only work in specific job and for a specific employer, according to the conditions of your work permit.
In most cases, an employer-specific work permit requires a confirmation letter (or a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment).
However, there are some LMIA-exempt jobs that you can perform for an employer.
Work Permits For Which You Do Not Need A LMIA!
You need an employer-specific work permit but not a LMIA if you want to work as a professional, trader or investor under an international agreement like NAFTA or GATS, and non-trade agreements.
The same rule (no LMIA required) applies if you participate in the “significant investment” projects that covered by an agreement between Canada and a province or territory.
Also, you do not need a LMIA if you are planning to work in the job that is exempt for “Canadian interests” reasons.
Work Permit Is Not Required For Some Jobs Or Programs In Canada
Foreign nationals planning to work in some jobs do not need a work permit. You still need a visitor visa or an Electronic Travel Authorization to enter Canada!
Athlete or coach
Foreign athletes, coaches or members of a foreign team competing in Canada do not need a work permit. However, if you will work for a Canadian team, you need a work permit.
Aviation accident or incident investigator
An accredited agent or adviser working on an aviation accident or incident investigation being done under the Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act do not need a work permit.
A business visitor who comes to Canada to take part in international business activities do not need a work permit. A business visitor is not a part of the Canadian labour market. Business visitors usually stay in Canada for a few days or a few weeks but are able to stay for up to six months.
However, business people – professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors – do need a work permit!
Civil aviation inspector
Civil aviation inspectors who check the flight operations or cabin safety of commercial airlines during international flights do not need a work permit.
You do not need a work permit if you are planning to work in Canada as a member of the clergy, an ordained minister, lay person or member of a religious order. Your duties in that case may include preaching doctrine, leading worship or giving spiritual counselling.
You do not need a work permit if you organize or run international meetings or conventions. However, you must have a work permit if you are providing audiovisual services, doing show decorating, and building, setting up and taking down displays.
You do not need a work permit if you are working on foreign-owned and registered vehicles that are used mainly to transport cargo and passengers internationally.
For example, you may be a truck driver, bus driver, or shipping or airline worker and your job duties are related to operating vehicles or serving passengers.
Emergency service provider
You do not need a work permit if you will be in Canada to help preserve life or property in an emergency. Emergencies include natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, or industrial accidents that threaten the environment.
Examiner and evaluator
You do not need a work permit if you are a professor or academic expert who evaluates or supervises academic projects, research proposals or university theses. You may work for Canadian research groups or schools.
Expert witness or investigator
You do not need a work permit if will give evidence before a regulatory body, tribunal or court of law in Canada.
Family member of a foreign representative
You do not need a work permit if you will work in Canada as a family member (i.e., spouse or child) of a foreign representative. You must be accredited accredited by Global Affairs Canada (GAC) and have a letter of no objection from GAC.
Foreign government officer or representative
You do not need a work permit if you’re an employee of another government who is working under an exchange agreement, a diplomat or official representative of another country, or of the United Nations and its staff.
Health care student
You do not need a work permit if you’re doing clinical clerkships, the main goal of your work is training, you have written approval from the board that regulates your job (note that certain provinces do not need written approval), and your training will last less than 4 months.
Judge, referee or similar official
You do not need a work permit if you are an official at an international amateur competition and you will judge or be an official for an artistic or cultural event. Cultural events include music and dance festivals, an animal show, or an agricultural contest.
You do not need a work permit if you are a member of an armed force of another country. You must have movement orders stating that you’re entering Canada under the terms of the Visiting Forces Act.
News reporter or film and media crew
You do not need a work permit if you are:
- a news reporter or member of a reporter’s crew,
- a member of a film or media crew who will not enter the Canadian labour market,
- a journalist who works for a print, broadcast or Internet news service (journal, newspaper, magazine, television show, etc.) and your company is not Canadian,
- a resident correspondent, or
- a manager and or member of clerical staff, as long as the event is short term (six months or less).
Producer or staff member working on advertisements
You do not need a work permit if you’re working on a foreign-financed commercial/advertising shoot for television, magazines or other media and you are a film producer, an actor, a director, a technician, or other essential personnel. You must be entering Canada for a short period of time, usually no more than 2 weeks.
You do not need a work permit if you are a foreign artist or the artist’s key support staff vital to the performance in Canada for a limited period of time. This means you are not being hired for ongoing employment by the Canadian group that has contracted you, and you’re not involved in making a movie, television or radio broadcast.
For example, a foreign-based band or theatre group and their key crew, street performers (buskers), disc jockeys, members of a foreign or travelling circus, guest artists working within a Canadian performance group for a limited time, World Wrestling Entertainment wrestlers (and members of similar groups), people who will perform at a private event, such as a wedding, air show performers, rodeo contestants, artists attending or working at a showcase, film producers (business visitors), film and recording studio users (limited to small groups renting studios who will not enter the labour market, and to business visitors) and people doing guest spots on Canadian television and radio broadcasts (guest speakers), such as news programs.
You do not need a work permit if you’re a guest speaker, commercial speaker or seminar leader who is speaking at specific events, provided the event is no longer than 5 days.
Short-term highly-skilled worker
You do not need a work permit if you will come to Canada as a high-skilled worker and your job is under the NOC skill type 0 (managerial) or A (professional) and you will only work for up to 15 consecutive days once every six months or up to 30 consecutive days once every year.
You do not need a work permit if you will come to Canada as a researcher at a public degree-granting institution or affiliated research institution.
You will work for 120 or fewer consecutive days and has not worked in Canada under this exemption in the last 12 months.
Student working off-campus
Full-time international students can work off-campus without a work permit up to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions, and full-time during scheduled breaks, such as the winter and summer holidays or spring break.
Student working on-campus
You do not need a work permit if you if you’re a full-time international student to work on the campus of the university or college where you study.