Canada recognizes that foreign workers can bring in skills and expertise which can help Canadian employers, but also that the employment of these foreign workers should not have any negative effect on the Canadian labor market. Generally, if you are a foreign national who wants to work in Canada, you will need to obtain a work permit. Broadly speaking, there are two programs, Temporary Foreign Worker Program and International Mobility Programs, which have been developed by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), to facilitate the issuance of work permits. Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, a work permit will only be granted by the IRCC, if the applicant (foreign national) submits a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) decision from ESDC along with other required documents. This type of work permit is called LMIA-based work permit. However, under the International Mobility Program, the applicant (foreign national) does NOT need to get a LMIA before submitting their work permit application to IRCC. This type of work permit is called LMIA-exempt work permit.

Work Permit Under Temporary Foreign Worker Program (LMIA-based work permits)

Obtaining a work permit under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a two-step process. You will need to find a Canadian employer who is willing to hire you and/or who is in need of your skills/expertise and is willing to support you in obtaining your work permit.

First step (done by employer): your employer will need to submit a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) application to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The purpose of the LMIA application is to prove to the Canadian government that your employer is not able to find a suitable Canadian citizen or Canadian permanent resident for the particular job position and your employment will have a neutral or positive effect on the Canadian labour market. If the LMIA application gets approved, the employer will receive a positive LMIA letter. Please note that LMIA applications are lengthy and difficult applications.

Second step (done by you, worker): your employer will then provide you a copy of this Positive LMIA and a job offer letter/employment contract which you will use to submit your work permit application to Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Work Permit Under International Mobility Program (LMIA-exempt work permits)

There are several LMIA exemption codes which have been grouped together to form International Mobility Program. If your personal situation is applicable to any of the exemption code, you will NOT need an LMIA when you submit your work permit application to IRCC. However, majority of exemption codes require that you have a job offer from a Canadian employer before you submit your work permit application. You may be able to get an open work permit (no job offer required) depending on your situation. Some common work permits issued under International Mobility Programs are given below.

Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)

This is an open work permit issued to students who have graduated from an eligible study program offered at an eligible Canadian designated learning institution. The minimum program length in order to be eligible for a PGWP is 8 months. There are some other eligibility requirements. The length of the PGWP depends on the length of the study program undertaken. For a study program with length 8 months to less than 2 years, your PGWP length may be same as the length of your study program. If your study program length is 2 years or more than 2 years, you may be issued a PGWP with 3 years validity. It is also important to note that PGWP will only be issued once in your life-time.

Skilled work experience (TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3) gained while on the PGWP can help you in qualifying for a Permanent Resident (PR) stream such as Canadian Experience Class (CEC), Federal Skilled Worker Class (FSWC), Federal Skilled Trades Class (FSTC), or certain Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) streams.

Open Work Permit for your Spouse or Common-law Partner

An open work permit may be issued to your spouse or common-law partner if:

  • You are an international student studying full-time at an eligible institution in Canada and you want your spouse or common-law partner to accompany you to Canada
  • You are a foreign worker working in a skilled occupation (TEER 0, 1, 2 or 3) in Canada on a work permit that is valid for at least 6 months

Please note that if you are sponsoring your spouse or common-law partner under Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class (inland spousal sponsorship), you may be able to submit an Spouse Open Work Permit in Kelowna application for your spouse along with your sponsorship and your spouse’s permanent residency application. If your spouse has already submitted his/her permanent residency, he/she may still be able to apply for and be issued an open work permit.

Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)

Bridging Open Work Permit may be issued to you if you are the principal applicant in your permanent residency application. Eligibility criteria include:

  • You must be living in Canada
  • Hold a valid work permit that expires in 4 months or less
  • Have your acknowledgement of receipt and passed completeness check or received approval in principle, as applicable
  • Applied for permanent residency using any of the following programs:
    • Express Entry (Federal Skilled Worker Class, Canadian Experience Class, Federal Skilled Trades Class)
    • Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) – either online via Express Entry or on paper
    • Home Child-Care Provider Pilot or Home Support Worker Pilot
    • Agri-Food Pilot

International Experience Canada (IEC)

If you are someone who wants to explore the beautiful country of Canada while paying for your vacation by working in Canada, or if you want to gain some valuable international work experience, then this program is right for you.

International Experience Canada Program allows citizens of certain countries to travel and work in Canada. Canada and these countries have a bilateral agreement which allows the youth in these countries to apply for a Canadian work permit through the IEC program. One of the essential requirements to participate in this program is that, you must be between 18 years to 35 years of age. Please note that the maximum age limit varies country by country, we recommended that you check the age range for your country before applying.

Within IEC, there are three categories:

  • Working Holiday
    • If you apply under this category, an open work permit may be issued which lets you travel throughout Canada and work for any employer in Canada.
  • Young Professional
    • If you apply under this category, an employer-specific work permit may be issued. You will need a skilled job offer from a Canadian employer before submitting your profile. NOC C jobs may be considered if additional documentation is submitted.
  • International Co-op
    • If you have been offered a work placement or internship in Canada that is part of your studies, then you can apply for a work permit under this category. You may be issued an employer-specific work permit.

List of participating countries in alphabetical order:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Note: Not all countries participate in all three categories. First check whether your country is a participant in the category of your interest. If it is, then check whether you meet the eligibility requirements for that program category. If you meet the eligibility requirements, then you can start your application process. Eligibility criteria changes depending on your country of citizenship and IEC program category.

Work Permits Under Canada-International Free Trade Agreements (FTA)

Canada has signed international free trade agreements with other countries to facilitate the business persons to enter and work in Canada on a temporary basis. You are exempt from obtaining a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), if you are applying for a work permit under these Free Trade Agreements (FTA). The FTA generally cover four types of business persons: business visitors, professionals working in selected occupations, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. Please note that business visitors do NOT need a work permit.

Some of the Free Trade Agreements are listed below:

Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA), formerly known as NAFTA

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)

Apart from the above, Canada has also signed bilateral FTA with Chile, Peru, Colombia, Korea and Panama.

We recommend that you check whether you are eligible to apply for a work permit under any of these FTAs or any other LMIA-exempt work permit categories. If you don’t you will need to get an LMIA in order to work in Canada.

If you need to obtain an LMIA and have your employer’s support, we can help your employer with filing the LMIA application, and represent them in front of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). We can also help you in filing your LMIA-based or LMIA-exempt work permit application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

We at AM-SQUARE are committed to making your dream of working in Canada come true.