Last Updated on March 23, 2021
Foreign nationals who want to work in Canada usually need to apply for a work permit and this is how they do it.
Step 1: Determine If You Require a Work Permit to Work in Your Desired Job in Canada
Foreign nationals can work in certain jobs in Canada without a work permit, including:
Athlete Or Coach
Foreign athlete, coach or member of a foreign team competing in Canada;
Aviation Accident Or Incident Investigator
Accredited agent or adviser working on an aviation accident or incident investigation being done under the Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act;
A business visitor coming to Canada to do business activities sho will not be part of the Canadian labour market;
Civil Aviation Inspector
Civil aviation inspector checking the flight operations or cabin safety of commercial airlines during international flights;
Convention organizer organizing or running international meetings or conventions;
Truck driver, bus driver, or shipping or airline worker;
Emergency Service Provider
Emergency service provider helping out in an emergency to preserve life or property during natural disasters, such as floods or earthquakes, or industrial accidents that threaten the environment;
Examiner And Evaluator
Examiner and evaluator, a professor or academic expert who evaluates or supervises academic projects, research proposals or university theses for Canadian research groups or schools;
Expert Witness Or Investigator
Expert witness or investigator giving evidence before a regulatory body, tribunal or court of law;
Family Member Of Foreign Representative
Spouse or child of a foreign representative accredited with a counterfoil in their passport by Global Affairs Canada and a letter of no objection;
Foreign Government Officer Or Representative
Foreign government officer or representative working under an exchange agreement such as a diplomat or official representative of another country or the United Nations;
Health Care Student
Healthcare student doing clinical clerkships;
Judge, Referee Or Similar Official
Judge, referee or similar official at an international amateur competition for an artistic or cultural event;
Military personnel with movement orders under the terms of the Visiting Forces Act;
News Reporter Or Film And Media Crew
News reporter or member of a reporter’s crew who will not enter the Canadian labour market, or a journalist who works for a non-Canadian print, broadcast or Internet news service a resident correspondent, or the manager or member of clerical staff of such a project as long as the event’s duration is six months or less;
Producer Or Staff Member Working On Advertisements
Film producer, actor, director, technician, or other essential personnel working on a foreign-financed commercial/advertising shoot for television, magazines or other media;
Performing artist or the artist’s key support staff while performing in Canada for a limited period of time;
Public speaker or seminar leader at events lasting no longer than five days;
Religious leaders such as missionaries, monks, pastoral animators, archbishops and bishops assisting congregations in reaching spiritual goals by preaching doctrine, leading worship, or providing spiritual counselling;
Short-Term Highly-Skilled Worker
Highly-skilled workers whose jobs fall under the National Occupation Classification code 0, for managerial, or A, for professional, in Canada for a short term work of up to 15 consecutive days once every six months or up to 30 consecutive days once every year;
Researcher at a public, degree-granting institution or affiliated research institution who will work for 120 or fewer consecutive days and who has not worked in Canada under this exemption in the last 12 months;
Student Working Off-Campus
A full-time international student without a work permit working 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, or;
Student Working On-Campus
Full-time international student working on campus.
Note: Even if you do not need a work permit to work in Canada, you will still need to obtain legal entry to Canada. For example, you can enter Canada under a temporary resident visa.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, anyone travelling to Canada must ensure they know the rules and what they need to do before and after they arrive. This includes having a quarantine or isolation plan, undertaking COVID-19 testing for travellers; observing all the requirements for flying to Canada; and complying with all regulations for a mandatory hotel stay for all air travellers at a government-approved hotel at the traveller’s cost.
If your desired job requires a work permit, proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: Determine If You Are Eligible To Apply For A Canadian Work Permit
Eligibility to apply for a Canadian temporary work permit depends on various factors, including the location in which you apply for a work permit. All work permit applicants, however, must:
- Prove that they will leave Canada when their work permit expires;
- Show that they have enough money to take care of themselves and their family members during their stay in Canada;
- Show that they have enough money for themselves and their family members to return home;
- Obey the law and have no criminal record;
- Not be a danger to Canada’s security;
- Be in good health and pass a medical exam, if required
- Not plan to work for an employer on the list of ineligible employers.
- Not plan to work for an employer who offers striptease, erotic dance, escort or erotic massage services, and;
- Give officers any other documents they ask for to prove eligibility to enter the country.
There are also other requirements that depend on the location in which you apply for a work permit.
Eligibility requirements when applying from inside Canada
Those applying for a work permit from inside Canada must:
- Have a valid study or work permit;
- Ensure their spouse, common-law partner or parents have a valid study or work permit;
- Ensure they are eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) and their study permit is still valid;
- Have a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) that is valid for six months or more;
- Are awaiting on a decision on an application for permanent residence from inside Canada;
- Have made a claim for refugee protection;
- Have been recognized as a convention refugee or protected person by the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada;
- Ensure they are allowed to work in Canada without a work permit you need a work permit to work in a different job, or;
- Are a trader, investor, intra-company transferee or professional under the Canada – United States – Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).
Eligibility requirements when applying for a work permit in Canada at a port of entry
Those eligible to apply for a work permit when they enter Canada at a Port of Entry (POE) must:
- Be eligible for an electronic travel authorization or to travel without a visitor visa., and;
- Be entering Canada directly from the United States while COVID-19 travel restrictions are in place
There may be other requirements depending on the type of work permit.
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program workers are not eligible to apply for a work permit at a POE.
And most applicants are not eligible to give their biometrics at a POE. To give biometrics at a POE, applicants must meet two requirements. They must:
- Start and finish their application at the same POE, and;
- Be eligible to apply for a work permit at a POE
Eligible applicants can give their biometrics at these POE locations.
Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, all open work permits require that the applicants have a valid job offer in place.
Employer-specific work permit applicants
Applicants who are coming to Canada under employer-specific work permits should ensure those employers have completed all the required steps for the permit, including the completion of a Labour Market Impact Assessment when needed.
Step 3: Determine if You Will Apply Online or on Paper for Canadian Temporary Work Permit
Due to COVID-19, most applicants now need to apply online for a work permit.
This will allow you to upload all required documents for Canadian temporary work permit online to be included in your application.
Note: COVID-19: Changes to biometrics requirement for in-Canada temporary residence applicants
As a temporary measure, applicants in Canada and applying to work, study or stay temporarily in Canada, do not need to give their biometrics.
When applying online, applicants must have access to a scanner or digital camera to allow them to upload all required documents for a Canadian temporary work permit online to be with their application
Step 4: Obtain a Positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) From Your Potential Employer
In most cases, an employer must obtain a positive LMIA from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) before hiring a foreign worker. Once the employer obtains a positive LMIA, it must be sent to the foreign worker applicant for inclusion in the work permit application.
However, not all jobs require a positive LMIA. For more information on LMIAs, click here (Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIAs).
Jobs that do not require a LMIA are generally those that:
- are included in an international trade accord;
- are part of an accord between the federal government and a provincial/territorial government, or;
- jobs that are deemed in the best interest of Canada.
International trade agreements that allow employers to bring in foreign workers without an LMIA include those under the International Mobility Program or the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement
There are a few other rare circumstances in which an individual can be exempt from the LMIA requirement. These circumstances are:
Foreign workers with no other means of support
Refugee claimants and persons subject to an unenforceable removal order are exempt from the LMIA requirement.
In order to prove that they need a work permit to financially support themselves, applicants under this category must show that they cannot financially survive in Canada without public assistance. This level of poverty can be proven with bank statements or letters/cheque stubs from a social services office.
All applicants for an open work permit under this category must undergo a medical examination.
The length of a work permit under this rule will be 24 months. The permit can also be renewed for 12-month periods.
Getting an open work permit does not apply to this category of applicant’s family members. Family members of an applicant with no other means of support must apply for a regular work permit and obtain a LMIA.
Certain permanent resident applicants
Some permanent residence applicants are eligible for an open work permit and are exempt from the requirement to get an LMIA.
- live-in caregivers who:
- spouses or common-law partners being sponsored to become Canadian permanent residents;
- persons who have been granted protection as convention refugees;
- persons who are applying for permanent residence under humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and;
- family members of all of the above that live in Canada.
Migrant workers in Canada on employer-specific work permits who are experiencing abuse, or who are at risk of abuse, in the context of their employment in Canada may be eligible to receive an open work permit that is exempt from the LMIA process.
Other humanitarian situations
There are two humanitarian-based groups of people that can be eligible for an open work permit without the LMIA requirement.
- impoverished students, and;
- Temporary Resident Permit holders.
Impoverished foreign students who, for reasons they cannot control, are unable to make enough money to pay their tuition through on-campus employment can get an open work permit without the need of an LMIA.
Temporary resident permit holders can also get an open work permit for humanitarian reasons without the need of an LMIA if:
- they plan to live in Canada for more than six months;
- they cannot support themselves without an open work permit, and;
- getting an open work permit will allow them to stay in Canada.
When it is needed, a positive LMIA will show that there is a need for a foreign worker to fill the job. It will also show that no Canadian worker or permanent resident is available to do the job. A positive LMIA is sometimes called a confirmation letter.
If the employer needs an LMIA, they must apply for one.
Once an employer gets the LMIA, the worker can apply for a work permit.
To apply for a work permit, a worker needs
- a job offer letter;
- a contract;
- a copy of the LMIA, and;
- the LMIA number.
Step 5: Obtain a Temporary Job Offer From Your Potential Employer
All foreign nationals applying for a temporary work permit must have a temporary job offer from their potential employer. The employer must send a detailed job offer letter to the work permit applicant. The applicant must then attach the job offer letter to his/her work permit application. The job offer letter must prove:
- That the job offer is genuine;
- That the wages and working conditions are high enough to attract a Canadian worker;
- That the employment is full time;
- That the employment is not seasonal.
The job offer letter must also include:
- the job title for the job being offered;
- a description of the job’s duties and responsibilities;
- requirements for the job concerning: education, professional credentials, work experience, skills and licenses;
- details about the start date and end date of the job;
- details on salary and the way in which salary will be paid;
- the name and address of the employer;
- the address of the worker’s future workplace;
- contact information for a person at the company who is familiar with the job offer.
If the employment is to take place in Quebec, the LMIA application must be submitted to Service Canada and the Quebec immigration department, the ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration (MIFI), simultaneously. Quebec requires that all LMIA applications be submitted in French, except for LMIA applications for in-home caregiver positions.
The job offer must also be approved by the Quebec government. For more information on applying for a work permit in Quebec, click here for the Quebec LMIA process .
Note: The job offer letter must be submitted to the government by the employer AND a copy of the letter must be submitted by the applicant along with the work permit application. The applicant should also make sure that the employer has paid the employer compliance fee.
Step 6: Gather All Required Documents and Forms
A foreign worker applicant must gather all the required documents for Canadian Temporary Work Permit already mentioned from his/her employer as well as the following documents and forms:
- A photocopy of the information page of your valid passport or travel document which includes: the passport number; the issuance and expiry dates; your photo, name, date and place of birth
- Two photos meeting the requirements of the Visa application photograph specifications. On the back of two photos, write your name and date of birth. If you are required to provide biometric fingerprints and photo, you are not required to include paper photos with your application
- Proof of current immigration status:
- If your country or territory of residence differs from the citizenship listed on your passport, you must provide proof of legal status in your country or territory of residence.
- Photocopy of your Marriage License/Certificate and/or proof of relationships with all spouses, children or common-law partners
- Proof indicating you meet the requirements of the job being offered.
- A copy of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) provided by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) to your employer, and a copy of your job offer from your prospective employer – or an Offer of Employment to a Foreign National Exempt from an LMIA. If your employer is exempt from the Employer Compliance Regime, you must provide a copy of the employment contract
- If working in Quebec provide evidence of a valid Certificate d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ)
- If you are a Provincial Nominee and have an Offer of Employment to a Foreign National Exempt from an LMIA, provide a copy of the nomination letter issued by the province or territory that nominated you and a R204c) letter issued by the province or territory. If your nomination certificate has expired, you must include a copy of the acknowledgment letter confirming that IRCC received your application for permanent residence before the nomination expired
- If applying for a post-graduation work permit, submit proof that you have completed all the requirements of your program of study: a final transcript; and a letter from the institution and/or the formal notice of graduation
- Completed Application For Work Permit Made Outside of Canada (IMM 1295) form, if applying from outside of Canada
- Completed Document Checklist (IMM 5488)
- Completed Family Information (IMM 5707) form
- Completed Schedule 1 – Application for Temporary Resident Visa form. This form must be completed by: the principal applicant, his/her spouse or common-law partner and all dependent children older than 18. This form must only be completed by foreign nationals who require a temporary resident visa to enter Canada. For a full list of countries of citizenship, travel documents and travel purposes that do not require a Temporary Resident Visa requirement, click here.
- Completed Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union (IMM 5409) form
- Completed Use of a Representative (IMM 5476) form. Note: You must only complete this form if a representative will be conducting business on your behalf. All dependent children older than 18 who are using a representative must also complete this form.
- Authority to Release Personal Information to a Designated Individual (IMM 5475) Note: Complete this form only if you authorize Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to release information from your case file to someone other than yourself.
Step 7: Pay Fees
- The general fee is $155 for each person submitting a temporary work permit application. The fee for a group of performing artists consisting of more than three persons is capped at $465.
Step 8: Submit the Application:
The application may be submitted online or to a Visa Application Centre (VAC).
After a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, some VACs are re-opening but new health and safety measures are in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Before an applicant submits an application, they should ensure they:
- are exempt from the travel restrictions
- know about the changes to the application process
- have checked the VAC’s website to know what services they offer
Passports can only be submitted to a VAC only after the applicant has received a request letter or email from IRCC.
Some closed VACs accept passports sent by mail or courier only.