A foreigner usually needs a work permit to work in Canada. It is a written authorization that is issued based on a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) or on a job offer from an LMIA-exempt employer.
There are three types of work permits:
- Employer-specific work permit allows working in Canada for a specific employer, job, and length of time. To grant this type of work permit, the employer must give a worker a copy of an LMIA or a job offer number to include in the work permit application
- Occupation-specific open work permit allows working in Canada in a specific occupation. Workers who obtain an occupation-specific open work permit are able to change their employer if necessary. The employer, in turn, does not need the LMIA to hire a foreign worker who obtains an occupation-specific open work permit. Caregivers are eligible to apply for the occupation-specific open work permits.
- Open work permit allows working for any employer in any occupation in Canada (excluding ineligible employers who have failed to comply with conditions)
Work Permit vs. Visa
A work permit is not a visa, and you may need to get a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) — depending on the country of origin — to come to Canada even if you already have a work permit. A TRV is placed in your passport, and an eTA is an electronic document. Both show that you are eligible to enter Canada as a temporary resident.
If you need a TRV or an eTA, you do not have to fill out a separate application or pay more fees. It will be issued by the officer at the same time as the documents you need for your entry to Canada as a worker.
Work Permit Exemptions
Some categories of workers, who will not enter the Canadian labour market, are exempt from obtaining a work permit:
- High-skilled workers who:
— Work in an occupation that is under the NOC skill type 0 (managerial) or A (professional)
— Will only work for up to 15 consecutive days once every 6 months or up to 30 consecutive days once every year
- Students who are:
— Health care students doing clinical clerkships that are training lasting less than 4 months
— Full-time international students working on-campus (in the university or college where they study)
— Full-time international students working off-campus up to 20 hours per week during regular academic sessions or full-time during the winter and summer holidays or spring break
- Events participants or organizers who are:
— Athletes, coaches or members of foreign teams competing in Canada
— Convention organizers who run international meetings or conventions
— Judges, referees or similar officials at an international music and dance festival, animal show or agricultural contest
— Performing artists who will perform in Canada for a limited period of time and are not involved in making a movie, television or radio broadcast
— Public speakers who are speaking at an event that is no longer than 5 days
- Scientific workers who are:
— Professors or academic experts who evaluate or supervise university theses, research proposals or academic projects
— Short-term researchers who will work for up to 120 days and who have not worked in Canada under this exemption in the past 12 months
- Media workers who are:
— News reporters or film and media crew or journalists who work for a non-Canadian company
— Producers or staff members working on a foreign-financed commercial or advertising shoot for media
- Transport industry workers who are:
— Aviation accident or incident investigators
— Civil aviation inspectors
— Truck drivers, bus drivers, shipping or airline workers working on foreign-owned and registered vehicles that are used mainly to transport cargo and passengers internationally
- Government workers who are:
— Foreign government officers or representatives and their family members
— Military personnel who are members of another country’s armed force
- Other categories:
— Business visitors coming to Canada to do business activities
— Clergy members (ordained ministers, lay persons or members of a religious order)
— Emergency service providers
— Expert witnesses or investigators who give evidence before a regulatory body, tribunal or court of law
Who Is Eligible to Get a Work Permit
To be eligible to get a work permit, you must show to an officer at the time of entering Canada that:
- You will leave Canada when your work permit expires
- You have enough money to support yourself and your family members during your stay in Canada and sufficient funds to return to your home country
- You are not a danger to Canada’s security and have no record of criminal activity (you may need to provide a police clearance certificate)
- You are in good health (you may need to have a medical exam)
- You are not planning to work for ineligible employers
- You can provide all the required documents
How to Apply for a Work Permit
You should apply for a work permit as soon as you have a written job offer or employment contract and an LMIA decision letter that your employer received from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). If you do not need an LMIA, you may apply when you get your job offer number from the employer.
To apply for a work permit, you need the following documents:
- Valid passport or travel document
- Two photos of yourself and accompanying family members
- Job offer number (for LMIA-exempt work permits) or a copy of an LMIA
- Proof of eligibility for the job (educational credentials, a valid Canadian trade certificate, language test results, past work experience outlined in a CV)
- Copy of the Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ) — if you are planning to work in Quebec
- Marriage certificate and birth certificates for family members
- English or French translations of all documents that are not in English or French, with an affidavit and certified copies
- Filled-out forms and an application (the package of documents depends on the country of origin)
You also need to take a medical exam (if you are planning to work for more than 6 months) and give biometrics.
You need to pay the work permit fees (C$155, including extensions) and biometrics fees (C$85 per person or C$170 for a family).
You can apply for a work permit online (on the Canada.ca website) or on paper (in a visa application centre), inside or outside Canada or at a port of entry.
You must apply online if you do it from inside Canada or if you apply under the International Experience Canada Program or are eligible for two-week processing through the Global Skills Strategy.
If your application is approved, you will get a letter that says you are allowed to work in Canada. Bring this letter with you when you travel to Canada. You will get your work permit from a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer when you arrive in the country.