Canada Work Permit (Types, Requirements, Duration)

Foreign nationals require a Canadian work permit to work in Canada. In most cases, a confirmation letter known as a positive LMIA is required when a Canadian Employer wants to hire a foreign worker. However, there are jobs that are exempt from LMIA, and in rare circumstances, a work permit is not required at all. Learn more about types of Canadian work permits and requirements. 

Who Needs Canadian Work Permit?


Foreign nationals need Canada work permit if they want to work in Canada.


To work in Canada” means to enter a Canadian labour market, perform a competitive activity, and receive remuneration.

Canadian economic and social development policy prescribes that a foreign national can get a work permit in Canada only if the Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada are not qualified to perform the job. For this, a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required, and it called LMIA-based work permit.


There are also other types of Canada temporary work permits, such as LMIA-exempt work permits.


In some instances, foreign workers can work without a temporary work permit in Canada.


Types Of Work Permits In Canada


LMIA-Based Work Permit


Most of the times, foreign nationals can apply for a Canadian work permit if a Canadian employer offers a job in Canada.


In that case, a 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). A confirmation letter is also called a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).


Canadian body responsible for the assessment and issuance of a confirmation letter is the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). ESDC issues a confirmation letter if no Canadian worker (citizen or permanent resident) is available to do the job offered to a foreign worker. Once an employer gets a positive LMIA, a foreign worker can apply for a Canadian work permit that is employer-specific.


LMIA-Exempt Work Permit


Some Canadian immigration programs allow applying for an open work permit, in which case a job offer and confirmation letter or LMIA are not required. Still, the requirements of a specific immigration program must be met.


Some types of jobs require a job offer from a Canadian employer but do not require LMIA.


Open Work Permit Canada (LMIA is NOT required)


Canadian open work permit allows working for any employer in Canada. Foreign nationals can apply for open work permit in the following circumstances:


  • An international student who graduated from a designated learning institution (DLI) in Canada. Read more about a Post-Graduation Open Work Permit requirements here.
  • A destitute student - a student who can not meet the costs of education in Canada.
  • A bridging open work permit. Someone who applied for permanent residence in Canada or a dependent family member of such applicant. Read more about a Bridging Open Work Permit requirements here.
  • A spouse or common-law partner of a skilled worker, an international student in Canada, or an applicant of the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program. Read more about a Spousal Open Work Permit requirements here.
  • refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member .
  • Someone who is under an unenforceable removal order .
  • A temporary resident permit holder .
  • A young worker participating in special programs - International Experience Class.
  • A foreign worker who has an employer-specific work permit and is being abused or at risk of being abused in relation to a job in Canada.


Employer Specific Work Permit (LMIA is NOT required)


Foreign nationals are eligible for a Canadian work permit without the necessity to get a positive LMIA if:


  • Professionals, traders and investors are covered by an international agreement like NAFTA, GATS, CETA and other non-trade agreements. Read more about a work permit for business people in Canada here.
  • Job is covered by an agreement between Canada and a province or territory. This includes significant investment projects.
  • Job is LMIA-exempt for Canadian interests reasons:
    • A significant benefit to Canadians – if a foreign worker will bring an important social, cultural, or economic benefit to Canada. For instance, self-employed engineers, technical workers, creative and performing artists, workers transferred within a company (intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge), and workers under Mobilité francophone.
  • Reciprocal employment – foreign workers get jobs in Canada when Canadians have similar opportunities in other countries. For instance, professional coaches and athletes working for Canadian teams, International Experience Canada – a work abroad program for youth and young professionals, and people in exchange programs like professors and visiting lecturers. 
  • Designated by the Minister. Academics, including researchers, guest lecturers and visiting professors (sponsored through a recognized federal program), competitiveness and public policy medical residents and fellows
    post-doctoral fellows, and people who have won academic awards from Canadian schools.
  • Charity and religious work (not including volunteers).



Duration Of Canadian Work Permit


The length of time a foreign worker can work in Canada depends on 4 factors:


  • a job offer from a Canadian employer
  • length of time listed on a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment
  • length of validity of a foreign worker's passport 
  • Canada program's requirements or limits. For example, maximum length of a post-graduation work permit is 3 years.


In general, there is no set maximum amount of time a foreign worker can work in Canada as a temporary worker. 


When Someone Can Work Without A Permit In Canada?


A work permit is not required for some jobs or programs in Canada. For instance, business visitors up to 6 months, clergy, students working off-campus or on-campus in Canada. Jobs for which a work permit is not required and requirements are discussed in detail here.




If you would like to know more about a Start-up Visa Immigration Program, you may call +1-647-695-5256 or email lena.levtsun@leromlaw.com or message us using the contact form below.


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