Frequently Asked Questions

The following is a summary of frequently asked questions regarding Canadian work permits, visas, and working in Canada.

1. What is an Open Work Permit?

Open work permits are immigration documents permitting temporary residents to work in Canada. Unlike a standard work permit, an open work permit is not linked to a specific employer, position, or location. As such, an open work permit holder is able to assume most positions without seeking immigration approval, and may change employers without further approvals. 

Open work permits may be fully open (i.e., have not restrictions), or may carry restrictions. If the open work permit carries restrictions, these typically apply to work that would otherwise require a foreign worker to have undergone medical examinations. 

2. Who can apply for an open work permit? 

Eligibilty for open work permits is limited to very few circumstances. The most common examples of scenarios allowing for open work permits include: 

i. International Experience Canada Programs which are determined by nationality, age, and education primarily, typically geared towards young workers and working holidays (youth mobility); 

ii. Refugee Claimants who have been deemed eligible to make a claim;

iii. Spouses or common-law partners of certain skilled foreign workers in Canada;

iv. Spouses or common-law partners of full time foreign students in Canada;

v. Spouses or common-law partners of Canadians who are the subject of an approval-in-principle in an application for inland spousal sponsorship.

3. Can I convert a standard work permit to an open work permit? 

As a general rule, the answer is no. Unless you are eligible under a specific program which exists, or are eligible through a specific legislative provision, it would not be possible to have a standard work permit converted to an open work permit. Therefore, the majority of temporary work permits issued by Canada are linked to a specific employer, position, and/or location.

1. Who can offer work in Canada?

A job offer is made by an employer (inlduding a private household in some cases) that requires the services of a foreign individual in Canada. A common example of an offer to work in Canada is an agreement made by a Canadian company seeking to engage a foreign worker on a full-time basis as a direct employee. However, there are other circumstances by which an offer of work may be made to a foreign national. Examples include: 

- An offer made by a foreign employer seeking the employment of an individual at the location of a Canadian client site; 

- An offer made by a foreign company seeking to transfer an existing employee to a new Canadian division; 

- A request by a Canadian company to enlist the services of the employee of a foreign company through a contract for services. 

2. What should be contained in the offer of work? 

The job offer should contain the details of the position being offered, including: the title of the position being sought in Canada; the responsibilities associated with that position; remuneration for employment, including benefits; the duration of the position; and the location of employment. This may be contained in a letter, a contract, or purchase orders or invoices in some cases, depending on the case. 

Depending on the specific category of the work permit application, additional details and/or supporting documentation may need to be included in an application. 

3. Can I seek a work permit without an offer of work? 

The answer is almost always no. Although it may not take the form of a typical job offer, there must be a specific position of employment or business interest being pursued in Canada. It is not possible to seek a work permit for the purpose of seeking employment in Canada. If you do not have a job offer, then you may wish to consider immigration to Canada as a permanent resident in a different category. 

Exceptions to this rule include Youth Program work permits such as the Student Work Away Program or Student Work Holiday Program. Examples of organizations operating such programs include BUNAC and IEC. In some cases, spouses of foreign workers in high skill positions may also be able to obtain a work permit without a job offer (open work permit). 

4. A Canadian employer has stated that they cannot make an employment offer until I have a work permit. How do I get the work permit? 

If a Labour Market Impact Assessment is required, the employer must commit to offering you the position and must undertake that application process before a work permit can be sought. Otherwise, the written offer of employment must generally precede the application for the work permit. The majority of types of work permit applications require the details of the employer, the position, the location, the wage, etc. in order to be eligible for processing. 

In some limited cases, applications for work permits may be submitted in the absence of a job offer. This may commonly include spouses of certain foreign workers or foreign students, International Experience Canada class applications (i.e., youth programs), and applications by refugee claimants in Canada. Overall, however, these types of cases represent the exception to the rule that the job offer is required first.

1. What is a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)?

A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), also referred to as Confirmation, is an application conducted by Service Canada (a division of Employment and Social Development Canada). This organization works in conjunction with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to ensure that the employment of foreign workers has an overall neutral or beneficial effect to the Canadian labour market. 

The LMIA process is intended to ensure that the employment of a foreign worker does not have any negative labour market impact in Canada. This generally entails that the Canadian employer has made a sufficient effort to hire a Canadian for the position of employment, that the employment of a foreign worker otherwise direclty creates or retains Canadian employment, and/or that it results in transfer of skills and knowledge to Canadians. Service Canada must also be satisfied that the wages and conditions offered are consistent with those of the Canadian labour market and that the employment of the foreign worker does not negatively affect the settlement of a labour dispute in Canada.

Depending on the nature of the position and the location of the job offer, there may exist recognized shortages, which can facilitate approval of certain job offers.

2. How long does an LMIA take to process?

The duration of the LMIA process depends on a number of factors, including the specific location at which the offer is being made, and the circumstances of the case itself. There are several Service Canada offices throughout Canada, and the location will affect processing delays. On average, delays for such cases are presently 12-16 weeks for durations longer than 120 days; 2 weeks for durations of 120 days or less; either type of case can be concluded more quickly under certain circumstances.

Additional delays can be incurred in the case that the Canadian employer is not capable of satisfactorily demonstrating that a significant effort to hire a Canadian has taken place. In such a case, it may be necessary to spend time engaging in a compliant recruiting effort prior to being able to initiate the application.

3. Is a LMIA required for every job offer?

No, exemptions from the confirmation requirement exist. Common examples of such exemptions include international treaties such as NAFTA or GATS, and positions which offer a Significant Benefit to Canada or are otherwise consistent with Canadian Interests.

4. Are any positions not eligible for Confirmation?

There are no occupation definitions that are specifically excluded from receiving Confirmation in all provinces. Some provinces have a policy of refusing to process certain types of applications, although exceptions are possible. The level of skill required for an occupation can affect the requirements for an application and/or the likelihood of its success in all cases.

1. Who can apply for a Canadian work permit?

With few exceptions, work permits are sought by those who have work arranged in Canada. This can include an offer of direct employment with a Canadian employer, contract employment in Canada, or some business activities in Canada. Such work must be described and documented in an application for a work permit. 

In limited circumstances, foreign nationals can seek work permits without arranged work in Canada, often referred to as open work permits. Such circumstances most commonly include youth mobility programs, some situations of a spouse/partner accompanying a foreigh worker or student to Canada, and protected persons in Canada. Live-in-caregivers and some sponsored spouses or partners also become eligible for open work permits after approval-in-principle of a permanent resident application. 

2. Is a part time job offer eligible for a work permit? 

If the case is subject to the requirement of a Labour Market Opinion Confirmation (LMO), then a part time job offer may reduce the likelihood of approval of that process, which could in turn limit eligibility for a work permit. If, however, the part-time nature of the position does not affect the foreign national's ability for self-support, then the LMO application may remain viable. 

In cases in which the work permit is LMO-exempt, a part-time position is not specifically precluded. However, if this contravenes the requirements of a given program, or if it affects the likelihood that the work in Canada could be performed, then this could be a subjective consideration of an assessing officer. 

3. Where should I apply for a Canadian work permit? 

As a general rule, an application for a work permit is submitted to a Canadian visa office abroad if an individual requires a passport entry visa in order to appear at a Canadian port of entry. The responsible visa office is determine by the nationality of the candidate and/or the country of legal residence. 

If the individual does not require a passport visa, then it may be possible to submit the application at a Canadian port of entry (i.e., an airport or border crossing), so long as all other requirements are met at that time (including, for example, possession of a LMO approval). However, it is important to note that certain types of applications must be processed at a Canadian visa office, even in this latter case. In the case of a port of entry application, centralized foreign worker offices within Canada may render advanced opinions on the eligibility of a given case for a Labour Market Opinion exemption. The case is still processed at the port of entry, however. 

On average, visa office applications take the longest to process, whereas a complete application can be processed at a port of entry within a day. Advanced opinions on such pot of entry cases will take one to two weeks to process on average, and visa office applications can take between 30 and 180 days depending on the case and location. 

4. Is the application process different for each province? 

As a general rule, no, the process is the same for the various provinces and territories. The major exception to this rule is in cases of work in Quebec, which may be governed by a separate application process to the Ministère de l'Immigration et des Communautés culturelles. To a much lesser extent, there are some cirtcumstances in which individual provinces may apply separate provisions to small subsets of foreign workers (e.g., some provincial nominees). 

5. Can I apply while I am inside Canada as a visitor? 

It is possible to submit an application while in Canada with valid visitor status. However, such an application will generally need to be submitted to a location outside of Canada such as a visa office abroad or a Canadian port of entry (see above). In such a case, the candidate may need to travel outside Canada to attend an interview, if requested, and will need to be present at a port of enty to convert any approval to an actual work permit. 

6. What documents should I submit in support of the case? 

Commonly, evidence of the purpose of employment in Canada (i.e., a job offer) and Labour Market Opinion if applicable; statutory documents such as passport, birth certificate, and marriage certificate; and evidence of professional and academic credentials are required to accompany an application. However, depending on the specific nature of the application, there is a wide range of additional documentation which may be required in support of an application, and individual processing venues have varying requirements. 

7. How long will it take? 

The process of obtaining a Canadian work permit varies in duration depending on the the nature of the qualifications of the applicant, the nature of the job offer, the nationality and residence of the applicant, and the province of the applicant's destination. 

Canadian work permit processing delays can range from a matter of hours to 8 weeks, on average and depending on the location of the application. If HRSDC Confirmation of the job offer is a requirement, then an additional delay may be incurred while this process concludes. 

8. Can I start work in Canda before I get the permit? 

No, you cannot engage in work in Canada until the work permit is received. You may be able to engage in activities that are covered under the provisions of a business visitor visa during this time, however. Work conducted outside of Canada for a Canadian employer is also not subject to the requirement of a work permit. 

9. Will I need a medical examination? 

Applicants who have been resident in a designated country within the past 12 months, and who are seeking a work permit for a period of six months or greater, are required to undergo medical examinations with a designated medical practitioner.Those who will be engaged in work in an occupation in which protection of the Canadian public health is essential would also be required to undergo medical examinations irrespective of the country of residence and/or the duration of the work permit sought. 

10. How long is a work permit valid for? 

A work permit is valid for the duration of the work offered in Canada; the maximum duration of such a work permit may vary from as little as 90 days in some categories, to as many as three years in others. There is no minimum duration of work which would otherwise automatically exempt the need for a work permit (i.e., a work permit may be required for any duration of work in Canada). The circumstances of the case will determine what maximum validity is possible. As a general rule, it is not possible to seek a work permit that is longer than the arranged work in Canada. 

11. What is an Offer of Employment filing and who is responsible for it? 

Those applying for work permits under the International Mobility Worker Program (i.e., Labour Market Impact Assessment exempt) must provide evidence of the submission of a compliance filing made prior to the work permit application submission, along with evidence of the remittance of the associated filing fee. The compliance filing is typically the responsibility of the Canadian entity precipitating the need for the work in Canada, and defines the terms of the offer of employment, including the role, responsibilities, wages and benefits, location of work, legal basis for eligibilitiy, and identity of the International Mobility Worker. Work permit applications submitted without evidence of this compliance-oriented filing will not be approved.

1. Can I include a Family Member in my application?

A work permit application is for a single individual. Although elements of such an application (e.g., Additional Family Information Form) may reference family members and their intent to travel to Canada, no element of the application specifically includes or excludes such individuals. If a family member such as a spouse or child intends to travel to Canada with a temporary foreign worker, then that family member must file an application him/herself. While such a family member's application may be included in the same submission, a separate form and associated supporting documents are needed. 

2. What type of application must be filed for my family member? 

There are a number of temporary resident applications that may be suitable for a family member. If such an individual intends to remain solely as a visitor in Canada, unable to work or study, then a temporary resident visa (i.e., visitor) application may suffice. If the family member intends to work or study, then a work permit or study permit application, respectively, may be needed. 

3. Can my spouse or common-law partner work in Canada? 

If the principal foreign worker is eligible for or receives a temporary work permit or business visitor record for greater than six months in an occupation that is classified as high-skill (i.e., National Occupational Classification 0, A, or B), then the spouse or common-law partner of that foreign worker is eligible to apply for an open work permit. An open work permit means that the candidate is not required to have arranged work in advance of applying. 

4. Does my child need a study permit? 

As a general rule, yes. If the principal foreign worker is abroad at the time of his/her application and has a child of school age, then an application for a study permit for that child would generally need to be filed. However, if a child under 20 is in Canada and his/her parent holds a valid work permit, then that child can typically attend schooling without the requirement of a study permit.

1. Is there anything that I need to do prior to seeking extension or renewal?

If your original work permit was subject to a requirement such as a Labour Market Opinion Confirmation or CAQ, then such processes may need to be concluded prior to (or in some cases in parralel to) the extension or renewal of the work permit.

2. Can I extend my work permit once it is issued?

Yes, it is typically possible to apply for an extension of an existing work permit. Such applications are submitted to a Case Processing Centre located within Canada, and the applicant is not required to leave Canada during the application process.

In some cases, there may be a maximum possible validity of a work permit under a given set of provisions. For example, in cases of intra-company transfer, an individual may remain working in Canada for a maximum duration of between five and seven years (depending on category); for low skill occupations subject to a Labour Market Opinion, a maximum duration of four years may apply.

3. When do I need to apply for extension?

At present, it is advisable to apply a minimum of 30-60 days prior to the expiration of your work permit, which represents the current delays for processing of such cases. Although not advisable, it is possible to apply closer to the expiration of a work permit.

4. What happens if my current work permit expires after I apply for extension?

The immigration status of an applicant remains intact for the duration of the processing of the application and until a decision is received (referred to as implied status), even if the original work permit otherwise expires. It is important to note, however, that departure from Canada after the expiration of a work permit can still result in a failure to receive admission when seeking to return. Also if re-admitted following the expiration of the work permit, but before issuance of the renewed work permit, then implied status may no longer apply.

1. Can an arrest or conviction prevent me from getting a work permit or admission to Canada?

Yes, a conviction of a crime inside or outside of Canada may make you criminally inadmissible to Canada. There are several factors that determine whether or not such a conviction will prevent you from getting admission to Canada, including the age at which you were convicted, the specific offence, and the time that has passed since that conviction. 

If you have an arrest, conviction of which would warrant inadmissibility, and the outcome of the judicial process is not completed, you could potentially be barred from entry until the case is decided. 

2. I have been arrested or convicted of a crime that is not considered serious in my home country (e.g., a misdemeanor in the USA); is this grounds for criminal inadmissibility? 

The severity of the offence in the country in which it occurs is not necessarily the determining factor in determining inadmissibility. Instead, the severity of the crime under Canada's legal system is the determining factor. 

For someone arrested or convicted outside of Canada, one indictable offence (generally, one that is eligible to be tried before a jury) or more than one summary conviction (generally, a minor offence) would generally be considered grounds for criminal inadmissibility. An individual who commits an offence in the course of entering Canada (for example presenting false documents) may also be sconsidered criminally inadmissible. 

Canada also has mixed or hybrid offences. This means that the same offence is potentially addressed by summary conviction or indictment, the provision for which both fall under the same legal statute. If convicted abroad of an offence that is considered mixed in Canada, then it is automatically treated as an indictable offence for the purpose of evaluating inadmissibility for immigration purposes. 

3. I was given a diminished or suspended sentence; is this grounds of criminal inadmissibility? 

A diminished or suspended sentence is a conviction and may still be grounds for inadmissibility. 

4. I have been pardoned for an offence abroad. Am I still inadmissible? 

A Pardon or expunged record which has been granted outside of Canada does not remove the offence for the purpose of immigration matters. The offence may still be grounds for inadmissibility. 

In some foreign jurisdictions, such a pardon, an expungement, or even the passage of time may mean that you are not required to disclose the existence of that conviction under some circumstances, for example to an actual or prospective employer. This does not apply to Canadian immigration processes; the existence of the offence should still be disclosed to prevent the appearance of carrying out an offence (i.e., the impression of lying to an official). 

5. I was acquitted of a crime or my case dismissed; is it therefore safe to travel to Canada? 

If you were acquitted in court or the case dismissed, then the offence leading to that hearing should not be considered grounds for inadmissibility. However, being able to demonstrate such acquittal or dismissal could be valuable when seeking temporary admission or a work permit. 

6. How do I accurately determine if I am admissible or not? 

You must consider the Canadian equivalent of the foreign offence at the time at which the foreign arrest or conviction occurred. If that equivalent is of an indictable offence or more than one summary conviction in Canada, then you may be considered criminally inadmissible. 

7. If I am considered criminally inadmissible, what options do I exist? 

You may proceed with an application or request for a Temporary Resident Permit (TRP) or an application for Criminal Rehabilitation. A TRP may be sought at any time, and constitutes the documented admission of an individual who is considered inadmissible. A TRP is granted on a single occasion with a fixed validity and only permits admission for that duration. A TRP may be sought in the course of an application for temporary admission to Canada, and may be processed at a port of entry or at a Canadian visa office; if requested at a port of entry, the official may demand that an application be submitted to a visa office. 

Once five years has passed since the completion of the sentence resulting from the offence, you may also apply for Criminal Rehabilitation. If this is approved, the applicant becomes admissible to Canada again. So long as there are no further arrests or convictions, this applies permanently. 

8. What is deemed rehabilitation? 

If an individual has committed only one crime, that crime is not severe (i.e., the Canadian equivalent carrying a maximum prison sentence of less than 10 years), and sufficient time has passed since the completion of the sentence, a person may be considered Deemed Rehabilitated, and may become eligible to obtain a temporary work permit or temporary admission to Canada.

1. Who can legally advise or represent me in a Canadian work permit application?

If that individual receives consideration (including fees) or offers to advise or represent you for a fee or other considertation, at any stage of the application process, the Government of Canada requires that they be members of one of the following groups: 

- Immigration consultants who are members in good standing of the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC); 

Lawyers and paralegals who are members in good standing of a Canadian, provincial, or territorial law society; or 

Notaries who are members in good standing of the Chambre des notaires du Québec. 

2. How can I verify that I am being advised by a licensed practitioner? 

The individual should be able to confirm the organization that licenses him or her to practice immigration law, and to supply the membership number associated with that license. 

3. Can others advise me at any stage of the application process for a fee or other consideration? 

No, it is an offence under Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act for others to charge a fee, to offer to charge a fee, or otherwise receive consideration for advising or representing you in any matter covered under this Act. Offendors may be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both. 

4. What are the advantages of retaining a licensed consultant? 

In order to be eligible for licensing by the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council, candidates are required to pass many levels of scrutiny in addition to the years of experience that they offer. This includes a requirement that they undergo an immigration-specific education program, that they pass language tests in at least one of Canada’s official languages, that they pass background clearances establishing moral character, that they retain errors and omissions insurance, and that they follow strict ethical guidelines. An unlicensed practitioner is not subject to any such requirement. 

5. Am I required to retain representation in order to apply for a work permit? 

No, the Government of Canada does not require that you retain expert representation. Work permit applications do not commonly follow straight-forward rules of eligibility, however. Most require compliances with government defined occupational classifications, have extensive guidelines governing the decision-making process, and benefit from an understanding of the officials’ expectations and requirements.

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