Work Permits

Regulations and application process

Work Permits

Canada is a very popular destination for skilled workers, with over 300,000 foreign professionals coming to work each year. This section describes the requirements, procedures and other regulations regarding Canadian work permits.

The institution of Employment and Social Development Canada  (ESDC) allocates visas depending on the need for skilled workers and the benefit that they are expected to provide to the Canadian economy. Almost all cases of temporary work in Canada require the worker to possess a valid work permit.

What is a work permit?

A work permit is a document that officially allows individuals to work and live in Canada. There are two main types: open and employer specific work permits.

Open work permits

These permits allow individuals to work for any employer throughout Canada and are only granted in the following a few cases:

  • International graduates from eligible Canadian post-secondary institutions may get open work permits for up to three years under the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program.
  • Spouses or partners of permanent residents or citizens may also be issued an open work permit via the Spousal Sponsorship  program, which forms part of the Family Sponsorship program.
  • Individuals working in Canada under a valid, but soon to expire, work permit but applying to immigrate under one of the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW), Federal Skilled Trades (FST), Canadian Experience Class (CEC) or Provincial Nominee Programs (PNPs) may be considered for a bridging open work permit.

Employer specific work permits

These permits allow individuals to work for specified employers according to their employment contracts. Before the individual applies for or is granted one of these permits, the prospective employer must request and be issued a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment  (LMIA) by Employment and Social Development Canada.

To be issued one of these, the employer must prove that no Canadian citizen or permanent resident is available to fulfil the role. The employer then sends the positive LMIA to the potential employee alongside the official temporary job offer.

However, there are a few cases in which employers need not obtain this assessment if the prospective employee is:

  • A citizen of a NAFTA country or a country under other reciprocal agreements (such as Youth and Teacher Exchange programs)
  • An individual whose work will either bring significant economic, social or cultural benefits the work activity will to Canadians
  • An individual whose work is religious or charitable in nature
  • The spouse or common-law partner
  • A work permit holder
  • A study permit holder
  • An applicant for refugee or asylum status
  • An applicant for employment in one of these  sectors in Quebec 

Quebec-based employers hiring foreign skilled workers for jobs not included on the list found in the link above must secure a Certificat d’Acceptation du Quebec (Certificate of Acceptance to Quebec, CAQ) as well as a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) .

Fees and Timeline

As getting a work permit is (generally) a two-fold process, the application processing time varies greatly. Application fees remain the same for all countries; $155 CAN.

Further reading

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