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Canadian work permit questions frequently asked

Our site and forum users frequently ask Canadian work permit questions and on this page we have summarized the top 10 questions and relevant answers.

In order to work in Canada on a temporary basis, foreign skilled workers must have a temporary offer of employment from a Canadian employer and be granted a closed Temporary  Foreign Worker Permit by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. If you or a family member are applying for permanent residence, you can also apply via an ‘Open Work’ permit. The work permit provides you with the legal authority to work in Canada for a temporary period of time.

Below are the top 10 Canadian work permit questions frequently asked on our website’s forums, with answers.

Top 10 Canadian work permit questions

1) How do I start the process to obtain a Canadian work permit?

If a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is required, the department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will review the LMIA application and decide the application. If an LMIA is approved, you will submit a work permit application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). If an LMIA is not required for the job, you still need to submit an application to IRCC to get a work permit.

2) How do I get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)?

Canadian employers wishing to employ a foreign worker must first obtain LMIA authorization from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). The purpose of LMIA is to demonstrate that employing a foreign worker will not have a negative impact on the Canadian labour market in most cases, and that there is currently no Canadian citizen or permanent resident available to fill the position. To demonstrate this Canadian employers typically would advertise the position in several media channels.

3) What do I need to apply for a work permit?

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 foreign worker needs:

If the employer that is hiring you is in the province of Quebec, then you may also need to obtain a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ)in order to work temporarily in Quebec.

In general all work permit applicants need to demonstrate that:

  • they will leave Canada when their work permit expires
  • they have enough money to financially support themselves in Canada
  • they do not pose a risk to public health and safety, and
  • they will not work for ineligible employers or in ineligible occupations.

A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will issue the Canadian Temporary Work Permit at the point of entry when the skilled foreign worker arrives in Canada. Depending on the foreign worker’s country of citizenship, a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) may also need to be obtained in order to enter Canada.

4) What is the difference between open work permit and closed work permit?

An open work permit is one that enables a foreign worker to work for any employer in Canada. Open work permits do not require the foreign worker to obtain a LMIA authorization or a job offer when applying to IRCC for a work permit.

Closed work permits limit a foreign worker to work for only the employer that obtained the LMIA authorization and provided them with a job offer. If a foreign worker is no longer going to work for this employer, they need to apply to change the conditions of their work permit if they wish to continue to legally work in Canada.

5) What is a Post Graduation Work Permit and am I eligible?

Canada post-graduate work permit program (PGWPP) permits students who have graduated from eligible Canadian designated learning institutions to obtain an open work permit to gain valuable Canadian work experience in Canada after their studies, for a maximum of three years. Skilled Canadian work experience in the national occupational code A, O or B that is gained through the PGWPP helps graduates qualify for permanent residence in Canada through the Canadian experience class, within Canada Express Entry SystemQuebec Experience ProgramProvincial Nominee Programs (PNPs), and several other programs that require Canadian work experience.

If you meet the PGWP’s eligibility criteria, you can submit your application to IRCC. The ultimate length of your PGWP depends on the duration of your studies in Canada but the maximum length of time the permit is three years.

Generally speaking you can only obtain a PGWP once. By the time your PGWP has expired, you either need to have obtained Canadian permanent resident status, or obtained another temporary permit, or leave Canada.

However, the government of Canada on January 8, 2021 announced a new PGWP open work permit policy that gives international students affected by COVID-19 another chance to gain the work experience they need to be eligible for Canadian permanent residence. For many holders of a PGWP, the pandemic’s disruption and uncertainty have jeopardized their chances of obtaining the work experience they need to apply for permanent residence. Under the policy former international students who hold or held a PGWP will have a one-time second opportunity to apply for the PGWP. 

6) Can my spouse or partner apply for permit to work in Canada?

Your spouse or common law partner can also apply for a temporary work permit under the same conditions discussed in previous Canadian work permit questions above: namely compliance with the LMIA requirement and other work permit eligibility criteria and conditions. If one spouse or partner is already a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, s/he can apply for the Spousal Open Work Permit.

The Spousal Open Work Permit allows eligible individuals living in Canada to obtain a temporary work permit while their spousal sponsorship application is being processed by IRCC. This work permit enables the person awaiting sponsorship to work for any employer in Canada.

Eligible candidates must be in Canada and in the process of being sponsored for permanent residence under the Spouse or Common-Law Partner in Canada Class (SCLPC). Candidates must also have valid temporary status as a visitor, student or worker and live at the same address as their sponsor.

IRCC will issue open work permits to SCLPC class applicants if they meet the following requirements:

  • a permanent residence application has been submitted under the SCLPC class and is currently being processed, or has been received, by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for processing
  • a Canadian citizen or permanent resident spouse has submitted a sponsorship application on their behalf
  • the SCLPC class applicant resides at the same address as the sponsor
  • the SCLPC class applicant has valid temporary resident status (as a visitor, student or worker), or is eligible to restore their temporary resident status, and has submitted the restoration application with their application for permanent residence

7) Can I obtain a temporary work permit while processing my PR application?

You can apply for a temporary foreign worker permit on its own as described in the previous questions, or in combination with a permanent residence application. IRCC describes this scenario as the concept of “dual intent.” Dual intent is present when a foreign national who has applied or may apply for permanent residence in Canada also applies to enter Canada for a temporary period as a:

  • worker
  • student
  • visitor

8) Can I extend my work permit while I am living in Canada?

You can apply to IRCC for extension of your work permit while you are living in Canada, as long as you do so before your work permit expires.

9) Do I need to complete a medical exam to get a work permit in Canada?

Some foreign workers are required to complete a medical exam if they are looking to work in a job that requires the protection of public health. Such jobs include health services, child care, or primary or secondary education.

In addition, you may need to complete a medical if you will be working in an agricultural job and lived in a designated country or territory, or if you want to work in Canada for over six months and you resided in a designated country or territory for six straight months in the year right before the date you plan to move to Canada. Find out if you need a medical exam.

10) What are the fees for obtaining a Canadian work permit?

In general foreign workers and their Canadian employers need to pay fees for the Canadian government to process work permits. See the fees on IRCC’s website.

Employers who need an LMIA need to pay a processing fee for the LMIA application. Employers that do not need an LMIA still need to pay an employer compliance fee when submitting their offer of employment onto the Canadian government’s Employer Portal.

Foreign workers applying for LMIA-required work permit need to pay the work permit processing fee while those applying for LMIA-exempt work permit need to pay the open work permit holder fee as well as the work permit processing fee at the same time.