Work permits are generally required for foreign workers who wish to enter Canada to work on a temporary basis.
There is a shortage of labour in Canada, particularly in certain skilled fields. This is primarily because Canadians are retiring at a fast pace. Especially among the baby boomer generation (i.e. people born between the years of about 1946 and 1965).
It is forecasted that by 2024, one in five Canadians will likely be 65 or older.
This early retirement and ageing workforce is leading to an anticipated labor shortage. The government of Canada is committed to mitigating these shortage by hiring immigrants.
Consequently Canada is actively seeking foreign workers and professionals to help grow domestic workforce.
Canada to rely on immigrants for economic recovery from COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has also had a devastating effect on the Canadian economy. In response, the government of Canada has outlined how it will make immigration the cornerstone for recovery.
For instance, in October 2020, Canada announced dramatic increases to Canada’s immigration levels for 2021 to 2023. Canada aims to welcome more than 1.2 million newcomers between 2021 and 2023. Some 401,000 newcomers in 2021, another 411,000 in 2022, and 421,000 in 2023.
Similarly, immigration is at the core of the Fall Economic Statement released on November 30, 2020. The government noted that immigrants are the most important source of Canada’s population and labour force growth.
Why working in Canada is attractive to skilled foreign workers
Working in Canada is an attractive option for many skilled foreign workers from all over the world. Each year, close to 200,000 foreign skilled workers come to work in Canada on Temporary Canadian Work Permits.
This is in light of Canada’s strong and diverse economy with:
- high-standard of workplace safety
- competitive wages
- opportunities for professional growth and development.
Further and importantly, working in Canada is an excellent first step for those seeking Canadian permanent resident status. This is because many Canadian PR immigration programs highly value Canadian work experience.
For instance, temporary foreign workers can apply for permanent residence under these programs:
- Canadian Experience Class (CEC)
- Opportunities Ontario: Provincial Nominee Program (PNP)
- Caregiver Program
You must meet eligibility requirements to apply for these programs.
You can also apply for PR as a skilled worker under the Express Entry system. However, there is no special category within the skilled worker class for temporary foreign workers.
So how do I get Canada work permit?
The process for obtaining a Canadian work permit varies greatly, and depending on which type of work permit you seek.
In general, you need to apply for a work permit from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) or a Canadian visa office.
- Firstly, you need to get a job offer from a Canadian employer before you apply
- Secondly, the employer must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC)
- Thirdly, ESDC will decide whether the employer can hire a foreign worker to fill the job
Applicants for LMIA-exempt jobs still need to submit a variety of documentation to be granted entry to Canada. For more information, go to Working Temporarily in Canada on the IRCC website.
If you are looking for a job, certain positions in Canada may require a person to know their National Occupation Classification Code (NOC Code). This code is used to classify all types of employment by Canadian standards.
General eligibility requirements to get Canada work permit
No matter where you apply, you must:
- prove to an officer that you will leave Canada when your work permit expires,
- show that you have enough money to take care of yourself and your family members during your stay in Canada and to return home,
- obey the law and have no record of criminal activity (we may ask you to give us a police clearance certificate),
- not be a danger to Canada’s security,
- be in good health and have a medical exam, if needed,
- not plan to work for an employer listed with the status “ineligible” on the list of employers who failed to comply with the conditions,
- not plan to work for an employer who, on a regular basis, offers striptease, erotic dance, escort services or erotic massages, and
- give the officer any other documents they ask for to prove you can enter the country.
Types of Canada work permits
There are two general pathways for obtaining a Canadian work permit: a closed work permit and an open work permit.
Closed work permits are tied to specific employers. This means that you must remain working with the same employer at the same location your permit is changed. Open permit allows you to work with any employer anywhere in Canada.
Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)
If your work permit will soon expire and you have submitted an application for permanent residence, you may be eligible for a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP). BOWP is issued to bridge the gap between the expiry of the work permit and the final decision on your PR application.
To be eligible for a BOWP an applicant must:
- be currently in Canada
- have valid work permit that is due to expire within the next four months
- already have submitted application for permanent residence as main applicant
- have submitted an application for an open work permit which includes the processing fee.
Canada work permit Application processing stages
Canada work permit processing time completely depends on accuracy and completeness of your application. It can take between 2 weeks to 4 months approximately to process a Canadian work permit.
- Employer applies for Labour Market Impact Assessment
- Employer extends Temporary Job Offer
- Foreign Worker applies for Work Permit
- Work Permit is issued
Global Skills Strategy’s two-week application processing
You can start working in Canada faster through the Canada Global Skills Strategy. If you qualify, IRCC processes most eligible work permit applications within two weeks.
If you need an LMIA, you will qualify for two-week processing if you meet all of these requirements:
- you are applying from outside Canada
- you have a positive LMIA through the Global Talent Stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program. This will be on the LMIA decision letter
If you don’t need an LMIA, you will be eligible for two-week processing if you meet all of these requirements:
- you are applying from outside Canada
- your job is either skill type 0 (managerial) or skill level A (professional) in the National Occupational Classification system
- your employer has submitted an offer of employment using the government’s Employer Portal and also paid the employer compliance fee
To clarify, Express Entry International Experience Canada applicants are not eligible.
How to get Global Skills Strategy’s two-week processing
Once you have the documents and information you need from your employer, you and your family members must
- apply online from outside Canada
- submit a complete application
- include a medical exam (if needed)
- and include police certificates (if needed)
- also include certified translations of documents that aren’t in English or French
- pay the processing fees
- submit your biometrics results within two weeks of submitting your application (if needed)
Local visa office requirements
Many of IRCC’s visa offices abroad have specific instructions that you need to follow. Also check your local visa office requirements to make sure you are including all required documents with your application.
If you have local instructions to follow you can find them in the application package.
- Go to the work permit application.
- Select apply online.
- Select the country or territory you’re applying from.
- Download the country-specific “visa office requirements” from the list of documents, if there are any.
To be eligible for two-week processing it is necessary to include certified translations of all documents that aren’t in English or French. And emphatically, do this even if your visa office requirements say that they accept other languages.
Examples of requirements that may change depending on where you are applying from:
Special instructions for Global Skills Strategy applicants
If you need an LMIA, it is important that you:
- answer “yes” when asked during the online eligibility check: “Did Employment and Social Development Canada issue your employer’s LMIA under the Global Talent Stream?”
- apply as soon as you receive your LMIA decision letter
IRCC also emphasizes that they will NOT process your application in two weeks if:
- you aren’t eligible to apply through the Global Skills Strategy
- your application is incomplete
- you forget documents from your local visa office instructions
- or you don’t include certified translations of your documents that aren’t in English or French
- your application is made from inside Canada
- you submit a paper application
- you submit an International Experience Canada application
- Applications to Work in Canada: Work Permits – Application forms and instructions about how to apply. From IRCC.
- Applying to Change Conditions or Extend Your Stay in Canada – Worker (IMM 5553) – Information about who can apply for a work permit from inside Canada, and how to apply. From IRCC.