Work in Canada

Foreign Workers in Canada

There is a shortage of labour in Canada, particularly in certain skilled fields. Consequently Canada is actively seeking foreign workers and professionals to help grow its domestic workforce. Every year, the Canadian government issues 100,000 work permits to Temporary Foreign Workers to help business meet their skilled labour demands. In addition to these workers, there are other foreigners who are allowed to work without a work permit. Depending on the type and scope of work, duration of work, country of citizenship and other factors of the foreign worker, different rules and requirements apply.

It is crucial for foreign workers and their employers to go through the proper channels before any employment in Canada commences.

Most job positions and foreigners require Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and a Work Permit, others only require a work permit, and some do not require a work permit at all.

Jobs that require LMIA and Work Permit

​In most cases, a Canadian employer wishing to hire a foreign worker must first receive government approval via the LMIA before the hiring can take place. This is to ensure that no qualified Canadians were passed up in favour of the foreign worker. It is also to ensure that the foreign worker will be given a salary and benefits that meet federal and provincial standards. As part of the LMIA in general all Canadian employers must provide evidence that they have attempted to find qualified Canadian citizens or permanent residents to fill job positions before turning to foreign workers. See What is LMIA?

​LMIA Exempt Jobs

In certain circumstances individuals are allowed to work in Canada without first obtaining a LMIA.  Note: Being exempt from obtaining a LMIA does not mean the individual is exempt from obtaining a work permit. All streams on the LMIA exemption list still require the individual to obtain a work permit to work in Canada legally.

The most common LMIA-exempt streams are jobs involving:

  • ​International Agreements (NAFTA, GATS, Canada-Columbia FTA, Canada-Peru FTA)
  • Entrepreneurs/Self-Employed Candidates
  • Intra-Company Transferees
  • International Exchange Programs
  • Spouse and Dependents Of Foreign Workers
  • French-Speaking Skilled Workers
  • Religous Workers
  • Academics
  • Provincial LMIA Exemptions

​Work without a Permit

​A foreigner is allowed to work in Canada without a work permit in the following occupations:

  • Athletes and team members
  • Aviation accident or incident inspector
  • Business visitor
  • Civil aviation inspector
  • Clergy
  • Convention organizers
  • Crew
  • Emergency service providers
  • Examiners and evaluators
  • Expert witnesses or investigators
  • Foreign government officers
  • Foreign representatives and Family members of foreign representatives
  • Health care students
  • Implied status
  • Judges, referees and similar officials
  • Military personnel
  • News reporters, media crews
  • On-campus employment and some Off-campus work
  • Performing artists
  • Public speakers

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Open Work Permit (OWP)

​An Open Work Permit allows a foreign national to work in any job, without restriction. An LMIA or confirmed offer of employment is not needed to apply for an Open Work Permit.

The following are eligible for OWP

  • Foreign spouses/common-law partners of temporary foreign workers
  • Foreign students and Spouses/common-law partners being sponsored through the Inland Spousal/Common-law Sponsorship category
  • Graduating international students under the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program
  • ​International Experience Canada (IEC) Candidates under the Working Holiday category

​Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP)

​The bridging open work permit (BOWP) is a way to keep a worker in Canada working while his or her application for permanent residence is being processed.

​Individuals within Canada who have made an application to immigrate to Canada under either the Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) Class, the Federal Skilled Trades (FST) Class, the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) or one of the Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP) may be considered for a bridging open work permit if their current work permit is due to expire (within four months).

A foreign worker legally working in Canada who has made, or will soon make, an application for permanent residence under one of these immigration programs may then continue to work until a decision is made on his or her application for permanent residence.

​International Experience Class (IEC)

The IEC is a program designed to bring younger adults and youth to Canada on a temporary basis to work for temporary periods. Citizens of countries with a bilateral youth mobility arrangement with Canada who are between 18 and 35 years old may be eligible for IEC work permits. The IEC program is composed of three categories:

  • ​Working Holiday
  • Young Professionals
  • International Co-op

Working while Studying

​Full-time students who are enrolled at an institution may work at that institutions campus in any job without a work permit. Students may work at more than one campus of an institution, provided that they are in the same municipality. Students may be enrolled in any course to be eligible.

The approved institutions are:

  • ​Universities
  • Community Colleges
  • CEGEPs
  • Publicly Funded trade/technical schools
  • Private Institutions authorized by provincial statue to confer degrees

​Students working as graduate , research or teaching assistants may work off campus a locations related to their research grants. These locations must have a formal association or affiliation with he learning institution. This may include hospitals, clinics and research institutes.


Canada Student Visa
Canada Work Permit
Application to work in Canada — work permits including open work permits
Application for work permit inside Canada – extend, change conditions or initial work permit – includes open work permits
Apply for a work permit — Temporary workers
Extend Your Work Permit


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