As a citizen or resident of another country, working in Canada can open new career pathways, introduce you to a global workforce, and in many cases, be a financially lucrative opportunity. More importantly, a few years of Canadian experience can make it significantly easier to qualify for permanent residence (PR) in Canada down the line.
However, finding a job in Canada as a temporary foreign worker (TFW) isn’t straightforward. Most foreign nationals need a work permit to work in Canada. Before that, your Canadian employer may require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to justify hiring a temporary foreign worker. But what exactly is an LMIA, and why is it needed? This article explains how to get an LMIA from a Canadian employer for your work permit application.
In this article:
- What is a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)?
- Do I need to apply for an LMIA to get a job in Canada?
- Who needs a Labour Market Impact Assessment?
- Can I get a work permit without an LMIA?
- LMIA application process for Canadian employers
- Requirements for a Canadian LMIA
- Do employees need to pay a fee for LMIA?
- What is the LMIA processing time in Canada?
- My LMIA was approved. What’s next?
- How to apply for a work permit after LMIA approval
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document that Canadian employers may need to get before they hire a temporary foreign worker for a job in Canada.
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) issues LMIAs to assess the impact of hiring a foreign national on the Canadian labour market. Essentially, a positive LMIA confirms that there’s no Canadian national (citizen or permanent resident) to fill the position and allows the employer to hire a temporary foreign worker for the role. On the other hand, a negative LMIA clarifies that there are enough suitable Canadian workers available for the position and prohibits the employer from giving the job to a foreign national.
Although you’ll likely need a positive LMIA to qualify for a work permit to work in Canada, it is not your responsibility to apply for an LMIA. Your Canadian employer must apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment before hiring you.
Most employers require an LMIA to hire a temporary foreign worker for a job in Canada. As a foreign national, you need a positive LMIA from your employer to apply for an employer-specific work permit.
However, if you have (or are eligible for) an open work permit, your Canadian employer won’t require an LMIA to hire you. Unlike an employer-specific work permit which permits you to work for one employer at a specific location, an open work permit allows you to work for any eligible employer in Canada in almost any industry.
|Note: Read our article on how to get a Canadian work permit to learn about the differences between open and employer-specific work permits and their eligibility criteria.|
There are notable exceptions where work permits may be issued to foreign nationals without an LMIA, or a work permit may not be required. Some of these include:
- Exemptions under public policies: For a limited time, open work permits may be issued without an LMIA to applicants under the Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident pathway as well as to Hong Kong residents applying for a work permit.
- Certain permanent residence applicants and their spouses: Francophone immigrants, Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ) holders, and permanent resident applicants under the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP), Home Child Care Provider Pilot (HCCPP) and Home Support Worker Pilot (HSWP), Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP), and Start-up business class are exempt from LMIA requirements.
- International students in Canada and their spouses: International students enrolled in at least a six-month long study program on a valid study permit are allowed to work off-campus for up to 20 hours per week. Spouses and partners of full-time students are also eligible for an open work permit.
- Spouses/partners of foreign skilled workers: Spouses or common-law partners of skilled workers with an AIP work permit, a Quebec Selection Certificate (CSQ), provincial nomination, bridging open work permit, or other open work permit are eligible for a spousal open work permit.
- International agreements or arrangements: For instance, investors coming to Canada under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement (CUKTCA), Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), or other free trade agreements don’t require an LMIA. Exceptions also extend to intra-company transferees, professionals or technicians, and their spouses under some international agreements.
- Work aligned with Canadian interests: Foreign nationals who intend to work in fields that create social, cultural or economic benefits for Canadian nationals, including opportunities that create reciprocal employment, or work related to research, religious or charitable causes. Some examples include work in specific occupations such as airline personnel, emergency repair personnel, television and film production workers, fishing guides, and more.
- Exemptions for humanitarian reasons or individuals with no other means of support: This includes refugees and refugee claimants, persons under an unenforceable removal order, vulnerable workers, and destitute students.
Before making a job offer to a foreign national, Canadian employers must verify whether an LMIA is required, gather essential documents, and submit an application to ESDC. Here’s an overview of the LMIA application process:
Determine if an LMIA is needed
Before starting the hiring process, employers must confirm whether an LMIA is required for the position. To determine whether a temporary foreign worker hired for the job will be exempt from needing an LMIA, employers should carefully review the exemptions for LMIAs and work permits. If an exemption code applies, the employer must include it in their employment offer. Before hiring a TFW from a visa-exempt country, employers must contact the International Mobility Workers Unit to confirm whether an LMIA is needed.
Submit an LMIA application to ESDC
If an LMIA is required, employers must apply to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), along with the required documentation. Employers must have a Job Bank user account to complete their application through LMIA Online.
The application process varies based on the category under which temporary foreign workers are being hired. There are four key LMIA categories: high-wage workers, low-wage workers, Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, and Agricultural stream.
Employers looking to hire high-wage or low-wage workers can submit an LMIA application up to six months before the planned job start date. For all four categories, employers must submit proof of business legitimacy, proof of recruitment, a filled-in and signed application form, and a processing fee for each requested position. For low-wage positions and recruitment under the Agricultural stream, employers must also submit a copy of the employment contract.
Employers submitting an LMIA application for a high-wage position can request an employment duration of up to three years, while applications for low-wage positions and Agricultural stream can be for up to two years. Under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, employers can only hire TFWs for up to eight months.
Wait for the LMIA application to be assessed
After an employer submits an LMIA application, ESDC will assess it to determine the legitimacy of the business and job offer as well as the impact hiring a temporary foreign worker will have on the Canadian labour market. Based on the application details and documents submitted, the employer will receive either a positive or negative LMIA telling them whether or not they can proceed with the hiring process.
There are several requirements employers must meet before deciding to hire a temporary foreign worker and applying for an LMIA. Some of these include:
Proof that their business and job offer is legitimate
Employers must submit documentation demonstrating that their business is legitimate and they have the resources and ability to fulfil the terms of their job offer.
Documents from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), such as T2 Schedule (balance sheet and income statement information), T2125 (statement of business or professional activities), T4 (or payroll records for at least six weeks), or an attestation confirming the good financial standing of the business can be submitted to prove the employer’s ability to meet the conditions of the employment offer.
To prove that the business is legal and provides goods and services in Canada, employers can submit their business license, T4 summary of remuneration paid, PD7A statement of account for current source deductions, or attestation from a lawyer or Chartered Professional Accountant.
A transition plan
Employers applying for an LMIA for high-wage and low-wage positions must include a transition plan in their application. This transition plan should include details of activities the employer will undertake to reduce their reliance on temporary foreign workers, and recruit, train, and retain Canadian citizens and permanent residents. It can also include the employer’s planned efforts to help TFWs apply for permanent residence.
Once a positive LMIA is issued, the employer must regularly inform the ESDC about their progress on activities listed in the transition plan. A transition plan is not required for LMIAs for caregiver roles, time-limited jobs, jobs that require a unique skill, or agriculture-related positions.
Proof of recruitment or advertisement
Employers must prove that they made reasonable efforts to hire a Canadian national before offering the job to a temporary foreign worker. Proof of advertisement and recruitment activities, such as copies of ads and proof that the advertisements targeted an appropriate audience, must be included in the LMIA application. The minimum recruitment requirements vary based on the LMIA category.
For instance, for high-wage and low-wage positions, employers must advertise the job opening on the government’s Job Bank and use at least two additional recruitment methods (at least one must be national), such as employment or classified websites, newspaper advertisements, participation in job fairs, or internal recruitment.
These advertisements must be placed for at least four consecutive weeks within the three months immediately preceding the LMIA application. At least one recruitment activity must remain active until an LMIA is issued.
The wages offered to temporary foreign workers must be similar to those paid to Canadian nationals with similar skills and experience working in the same job. Employers are required to pay TFWs either the median wage listed on Job Bank for that job title or National Occupational Classification (NOC) code or the wages being paid to current employees in similar roles, whichever is higher. The ESDC only accounts for guaranteed wages, so they will not consider overtime pay, bonuses, commissions, and benefits while evaluating whether the wage being offered is fair.
Other requirements for low-wage and agricultural positions
When hiring low-wage workers and seasonal or other agricultural workers, the employer is responsible for paying for the TFWs’ round-trip transportation costs to and from their work location in Canada and their country of residence.
Employers must also arrange to provide temporary foreign workers with suitable affordable housing that costs less than 30 per cent of their before-tax income. It is also the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all temporary foreign workers are covered by health insurance, provincial or private, from their first day in Canada at no cost.
As a prospective employee, you don’t need to pay any LMIA processing fees. Your employer will have to pay a $1,000 LMIA fee for each position they intend to fill with a temporary foreign worker. The LMIA processing fee is not per application, since a single application can include several positions.
|Tip: Beware of employers or recruiters who ask you to pay an upfront fee to cover the cost of the LMIA, training or recruitment process. Any job offers that require potential employees to pay a fee to get hired are likely fraudulent.|
The average processing time for Labour Market Impact Analysis varies based on the stream under which temporary foreign workers are being hired. Typically, the processing time for your LMIA will range between five and 46 business days.
LMIA applications under the high-wage and low-wage stream, as well as applications for in-home caregivers usually take more than 40 days for processing. However, applications for LMIAs under the Global Talent Stream, seasonal agricultural worker Program, agricultural stream, and permanent residence stream are processed within five to 16 business days.
Expedited LMIA processing (within ten business days) is also available for high-paid jobs, skilled trade positions on the list of eligible occupations, job offers made to Express Entry immigration applicants, and short-duration employment positions.
Once your employer receives a positive Labour Market Impact Assessment for your position, they will:
- Share the employment contract with you. This contract must be signed by both you and your employer and they will give you a copy of the final contract for your records.
- Provide you a copy of the LMIA letter, along with its Annexure A. You will need this document to obtain a Canadian work permit.
- Ask you to apply for a work permit before the LMIA expires. Positive LMIAs are typically valid for 18 months from the date of issue, but the conditions of your employment offer may require you to apply for a work permit sooner. If you’re immigrating to Canada under the Atlantic Immigration Program, Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot, or another PR program that requires a job offer, you should apply for permanent residence once you receive a positive LMIA from your employer.
You’ve received a formal employment offer and a copy of a positive LMIA from your Canadian employer. Now, it’s time to apply for your work permit. Here’s an overview of what you need to do next:
Gather necessary documents for your work permit application
Follow the document checklist to collect all the documents needed for your work permit application. These will typically include a copy of your job offer along with the LMIA provided by your employer, identification proof, documentation showing that you meet the requirements for the job being offered including your resume, educational credentials and employment reference letters, and proof of your relationship with accompanying family members. Your local visa office may also require you to submit certain country-specific documents.
Prepare your work permit application
When applying for a work permit from outside Canada, you can submit either a paper-based application or create an IRCC account and apply online. However, online applications usually have faster processing times. Make sure you fill out all required sections of the application accurately and completely.
Pay the fees and submit your application
The processing fees depend on the type of work permit you’re applying for and whether you’re required to give biometrics. Make sure you select all the applicable fees before paying online by debit or credit card. Print copies of your payment receipt and attach them to your application.
Online applications can be submitted directly through your IRCC account. For paper-based applications, you must submit your application and payment receipt to your local visa office.
Give your biometrics, if needed
After submitting your application, you may be asked to visit your local Visa Application Centre (VAC) to submit your biometrics. The IRCC may also require additional information, documentation, or medical test results before processing your work permit application.
Receive your port of entry letter of introduction
When your work permit application is approved, IRCC will send you a port of entry letter of introduction or approval letter stating that you’re permitted to work in Canada. You must show this letter to border officials at the port of entry in Canada to receive your work permit.
Working in Canada temporarily is a great way to gain global experience and, for many, it also opens a path to permanent residence. With that goal in mind, your first step should be to find a job in Canada. Employers who hire temporary foreign workers require an LMIA to justify why they need to look outside Canada for their recruitment efforts. However, the LMIA process takes time and money, and most Canadian employers will only give job offers to foreign workers if they are confident about receiving a positive LMIA. As long as you are in an in-demand occupation and can position yourself as an ideal candidate for jobs in Canada, you should be able to get an LMIA and a work permit to work in Canada.