2022-04-18T14:44:05-04:00January 28th, 2022|

How to get a Canadian work permit


Many newcomers from around the world come to Canada temporarily to work. There are many advantages to working in Canada, including the opportunity to be part of a global workforce, earn a higher income, and experience life in Canada. Moreover, gaining Canadian work experience also makes it easier for you to qualify for permanent residence (PR) programs offered by the Canadian government, particularly the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) Express Entry program.

Most foreign nationals require a work permit to work in Canada. In this resource, we address some commonly asked questions about how to get a Canadian work permit, including whether you need one, the types of work permits Canada offers, the eligibility criteria, and the application process.

In this article:

Do I need a work permit to work in Canada?

Unless you’re a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you’ll likely need a work permit to be allowed to work in Canada. There are some professions that don’t require a work permit, but these are limited to roles that require you to be in Canada for a short period of time, such as foreign athletes or coaches, actors, civil aviation inspectors, business visitors, or short-term researchers. Before you start looking for a job in Canada, check the government website to see if you need a work permit.

International students who are in Canada on a study permit may be eligible to work part-time while studying without a separate work permit, provided their study permit allows it. However, study permits typically have restrictions on the number of hours you can work per week and whether you’re allowed to work on or off campus.

Types of work permits in Canada

A work permit is a legal document that allows you to come to Canada as a Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW). There are two types of work permits for foreign nationals who want to work in Canada. They are:

Open work permits

An open work permit allows you to work for any eligible employer in Canada for a pre-defined period of time. This means that you can work with almost any organization in Canada, or switch jobs while you’re in Canada on an open work permit. You cannot, however, work with an organization on the government’s list of ineligible employers. Your open work permit will also state if you’re restricted from working in certain industries.

You do NOT need a job offer to get an open work permit in Canada. However, open work permits are only granted under specific situations, such as:

  • If you’re an international student who has graduated from a designated learning institution in Canada and are eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP)
  • If you’ve applied for permanent residence in Canada, or are a dependent family member of someone who has applied for PR
  • If you’re the spouse or common-law partner of a foreign skilled worker or international student in Canada
  • If you’re an international student who’s unable to meet the costs of your study program
  • If you’re a refugee, refugee claimant, protected person or their family member
  • If you’re a temporary resident permit holder

Employer-specific work permits

An employer-specific work permit, also known as a closed work permit, allows you to work for a specific employer in Canada. To qualify for an employer-specific work permit, you first need a job offer from a Canadian employer. 

Unlike an open work permit, an employer-specific work permit specifies the conditions of your employment in Canada, including, the name of the employer you can work for, the job location, and more. This means you cannot switch jobs while on an employer-specific work permit.

In many cases, depending on the industry you’re in, the employer must first complete a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) before they give you a job offer. An LMIA confirms there are no Canadians or permanent residents available to do this job and that they need to hire a Temporary Foreign Worker for the position.

If you want to switch jobs while on a closed work permit, you will need to apply for and obtain a new work permit before you can begin a new role.

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Eligibility criteria to get a work permit

To be eligible for a work permit, you must meet certain requirements set out by the Canadian government. You must:

  • Prove you’ll leave Canada once your work permit expires
  • Show proof of funds to support yourself and your family while you’re in Canada
  • Have no record of criminal activity and obey the law in Canada
  • Be in good health and take a pre-arrival medical exam, if required
  • Not work for an ineligible employer or with employers who offer striptease, erotic dance, erotic massages, or escort services
  • Provide all essential documents to prove you can enter Canada

There are also other eligibility requirements, depending on whether you’re applying for a work permit from within or outside Canada.

Qualifying for a work permit from within Canada

In certain situations, you may be able to apply for a work permit from within Canada. To qualify, you’ll need to meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Have a valid study or work permit
  • Be eligible for a Post-Graduation Work Permit while your study permit is still valid
  • Be waiting on a decision on your PR application from inside Canada
  • Be the spouse, common-law partner, or child of someone with a valid study or work permit
  • Have a temporary resident permit that’s valid for at least six months
  • Be a U.S. or Mexican citizen, eligible for a Canadian work permit under the CUSMA or NAFTA agreement
  • Be recognized as a refugee, protected person, or refugee claimant.

Qualifying for a work permit from outside Canada

In addition to the requirements outlined above, you may also require a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) or visitor visa to enter Canada, depending on your country of origin. Remember, a work permit is NOT a visa. Find out if you need a visa to enter Canada before you make your travel plans.

Do I need a job offer to apply for a Canadian work permit?

Whether or not you need a job offer depends on the type of work permit you apply for. Foreign nationals require a job offer to apply for an employer-specific work permit in Canada, however, you won’t need one to apply for an open work permit.

How do I apply for a work permit?

Important: The documents required for your work permit application vary based on the country you apply from. This section only provides a general overview of the application process. Check the Government of Canada’s website to find out the exact application process and document requirement for your country.

The work permit application process varies depending on how you apply and where you apply from. If you apply for a work permit from outside Canada, you can use either a paper or online application, although it’s easier and quicker to complete your application online. Applicants already in Canada must apply online.

Step 1: Gather essential documents

If you apply from outside Canada, use the Document Checklist (IMM 5488) to gather the supporting documents you’ll require for your work permit application. The documents may vary based on the country you apply from, so check the requirements that apply to you. You may need to submit supporting documents for your proof of identity, proof of employment in Canada, proof of relationship with accompanying family members, educational credentials, past employment records, and proof of funds. 

If you apply from within Canada, read the instruction guide to understand the documents required for your application.

Step 2: Fill in your work permit application

Read the instructions carefully and fill in the relevant application and supporting forms. If you apply from outside Canada, you’ll need to fill the Application for Work Permit Made Outside of Canada (IMM 1295), the document checklist, information about your family, and use of a representative, if applicable.

If you apply online, you’ll need to create an IRCC account and fill in the forms digitally. For paper-based applications (only permitted if you’re applying from outside Canada), you can download and print the required forms.

Step 3: Pay the fees

Calculate the fees you need to pay, based on the type of work permit you’re applying for and whether you’re required to give your biometrics. You can make the payment online using a valid email address and a debit or credit card. Remember to print copies of your receipt and attach them to your application.

Step 4: Submit the application

If you apply online, you can submit your application directly through your IRCC account. If you opt for a paper application, you need to send your printed application, along with payment receipt, to a Visa Application Center (VAC) that serves your area.

Note: Individuals who don’t need a visitor visa to come to Canada may also be able to apply for a work permit at their port of entry. In such cases, you still need to meet all the other requirements for getting a work permit, including having a valid job offer from a Canadian employer.

Step 5: Wait for your application to be processed

After you submit your application, you need to visit a local Visa Application Centre (VAC) (or Application Support Centre, if you’re applying from the U.S.) to give your biometrics. The IRCC will then check your application to make sure it’s complete and confirm your eligibility for a work permit.

At this stage, you may be asked to provide additional information to support your application, appear for an interview with Canadian immigration officials in your country, or take a medical test.

What happens after my work permit for Canada is approved?

Once your work permit application for Canada is approved, you’ll receive an approval letter, also called a port of entry letter of introduction, that states that you’re allowed to work in Canada. This letter is NOT your work permit, but you will need to show it to border officials when you enter Canada, so remember to bring it with you. You only receive your official work permit at your port of entry when you arrive in Canada.

What will my Canadian work permit include?

Your work permit will include conditions regarding your stay and employment in Canada, including the length of your work permit, the date by which you must leave the country, and employment restrictions, if any. 

Employer-specific work permits will also include the employer’s name, job location, and details of your occupation. You are legally required to meet the conditions and requirements specified on your work permit. 

All work permits also have a section containing your personal information, such as your name, date of birth, country of birth and citizenship, and travel document information. 

How long is a Canadian work permit valid?

A work permit is not indefinite—it allows you to work in Canada for a fixed period of time. The validity of your work permit will usually depend on the following:

  • The duration specified within your LMIA
  • The expected duration of employment if you’re in an LMIA-exempt occupation
  • Maximum permitted time if you apply under a particular program or agreement. For instance, if you apply for a PGWP, the duration of your work permit depends on the length of your study program and can’t be more than three years.
  • The validity of your passport, as your work permit won’t be valid beyond your passport’s expiry date.

If you continue to meet the conditions of your work permit and have a valid employment-related reason to stay in Canada beyond the duration of your work permit, you may be able to get your work permit extended. However, this may not be possible for all types of work permits.

Tip: If your passport is nearing the end of its validity period, you should renew it before applying for your work permit. This ensures you receive a work permit that remains valid for the full duration you qualify for.

How much does it cost to get a work permit for Canada?

The application fee for a Canadian work permit is $155 CAD per individual. In addition, you need to pay a biometrics fee of $85 CAD per person. If you apply for an open work permit, you also need to pay a $100 CAD Open Work Permit Holder fee. 

What are my rights as a Temporary Foreign Worker?

The rights of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW) in Canada are protected by law. Your employer must adhere to provincial employment standards. This means they must pay you at least minimum wage for work done, ensure your work environment is safe, and meet the terms of your employment contract at all times. 

Your employer can’t force you to perform duties you weren’t hired or trained to do, force you to work when you’re sick or injured, or make you pay them back for any fees they paid to hire you. Your employer also doesn’t have the right to have you deported or take your passport or work permit away from you.

Important: If your employer has taken your work permit or passport away from you, you may be a victim of human trafficking. You can report them by calling 911, your local police, or the RCMP Human Trafficking National Coordination Centre (HTNCC) at 1-855-850-4640. Under such circumstances, you can also contact the IRCC toll-free at 1-888-242-2100 to get a special temporary resident permit.

Can my family accompany me if I’m coming to Canada on a work permit? 

When you apply for a work permit, your immediate family members can come to Canada with you to visit, work, or study. They will need to apply separately for a visitor visa, study permit, or an open work permit, as applicable. However, they can apply at the same time as you.

Can I apply for PR while working in Canada on a work permit?

One of the biggest advantages of working in Canada on a work permit is it makes it easier for you to qualify for permanent residence. If you plan to apply for PR through Express Entry or a Provincial Nominee Program (PNP), you’ll get extra Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points for your Canadian work experience. 

If you’ve been working in Canada for at least one year, you may also be eligible for the Canadian Experience Class (CEC) program under the Express Entry program. While the CEC program requires you to be in Canada when you apply, you may be eligible for other PR programs even after you’ve returned home after working in Canada.

Whether you plan to work in Canada temporarily or are considering getting Canadian experience to improve your chances of qualifying for permanent residency, working in Canada offers many advantages. As a temporary foreign worker, you’ll have the opportunity to be part of a diverse, global workforce, earn a Canadian salary, and get some valuable professional experience for your resume. For most occupations, you’ll need a valid work permit to be eligible to work in Canada.