Work Permits Explained
WORK IN CANADA•
JUN 13, 2019
Want to work in Canada? First, figure out what kind of permit you
Canada relies on immigration to maintain a healthy labour force and grow
its economy. With an aging population and constantly low fertility rate,
immigration is part of the solution when it comes to alleviating the pressure
caused by those exiting the workforce. Canada's immigration policy
welcomes skilled workers and entrepreneurs and invites their invaluable
contribution to its culture and economy by essentially offering them two
types of Canadian work permits: open work permits and closed work
permits. Both types of work permits allow foreign nationals to work in
Canada for a certain period of time.
A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is needed before an employer
can hire a foreign national for most closed work permits. This evaluation
ensures that said employer tried to find a Canadian citizen or permanent
resident to fill the position before deciding to hire someone from
elsewhere. In other words, the employer should get a positive LMIA, also
called a confirmation letter, which shows that they haven’t been able to find
a Canadian citizen or permanent resident available and eligible for this
particular position, justifying the need to hire a foreign national temporarily.
Some closed work permits are LMIA exempted and an LMIA as a
prerequisite does not apply to an open work permit.
Those who decide to pursue work in Canada must apply for the work
permit for which they are eligible and take the steps required in their
Open Work Permits
The main characteristic of an open work permit is that it is not specific to
one employer. Therefore, a foreign national applying for an open work
permit does not need to be offered a job in Canada. Generally, a person
with an unrestricted open work permit may work for any eligible employer,
in any position (if the person is qualified) in the country. Open work permits
may also be restricted, which means that the foreign workers need to
comply with the conditions specified on their work permits.
This type of work permit is for people in specific situations, such as:
students who can no longer meet the costs of their studies; international
students who graduated from a Designated Learning Institution and are
eligible for the Post-Graduation Work Permit Program; workers with an
employer-specific work permit who are being abused or are at risk of being
abused in relation to their job in Canada; and the spouse or common-law
partner of a skilled worker or international student. Additional eligibility
criteria may apply.
In most cases, an open work permit can be applied for from within Canada,
from outside Canada, or at a Canadian port of entry. However, where to
apply depends on some factors (e.g. program), thus applicants need to
check the program they qualify for to find out where to apply.
Closed Work Permits
Closed work permits are the most common type of work permits issued in
Canada and are often given to foreign workers seeking employment from
one specific employer. This type of permit is also called an
employer-specific work permit and includes the name of the employer, the
length of time the foreign national can work in Canada, and the location
where the work can take place.
A positive LMIA is required in order to be granted a closed
non-LMIA-exempt work permit. Closed LMIA-exempt work permits allow
foreign nationals to work for one specific employer, in one specific position,
without the need for an LMIA, and are based on either international
agreements or arrangements or Canadian interests, meaning that the work
permits are created to promote economic, cultural, and other competitive
advantages for Canada and mutual benefits enjoyed by Canadians and
permanent residents. Good examples of significant economic, social, or
cultural benefits include the advancement of Canadian industry (e.g.
technological development) and the creation of jobs.
One example is the C-11 exemption, in which applicants are exempted from
the LMIA process due to the significant economic, social, or cultural
benefits they would bring to Canada by operating their own business on a
temporary basis. It requires the applicant to control at least 50% of the
This exemption for entrepreneurs and self-employed candidates is
permitted if the foreign worker's business in Canada will generate
opportunities for Canadian citizens or permanent residents; it is crucial that
the work is likely to create a viable business that will benefit Canadian or
permanent resident workers and that it will yield economic stimulus. This
could be the case, for example, if the foreign entrepreneur has a special
skill or background that will improve the viability of the business and its
likelihood to produce a profit. They must also demonstrate that they have
taken the initial steps to begin their business and have put their business
plan in action.
In order to find out if a foreign worker needs an LMIA or not, the first step is
to review the list of LMIA exemption codes to see if an existing code
applies to the specific situation. It is also possible to request an opinion
from the International Mobility Workers Unit when a more personalized
evaluation is desired and to determine whether the worker is exempt from
the LMIA process.
When an employer reviews the list of LMIA exemption codes and finds the
one most relevant to the hiring situation, the employer will need to include
this code in the offer of employment. And the employer needs to use the
employer portal to access the offer employment number required by the
foreign worker for his/her work permit application.
Canadian work permits are for foreign nationals who want to work in
Canada temporarily. However, if their goal is to live and work in Canada
permanently, they should instead apply for permanent residency.
Most foreign workers who come to Canada for employment need work
permits. If you are unsure about needing one, we urge you to consult the
interactive platform created by the Government of Canada and familiarize
yourself with the types of work permits that best suit your situation.