A Guide to Canada's LMIA-Exempt Work Permits

Working in Canada is a dream for many since it’s a country with plenty of job opportunities. Canada immigration news reported over 1 million job vacancies in Canada. Not only does the Country offer job security and stability, but there are plenty of ways to get a work permit to be employed in Canada.

Canada's work permit policies are considered flexible, which makes it highly accommodating to the needs and circumstances of immigrants. This is because the Country wants to attract a foreign labour force to fill the gaps created by the aging workforce and the declining population that Canada faces.

Even so, the government places laws to protect Canadian workers' jobs through the implementation of the Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

In this article, we'll break down what the LMIA is, why it may present a problem when you're applying for a work permit and why Canada's LMIA-exempt work permits are in such high demand.


What Is an LMIA?

You've heard the term used many times when referring to work in Canada. A Labour Market Impact Assessment is Canada's way of ensuring the working rights of Canadian permanent residents and citizens. While the Country promotes its fair employment act, its policies need to consider unemployed and job-seeking Canadians before looking to hire foreign nationals. However, due to the need for so much labour in Canada, an LMIA isn't impossible to obtain although it can be time-consuming.

The onus is always on the employer to seek out this document. Before hiring a foreign worker, Canadian employers, companies, firms, farms etc., must obtain government approval. There are various programs that require you to have an LMIA work permit

When a Canadian company cannot fill a position with a local Canadian worker, an LMIA is granted. We call this a positive LMIA. The most common way to demonstrate this is to post job openings in Canada and try to recruit Canadians, indicating that the candidates are unqualified for the position. Thereafter, employers will seek to employ foreigners to fill the shortage.

For example, to be eligible for the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, your potential employer can apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) to see if they can engage a foreign worker temporarily to fill labour or skills shortages.

LMIA Work Permit

An LMIA work permit is one of the most common permits you can get. It's an employer-specific work permit which details certain aspects of your employment in Canada, such as who you work for and where you work.

This type of work permit restricts you to working for a particular Canadian employer in a specific location. The other type of work permit Canada issues to foreigners is an open work permit. It is often given on a spousal or working holiday visa which allows you to work anywhere in Canada and for anyone (as long as it’s within the boundaries of what Canada deems as legal ).

The requirements for an LMIA Work Permit are:

  • A job offer letter
  • A valid contract
  • A copy of the LMIA
  • The LMIA number

LMIA-Exempt Work Permits

Because of this additional step (having to apply for an LMIA), many Canadian employers are hesitant to employ foreign workers. It is not only longer time-consuming, taking weeks to process, but the administrative charges are at cost to the employer.

Therefore, having a skill or experience, or coming from a particular country with ties to Canada, can afford you the opportunity to apply for a work permit without an LMIA. Canadian employers are more likely to hire you if you meet the requirements for Canada’s LMIA Work Permit:

  • For at least one year, you have been working full-time for the employer on your work visa or an equal amount of part-time work.
  • You have a valid job offer and a valid work visa that is not subject to the LMIA because of an international agreement
  • Your occupation falls under the Canadian interests category, a federal-provincial accord.

LMIA-Exempt Policies


There are various circumstances in which you will be exempt from providing an LMIA.

Express Entry

While most ways to enter Canada require you to have an LMIA work permit, which adds to your CRS scores when applying for permanent residency through the Express Entry system, you won’t be penalized for not having an LMIA. If your present temporary work is LMIA-exempt, states a specific employer or employers and meets the criteria you may be exempt from needing an LMIA to apply for PR under the Express Entry System.

International agreements

Non-trade agreements, such as Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) or General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), are covered by international accords. Professionals, traders, and investors can get LMIA-exempt jobs in Canada.

Canadian Interest

You can also be exempted due to Canadian interests. For example, you can be exempted if: your presence in the company amounts to a substantial advantage, and if your company can demonstrate that you will benefit Canada in a significant social, cultural, or economic way.

This can include intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge who will help the Country with their specific talents and expertise. LMIA-exempt jobs in Canada also include self-employed engineers, technical workers, and creative and performing artists that significantly impact the Country.

There is also a term called 'reciprocal employment,' which allows foreign workers to work in Canada if Canadians have similar possibilities elsewhere, such as professional coaches and athletes working for Canadian teams.

Lastly, International Experience Canada (IEC) is a work-abroad program for students, young professionals, academics, and visiting lecturers in exchange programs. Because this program offers bi-lateral benefits, you won't need an LMIA.

To find out more about these programs and whether you're eligible for any of Canada's LMIA-Exempt Work Permits, contact us today, and we'll put you in touch with a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC) to guide you through the process.


Our wonderful partner and Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC), David Allon answered some of your more burning questions.

What process do you undertake to switch jobs on an LMIA-exempt work permit?

While you're able to change employers and duties while on a work permit that doesn't require an LMIA, you must change to a job that is also LMIA exempt, and you'll need to notify Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that you've made the change. There are many LMIA-exempt jobs in Canada; you just need to have the right skill or territorial link.

When would I need to use LMIA-exemption codes?

Sometimes, the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) deems certain situations to meet the requirements of a particular skill or job without assessing the impact of hiring a foreigner. To capture the various eligibilities or criteria for those specific cases, the IRCC has created LMIA-exemption streams with specific codes. When you apply for a work visa, you'll have to submit your code to get a work permit without an LMIA attached to your application. The authorities will waive this requirement because you meet certain requirements.

  • A25.2 Public policies
  • R204: International agreements or arrangements
  • R205: Canadian interests
  • R206: No other means of support
  • R207: Permanent residence applicants in Canada
  • R207.1: Vulnerable workers
  • R208: Humanitarian reasons
  • International Mobility Workers Unit (IMWU): port of entry (POE) assistance

Each section has a particular code based on the occupation and origin of the foreign worker. Examples of codes are:

Examples of LMIA-Exempt Codes
Public policies that allow Hong Kong residence to work in CanadaR01
USA government personnelT11
Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP)C18

What do I give the immigration official at the POE to prove my work permit is LMIA-exempt?

You'll need to present the work permit you received. Your work permit will state the precise details of the conditions of your ability to be employed in Canada, including that you are exempt from an LMIA.