How to Apply for a Canada Work Permit from the US in 5 Steps

Working in Canada as an American or US citizen can provide fantastic opportunities to expand and grow your experience without going too far from home. Canada's job market is currently booming. Industry in Canada is increasing, and due to the aging population and the high concentration of the workforce in major cities, Canada desperately needs foreign workers to fill the gaps in the labor market. As a result, Canadian employers can offer fantastic jobs in Canada to US citizens. Still, so many people ask: "can a US citizen work in Canada? The answer is yes."

However, you will need a Canada work permit or visa to live and work in Canada. Therefore, knowing how to get one and whether or not you can even qualify for one is vital to your pathway to live and work in Canada. To help, we've compiled a handy 5-step guide on how to apply for a Canada work permit from the US.

How To Get A Canada Work Permit From the US

how to get work permit in canada

Step 1 - Choose Your Canada Work Permit

Before you begin your application process, you must ensure you're eligible for a Canadian work permit, as there are strict criteria that you must fulfill. Canada has two types of work permits. Each of these permits has specific requirements and allowances. The types of work permits are:

Open Work Permit Canada

An open work permit Canada is a work permit that is not job-specific, allowing individuals to work for any Canadian employer they choose. It is not tied to a specific job or employer, which means that applicants do not need a Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or proof of an offer of employment. Here are some programs through which you can acquire an open work permit Canada:

Post-Graduation Work Permit Program

Graduates of eligible Canadian institutions can apply for an open work permit called a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP). This program allows international students who have completed their studies in Canada to work there for a specified period.

Destitute Student

If you are a student who can no longer meet the costs of your studies, you may be eligible for an open work permit. This allows you to work in Canada to support yourself financially.

Abuse or Risk of Abuse

If you have an employer-specific work permit and are being abused or at risk of being abused about your job in Canada, you may be eligible for an open work permit. This allows you to leave your current job and work for any employer in Canada.

Temporary Resident Permit Holder

If you hold a temporary resident permit in Canada, you may be eligible for an open work permit. This allows you to work in Canada while your temporary resident permit validates.

Young Worker Participating in Special Programs

You may be eligible for an open work permit if you are a young worker participating in special programs. These special programs may include working holiday programs or youth exchange programs.

Spouse, Common-Law Partner, Conjugal Partner, or Accompanying Dependent Child

You may be eligible for an open work permit in Canada and are sponsored as a spouse, common-law partner, conjugal partner, or accompanying dependent child under the Family Sponsorship Program. This allows you to work in Canada while processing your sponsorship application.

It's important to note that eligibility criteria may vary for each program, and additional criteria must be met. It is recommended to answer a few questions to determine your eligibility for an open work permit.

Employer-specific Work Permit

If none of the above criteria apply, you'll likely need a Closed or Employer-specific Work Permit. This permit only allows working for the specific employer who has offered you a job. Your work permit will expire if you leave or are let go from your job. You can get an employer-specific work permit through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP).

The TFWP is a significant aspect of the Canadian Immigration system and is crucial in promoting economic growth and competitiveness in Canada. It allows foreign nationals to work in Canada for a specific employer and a predetermined period. Affording a unique opportunity to gain professional experience in a diverse and robust economy, the permit is highly sought-after by individuals across the globe. Moreover, it allows Canadian employers to address labor shortages by hiring internationally.

In a Temporary Foreign Worker Permit, a Canada work permit essentially gives the holder legal authorization to work in Canada. It is employer-specific, allowing the holder to work only for the employer who received the LMIA. The LMIA is a document from Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) that an employer in Canada may need to get before hiring a foreign worker. The permit, thus, is not a blanket authorization to work for any employer in the country.

Notably, obtaining a Canada work permit involves a two-step process. Firstly, the Canadian employer must receive an LMIA from ESDC, which grants permission to hire international workers. Secondly, once the employer has obtained the LMIA, the foreign worker can apply for a work permit. This process ensures that hiring foreign workers does not adversely affect Canadian citizens and permanent residents.

The Temporary Foreign Worker Permit is an excellent opportunity for foreign workers to expand their professional horizons while contributing positively to the Canadian economy. The permit also aids in addressing labor market shortages and ensuring that businesses can function effectively and efficiently. However, both employers and foreign workers need to adhere strictly to the conditions of the permit to maintain legal status.

Canada Work Permit Requirements

Both work permits have precise requirements. You will not qualify for a work visa if you don't fulfill these requirements. There are three primary requirements- one for you as the applicant, one for your prospective employer, and one for the job offer. As an applicant, you must:

  • Prove you intend to leave Canada after your work permit expires.
  • Prove you can provide for yourself and any dependent family members.
  • Have no criminal record and pass a police background check
  • Obey the law and commit no crime while in Canada.
  • Prove you're in good health via a medical exam.

If you're looking for an employer-specific work permit, it has to be with an approved Canadian employer. For your Canadian employer to be approved, they must get a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An LMIA proves to Canadian authorities that the employer has tried to fill this job vacancy from the local market but has been unable to find a suitable candidate.

For the job offer to be considered legitimate, it has to fulfill several primary criteria and be set out correctly. Learn how to tell if your job offer is real or fake.

Step 2 - Gather Your Documents

A Canada work permit application from any country requires specific documents. They are as follows:

  • Proof of Identity
    • Passport or identity documents
    • Two clear identity document photos
  • Proof of employment in Canada
    • If you're LMIA-exempt, you must provide the documents stipulated in this article.
  • If you have an LMIA, you'll need:
    • A copy of an LMIA should be given to you by your employer.
    • Copy of your employment contract
  • Proof you're eligible for the job via documents like:
    • A valid Canadian provincial or territorial trade certificate
    • Educational credentials
    • Proof of past work experience
    • If you're working in Quebec, you won't need an LMIA but a Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ). You can find the pathway to this on the Canadian government website.
  • Proof of relationship to any dependents coming with you via documents like marriage or birth certificates
  • Other documents as specified by the Canadian authorities.

It is important to remember that your documents are in English or French to make them more accessible for the Canadian authorities to process.

Step 3 - Fill Out Your Forms

Once you've assembled your documents, you must fill out the following application documents:

  • Application form For Work Permit Made Outside of Canada (IMM 1295)
  • Document Checklist (IMM 5488)
  • Family Information (IMM 5645 or IMM 5707)
  • Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union (IMM 5409), if applicable
  • Use of a Representative (IMM 5476), if applicable
  • If applicable, permit to release personal information to a designated individual (IMM 5475).

Step 4 - Pay the Fees

Every one of Canada's visa or permit programs requires processing fees. Below is a table that breaks down the fees you must pay for your Canada work permit, according to the Canadian government website:

Application CAD
Work Permit per person 155
Work permit per group of 3 or more performing artists 465
Open Work Permit Holder 100

Step 5 - Submit Your Application

Once you've gathered or received all your documents, filled out all the necessary forms, and paid all the fees, it's time to submit your application. You can submit it on the Canadian government website or via a Visa Application Center (VAC).

After You Apply

Once you submit your application, you must wait for the Canada work permit processing time. The Canada work permit processing time for US citizens applying outside Canada is approximately 12 weeks. During that time, the Canadian government will conduct a Completion Check on your application to ensure:

  • You have completed and submitted all of the required documents.
  • You have paid all of the processing fees.
  • You've sent in any subsequently requested documentation.

If your application is incomplete, you will be contacted as additional documents will be requested, or you may have to start the process again. Either way, this will substantially increase the work permit processing time. This is why it can be beneficial to enlist the help of a professional like an RCIC to check your documentation before you submit your application. Learn more about the Canada work permit processing time.

US-Specific Work Permits

work permit in canada

There are multiple pathways to working in Canada as an American citizen. Here are two of the most popular that you may be eligible for.

Canada United States Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)

Canada has many trade agreements with other countries. CUSMA is one of these agreements. It's designed to maintain the trade agreements between Canada, the United States, and Mexico by providing job opportunities to citizens of both countries from the following industries:

  • Agriculture
  • Automotive
  • Digital Trade
  • Intellectual property
  • Investment
  • Textiles and apparel

You may be eligible for this program if you work in these industries. Find out more about CUSMA.

Now that you know how to apply, your opportunity awaits you. With such a wealth of Canada jobs for US citizens, it's only a matter of time before you can take the next step in your career in Canada. 


Canada Work Permit

What is Working in Canada Like?

While working in Canada differs wildly depending on your job and where you're working, Canada is world renowned for vehemently enforcing workers' rights and providing fair pay. Learn more about working in Canada.

How do I Get a Job in Canada?

Applying for jobs in Canada is similar to the USA's application process. However, if you want to ensure your application fits Canadian standards. Learn more about how to get a job in Canada.

What do I do When my Work Permit Expires?

If you plan to continue to live and work in Canada after your work permit expires, you can apply for a Bridging Open Work Permit.