To live in Canada as a foreign national, most of the time, you must first find a job, which requires a Canada work visa. Although getting a job before you move to Canada is not always a requirement, it does help you to appear more eligible for a visa, as it shows that you can contribute to the Canadian economy.
Since Canada has one of the strongest economies globally and an unemployment rate of only 8 percent, projected to be as low as 6.5 percent in 2026, job opportunities are and will continue to increase. This promises even greater prospects for the Great White North, which is why many people want to immigrate to Canada.
Types of Canadian Work Permits
If you get a job offer in Canada as a foreign national, consider it an opportunity you cannot refuse. It can be a very beneficial move for your career and improve your and your family's quality of life.
There are two main types of work permits, under which there is also a category of work visas. You must have a work permit and work visa to immigrate to Canada for work purposes. The two work permits include the following:
Open Work Permit
The open work permit Canada is a golden ticket for those who value flexibility. Unlike employer-specific permits, this one doesn't tie you to a particular employer or location. Think of it as an all-access pass to the Canadian job market.
Who is it for?
Eligible foreign nationals that want to work in Canada in the occupation and for the employer of their choice.
Employer-Specific Work Permit
If the open work permit is an all-access pass, the closed work permit, or employer-specific work permit, is more like a VIP backstage pass – it only grants access to a specific 'show.' In other words, it ties you to a particular employer in a specific location.
The employer-specific permit process requires the employer to obtain a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) or an LMIA exemption before hiring a foreign worker. This ensures that hiring a foreign worker will not negatively impact the Canadian labor market.
Who is it for?
This work permit is for anyone wanting to work for a specific employer in a specific province and for a specified duration.
Pathways to an Employer-Specific Work Permit
There are several pathways to an employer-specific work permit, each catering to different groups of people. These include the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, International Mobility Program, CUSMA, CETA Work Permit, and CPTPP. Let's take a closer look at these programs.
Temporary Foreign Worker Program
This work visa program was designed for Canadian employers to hire foreign national skilled workers for various jobs in Canada.
A crucial part of the application process for the TFWP is to apply for an LMIA because there were not any Canadian residents available to apply for the job position. For this reason, Canadian employers often need to hire foreign nationals through this program.
To qualify for this program, applicants must submit a copy of the LMIA with their work permit application. If your potential Canadian employer does not want an LMIA, you can apply for a work visa through the International Mobility Program (IMP).
Some of the most popular TFWP streams support Canadian employers' hiring needs, so a list of requirements must be met to assemble a successful LMIA application for the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).
TFWP streams differ based on workers' wages and skill level, which is determined by the National Occupation Classification (NOC).
Canada's TFWP has several streams employers can use to hire temporary foreign workers. These streams include:
High Wage Worker Stream
Employers who plan to hire a temporary foreign worker who will be paid at or above the provincial/territorial median hourly wage for the occupation and region where the job will be located can use this stream.
Low Wage Worker Stream
Employers who plan to hire a temporary foreign worker who will be paid below the provincial/territorial median hourly wage for the occupation and region where the job will be located can use this stream.
Agriculture Worker Stream
Employers wishing to hire temporary foreign workers to fill specific positions related to agricultural production may be able to use one of the TFWP agricultural streams to hire workers. Canada offers two streams designed to facilitate hiring temporary foreign workers in agriculture.
Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP)
This stream allows employers to hire temporary foreign workers when Canadians and permanent residents are unavailable. Employers must meet specific requirements to be eligible for this stream.
Global Talent Stream (GTS)
This stream is for employers who need to hire highly skilled foreign workers for jobs in certain fields. One of the program's designated partners must refer employers to the GTS. Learn more about the Global Talent Stream.
Home Care Provider Stream
This stream is for families wishing to hire a foreign national to provide care in a private household.
This stream is for foreign academics invited to teach or conduct research at a Canadian post-secondary institution.
Learn more about the Temporary Foreign Work Permit.
International Mobility Program (IMP)
The IMP was created to help Canadian employers hire skilled international workers on a temporary or permanent without needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). This work visa is primarily issued for jobs that Canadian employers failed to fill with existing residents in the country.
Given that it created a need to hire foreign working professionals, the program was also designed to fill Canada's labor market needs, which presented the opportunity for foreign nationals to get jobs in Canada. This includes both temporary and permanent jobs at every skill level.
Although the IMP can give foreign nationals a temporary work visa, it can give you a window to eventually apply for permanent residency through several programs, including one of the federal economic programs or Canadian Experience Class (CEC), all under the Express Entry System.
International Mobility Programs (IMPs) include:
- Post-graduate work permit program
- A program for anyone that has studied and graduated from a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI)
- Reciprocal Youth Change Agreements
- A program such as the International Experience Class (IEC) for people aged 18 to 35 years old that want to travel and work in Canada
- International Free Trade Agreements
- Programs include the North American, South American, and South Korea Free Trade Agreements, General Agreement on Trade Services, and Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
- Intra-Company Transfer Program
- A program for anyone that wants to transfer to a Canadian branch of the company they currently work for abroad
- Bridging Open-Work Permit
- A work permit program for anyone transitioning to become a permanent resident. Learn more about Bridging Open Work Permits.
- Circumstances of Social or Cultural Benefit to Canada
- A program for someone who can contribute to Canada through programs like the Mobilité Francophone Program. The outcome of this program depends on the applicant's past success, testimonials, and recommendations.
Learn more about the International Mobility Program.
Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)
The Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) exists to facilitate trade and commerce between the three countries. It offers work permit exemptions to certain professionals, traders, and investors categories. It's for citizens of the United States and Mexico who work in specific professions. Learn more about CUSMA.
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) Work Permit
The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) exists to boost trade and investment between Canada and the European Union. It provides work permit exemptions to certain categories of business people, such as investors, independent professionals, and intra-corporate transferees. It's specifically for citizens of the EU. Learn more about CETA Work Permit.
Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) exists to enhance economic relations among the member countries. It works by offering work permit exemptions for certain business people. It's for citizens of the participating countries. Learn more about the CPTPP.
Pathways to an Open Work Permit Canada
Now, let's circle back to the open work permit Canada. This permit has several pathways, including the Canada Spousal Open Work Permit, Bridging Open Work Permit, Working Holiday Visa Canada, and Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP). Let's decipher each of these programs.
Canada Spousal Open Work Permit
A Canada spousal open work permit allows the spouse or common-law partner of a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to work in Canada. At the same time, IRCC processes the application for permanent residence is being processed.
This is specifically for Spouses or common-law partners of Canadian citizens or permanent residents sponsored under the spouse or common-law partner in Canada class or spouses or common-law partners of certain temporary Canadian permit holders.
As of May 26, 2023, Immigration Minister Sean Fraser stated that the Canadian government would grant open work permits to spouses applying from within and outside Canada, allowing foreign spouses to join their partner in Canada and work to support themselves financially while in Canada. Fraser has also stated that those with work permits set to expire before the end of 2023 will have their visa extended a further 18 months.
Bridging Open Work Permit: What you need to know
The Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) exists to prevent any gap in work authorization for foreign workers waiting for the decision on their permanent residence application. It allows such individuals to continue working in Canada while their permanent residence application is being processed. It's for foreign workers in Canada with a valid work permit that is about to expire. Learn more about the Bridging Open Work Permit.
Working Holiday Visa Canada
As a very popular Canada work visa, the working holiday visa forms part of the International Experience Class (IEC), allowing you to live in Canada and work part-time while traveling the country. The work visa program is available to citizens from designated countries with a consensual youth mobility arrangement with Canada.
The temporary work visa lasts 12 to 24 months. This depends on your country of residence. It is ideal for adventurous young adults who want to experience Canada without settling down permanently. Gaining part-time work experience in Canada, however, does increase your chances of getting a permanent visa, should you wish to apply for one after your working holiday visa expires.
Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP)
The PGWP helps international students that have completed a qualification from a Canadian Designated Learning Institution (DLI) to live and work in Canada. You can receive an open work permit as an international student under the PGWP in Canada. It will allow you to work part-time or full-time for a Canadian employer.
To get a Canadian work visa, you must show that you can perform the required job duties. This can be proved by providing a copy of education credentials for skilled positions. To show that your work experience is valid, you can also submit reference letters from each of your previous employers.
With this, you will also be required to have an Education Credential Assessment (ECA) to show that your qualifications meet Canada's standards. Additionally, you will need to provide supporting documents, depending on the type of work permit you are applying for.
If you want to study in Canada, you can gain permanent residency faster than most other work visa program options.
This study and work visa program will allow you to work for as many hours as you like. The permit is also valid for eight months to three years. Although this is a good opportunity to live in Canada permanently, it is not recommended if you are looking to build up work experience.
International students that find employment in any occupation classified as highly skilled or under the NOC TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3 types will be eligible to claim Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) points if they apply through the Canadian Experience Class (CEC). Learn more about the Post-Graduation Work Permit.
Why it is Important to Get a Legal Canadian Work Permit and Visa
A Canadian work permit and work visa go hand in hand to secure your stay in the Great White North. If you wish to work in one of the greatest countries in the world, you require a Canada work visa with a work permit to protect your right as a foreign national to work and live there. With it, you are also protected under Canadian labor laws.
Since it allows foreigners to have all the documentation needed to move to and get jobs in Canada, it is essential and will give you peace of mind to legally live and work in Canada.
You want to learn more about the different types of work permits and visas or to check if you are eligible for either one, you can contact a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant (RCIC).
Finally, let's address some common questions about Canada's work permits.
How Do I Get a Canadian Work Permit?
Can I Apply for a Work Permit From Inside Canada?
Yes, in certain situations, like if you're an international student, a spouse or common-law partner of a student or skilled worker, or a temporary resident permit valid for six months or more.
Can I Extend My Work Permit?
Yes, you can apply to extend your work permit as long as you do so before it expires.
Can I Work While my Work Permit Application is Being Processed?
Yes, but only under specific conditions, like if you had a work permit before and applied for a new one before your current one expired.