Did you know that Canada has been ranked one of the happiest countries on the planet? This is based on a number of socio-economic factors including freedom of religion, political choice, a world-renowned education system, multiculturalism and of course, absolute stunning landscapes and city skylines.
But more to those bountiful reasons why someone would want to live here is the fact that Canada offers financial freedom, economic wellness and a high quality of life. Simply put, what that means is that we all have equal opportunities in Canada, and can work and train for any type of job in any industry, and in any province or territory in Canada.
Canada welcomed over 401,000 new permanent residents in 2021 - a record high since 1913. Currently, there are upwards of 640,000 active work permits in Canada, and that number will continue to grow in the years ahead as Canada aims to strengthen its labour force and global economic standing.
If you’re looking to immigrate to and work in Canada, obtaining a work permit is mandatory. Here, we will take a look at how to apply for one, who is eligible, cost and much more.
What Is a Canadian Work Permit?
A Canadian work permit is permission to become employed in Canada if you are not currently a citizen or permanent resident of the country. Although there are some cases where a work permit is not required before entering the country, the path to permanent residency becomes a much easier one when a work permit is obtained.
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Types of Work Permits
There are essentially two types of work permits in Canada: Open Work Permits and Employer-Specific Work Permits, LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment). Under those umbrellas, however, there are several different types of permits depending on your occupation and qualifications.
The Canadian Visa program considers the following work permits as open:
- World Youth Program Permit
- Atlantic Immigration Program Spousal Permit
- Post-Graduation Work Permit
- Temporary Work Permits for Spouses and Partners
- Regular Open Work Permit
- Birding Open Work Permit
As well, Canada also has multiple visa programs that utilize open work permits. They are:
- International Co-Op Program
- Working Holiday Visa
- International Experience Canada
- Young Professionals Visa
- Canadian Experience Class
- Federal Skilled Worker Program
- Federal Skilled Trades Program
- Provincial Nominee Program
Canadian Work Permit - Eligibility Requirements for All Applicants
To be eligible for any type of work permit, the individual must meet the following requirements:
- Must have proof that you have enough funds to support yourself and your family members for the duration of your stay in Canada
- Must prove that you will leave the country upon your work permit expiring
- Must not be a danger to Canadian society
- Have no criminal record and be prepared to provide a police clearance certificate
- Must obey the law
- Must be in good health and be prepared to undergo a medical exam if necessary
- Must not become employed with a company that has been deemed “ineligible”. Employers who have not complied with federal rules outlining requirements for hiring foreign workers can be found here.
- Must not work for any business which provides escort, erotic services, erotic dance or erotic massage, or work for any erotic type club.
Eligibility Requirements When Applying from Outside Canada
Any foreign person, from any country, can apply for a Canadian work permit from outside Canada, provided they meet all of the requirements listed above. Please note there may be specific visa office requirements which need to be met. This will depend on the territory or country you are applying from.
Eligibility Requirements When Applying from Inside Canada
If you are already in Canada, you may only apply for a work permit if you:
- You have officially been recognized as a protected person or convention refugee. Recognition must come from the Immigration and Refugee Board
- Hold a valid work or study permit
- Have a spouse, parent or common-law partner who has a valid work or study permit
- Have obtained a temporary resident permit which is valid for at least 6 months
- You have submitted your permanent residence application and are awaiting a decision
- You have a valid study permit and have been eligible for a post-graduation work permit
- You have filed a claim for refugee protection
- You are considered a trader, intra-company transferee or investor under the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement
Eligibility When Applying at a Canadian Port of Entry (POE)
It is always recommended to apply for a Canadian work permit before entering the country. There are, however, times you may be eligible to apply at a POE. Those times are:
- When you are eligible for an electronic travel authorization, or be able to travel without a visitor visa
- When you have met the travel requirements surrounding COVID-19 to enter the country
- When you have met the requirements for the type of work permit you have applied for
Documents Required for Obtaining a Canadian Work Permit
Depending on the type of work permit you are applying for, you may be required to provide the following documents:
- Reference letter from your employer
- Signed Contract (if applicable)
- Professional Qualifications
- Academic Records
- Criminal and Medical Records (in some cases)
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How to Apply for Work Permit in Canada?
The Canadian government has many different pathways to apply for an open work permit depending on where you are applying and how you are applying. Please note: Venezuelan passport holders and Ukranian nationals should visit this page as there are separate, or additional requirements altogether for these application types.
In almost all cases, an online application is required. The process begins on this page as well, and you will be required to answer the two questions in the drop down menu:
- How Are You Applying?
- Where Are You Applying From?
Depending on where you are applying from you will be presented with detailed instructions on the entire process.
Applying for An Open Work Permit on Paper
Those who are seeking to apply on paper are only permitted to do so if they meet the following criteria:
- Possess a travel document or have an identity which qualifies them as stateless, refugees or non-national residents
- Intend to apply for a work permit under the Seasonal Agricultural Program
- Are prevented from applying online due to a disability
A detailed note must be submitted along with your application explaining why you are applying on paper. If a note is not included, the entire application will be returned.
What to Know Before You Apply for a Work Permit
It is of the utmost importance that regardless of the type of work permit you are applying for, that you understand that the IRPR (Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations) have policies and procedures in place to ensure that your rights are protected as an employee. This is done by conducting strict evaluations of Canadian employers. The criteria for these evaluations are:
- Ensuring that the job offer is genuine
- The employer has a clean compliance history
- The employer offers fair wages
- The employer provides safe and clean working conditions
- The employer follows Federal, Provincial and or Territorial Laws
- The employer is not banned from hiring foreign nationals
Be Aware of Possible Conditions on Your Work Permit
An immigration officer has the authority to cancel, impose or change aspects of your work permit. Those conditions may be:
- Your employment type
- The time period in which you are able to work
- The time period in which you can continue to work
- The place you work
- The employer you will be working for
- The place you work
Know If You Need to Undergo a Medical Exam
In some cases, you will need to prove that you are medically fit to enter and work in Canada. For those who are visiting or studying in Canada for 6 months or less, a medical exam is usually not required. Your family members may require a medical exam as well. This link will help you to determine if you need one.
For those who are visiting or studying in Canada for six or more months consecutively, a medical exam will be required if you:
- Have lived in any of these territories or countries for more than 6 months within the year you wish you enter Canada
- Work in one of the following industries: health services, with children, in agriculture
Know If You Require an eTA or a TRV (Electronic Travel Authorization/Temporary Resident Visa
Some people may require an eTA or a Temporary Resident Visa in order to work in Canada. Immigration officers issue TRV’s and they are documents which are placed directly inside your passport. They are proof that you have met the general requirements to be admitted into Canada. An eTA, serves the same purpose as a TRV, however it is electronically linked to your passport.
Find out of you require an eTA by following this link.
Find out of your require a TRV by following this link.
Know If You Need To Provide Biometrics
For security purposes, you may be required to provide your biometrics in order to work in Canada. The Canadian government uses biometrics to confirm your identity. Having your biometrics taken also helps to prevent identity theft and to aid in the effort to correct any possible mistakes that may occur in the event your personal information is similar to someone else's. I.e, place of birth, date of birth, name.
Know When To Provide Your Biometrics
If you have submitted your application for a work permit via mail or online, you are able to provide your biometrics once you have:
- Submitted your application and paid the fees for biometrics.
- Received your Biometric Instruction Letter (BIL). Your BIL will provide a list of locations you may visit to have your biometrics recorded.
Preparing Your Documents
Preparing and organizing your documents is often the single most important aspect of the work permit application process. This document checklist will help you to check off what is needed and in which order they should be presented in. Please note that certain migration offices may require special or additional information depending on where you are applying from. If there is missing information in the documents you provide, this could result in lengthy delays in the decision making process of your application.
Plan to prepare the following documents for submission:
Proof of Identity
In order to prove your identity, you must provide:
- A document or passport that guarantees you re-entry into the country that issued it.
- Two photographs of yourself and two photographs of the family members which are travelling into Canada with you. These photos must meet the specifications for Visa applications.
What Are the Visa Application Specification Requirements for Photos?
The photo you provide along with your application and inside the document package must meet certain specifications. Those specifications are:
- Two photos must be included, must be identical
- Must be printed on photographic quality paper
- Even if you are wearing a religious head covering, your full facial features must be visible in the photograph
- Cosmetic hair accessories (clips, barrets, headbands, extensions etc) are acceptable as long as they are not obscuring your face in any way
- Sunglasses are not acceptable
- Non-tinted glasses are acceptable. Ensure that the frame is not covering any part of your eye
- Your face must have a blank expression. No smiling, no frowning and your mouth must be closed
- Digital photos are acceptable, but they must be in their natural form. No filters or screens or added text or shapes
- Must be a clear photo
- Must be taken against a white or very lightly coloured background
- Photographs must be taken in the last six months
Head Size and Photo Specifications
The photographer must meet the following specifications:
- The photo frame size should be at least 35mm x 45mm (1 ⅜” x 1 ¾”)
- The entire front view of the head must show in the photograph
- Face in the middle
- Must include top of shoulders
- From chin to crown (top of head) should be between 31mm (1 ¼”) and 36mm (1 7/16”)
Please note that if the photographs do not meet the specifications above, your application will not be accepted. For an added layer of certainly, you may bring this document to the passport photo processing location.
Your Confirmation To Legally Work in Canada (Proof of Employment)
There are some important pieces of documentation that you will need to provide in order to prove your employment eligibility in Canada.
- Your employer will provide you with a copy of the employment contract addressed and signed by them, and yourself. As well, if a LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) is required, that should be provided to you as well.
- If the place of business you will be working is LMIA exempt, that employer should provide you with a LMIA exempt work permit. Look out for the “Offer of Employment Number”. You should see the letter ‘A’, which is followed by seven numbers.
- You must also be able to provide proof that you are able to do the job you have applied for, and have been accepted into. Be prepared with your resume and references, educational accomplishments, degrees, diplomas and trade certificates.
- If you will be employed in Quebec, the Ministere de l’Immigration, de la Francisation will provide you with a copy of the Quebec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).
Proof Of Your Relationships
If your family members are accompanying you to Canada, you will need to prove their relationship to you. In order to do that you must:
- Provide a marriage certificate if you are travelling with your spouse
- Provide birth certificates if you are travelling with your children
- Complete the Statutory Declaration of Common-Law Union (IMM-5409) if you are travelling with your common-law partner
You may be required to provide additional documents if:
- The country that issued your passport requires a re-entry permit, that re-entry permit is required before you submit your work permit application
- You are not currently a citizen of the place you are currently living and applying from, you are required to provide of your immigration status in that territory or country
For any document that is not submitted in French or English, the following must apply unless you have been given specific instructions otherwise:
- You must provide a certified, original copy of the document
- The person who translated the document must sign an affidavit, unless they are a certified translator
- The French or English translations
Please note the following important pieces of information:
- Translations are not to be completed by yourself, or by any relatives. Relatives refer to: cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents, great-grandparents, conjugal partners, common-law partners, guardians, spouses, brothers, sisters, or parents.
Submitting Certified True Copies of Translated Documents
Original documents will need to be compared to photocopies to ensure authenticity. Only an authorized person may do that. Each photocopy must have the following printed information on it:
- “I certify that this is a true copy of the original document”
- The title and official position of the authorized person
- Their full first and last name
- Their signature
- The date of certification
- The document name
Completing the Application
The following forms must be filled out and submitted as part of your application:
- (IMM 5488) Document checklist
- (IMM 1295) Application for work permit made outside of Canada
- (IMM 5645) Family Information
- (IMM 5476) Use of a representative - if applicable
- (IMM 5409) Statutory Declaration of Common-law Union - if applicable
- (IMM 5475) Authority to release personal information to a designated individual - if applicable
Please note that an officer from the migration office may require you to submit more supporting documents. Also, it is mandatory to be truthful and accurate on each and every form you fill out. It is considered an offence if you provide misleading information.
Paying Your Fees for the Work Permit Application
Fees can change at any time so it is recommended to always check the official Government of Canada’s fee schedule for work permit applications. At the time this article was written in July of 2022, the processing fees are as follows, and all in Canadian dollars:
Work Permit (With Extensions) - $155
Work Permit (With Extensions) - applies to a group of performing artists of 3 or more - $465
Open Work Permit - $100 - This must be paid in addition to the $155 fee for a work permit. If your application is refused, this fee is refundable.
Fees for Biometrics
If you are required to provide biometrics, the following fee schedule applies:
Biometrics for an individual - $85
Biometrics for families (two people or more) - $170
Biometrics for group (3 performing artists or more) - $255
Regardless of the decision, biometric fees will not be refunded. If you are denied a work permit and need to reapply, you will have to pay the application fees again.
How to Pay the Work Permit Application Fees
In order to pay the fees for your work permit application, you will require:
- A Visa or Mastercard Debit card or
- A credit card
- Prepaid cards issued by American Express, Mastercard, Visa, UnionPay and JCB
- A valid email address
Full online instructions can be found here.
Please do not forget to print your receipt at the end of the payment session. This is your proof of payment and will be submitted along with your application.
How to Submit Your Work Permit Application
The first and foremost step when submitting your application is to review it for completion and accuracy. When your application is received by the Government of Canada, it will undergo the following checks:
- All required forms have been accurately completed
- All required forms, depending on your situation, have been provided
- All required processing fees have been paid and proof of purchase(s) have been attached to the application package
- All supporting documentation has been submitted
If you have provided an application that is deemed incomplete because it is missing any of the required items, the Government of Canada will:
- Return your entire package back to you
- Will not begin an official file for you
- Will not maintain any sort of record for you until the full and complete application package is received
Waiting for Your Work Permit Application to be Processed
Once you have submitted your application, the processing and decision making begin. At this point an immigration officer will assess and review the documents and details you have provided. This officer will decide whether or not an interview is required. If you are asked to attend an interview, you will receive a letter in the mail indicating the place, time and date. There are a few steps you can take to help prevent delays in processing your work permit. They are:
- Notify the Government of Canada if any of your information has changed
- Have your biometrics taken as soon as possible
- Pay all of the necessary fees
- Follow your document checklist carefully and send all of the required forms and additional information required
How Long Will My Work Permit Take to Be Approved/Declined?
Depending on the country you are applying from, processing times may vary. The Government of Canada has provided a very handy link to check processing times. You can find that here.
What if Your Application is Refused?
In the event your application is refused, you will receive a written explanation as to why it was rejected. As well, you will receive all of the original documentation you provided, mailed back to you.
What if Your Application is Approved?
If your application has been approved, you will receive a notice that you have been granted a Canadian work permit.
Arriving in Canada
Receiving your letter of introduction is not the same as receiving your work permit, and does not ensure your entry into Canada. As the Government of Canada maintains the right to change eligibility requirements at any time, and those changes are implemented between the time your application has been approved and the time you enter Canada; you may be refused entry.
A port of entry officer will make the determination for your eligibility once you arrive in Canada. This officer also notifies you of how long you may reside in Canada. This is when your work permit will be issued to you. As mentioned before, you are required to leave Canada on or before the date your work permit expires. If you do not, you must apply for an extension to stay in Canada.
What About Biometrics at the Port of Entry?
If providing biometrics was a requirement for your application package, an officer at the port of entry will:
- Compare the photo you have provided in your package with your travel documents and,
- Possibly direct you towards a secondary inspection line where you will be asked to provide your fingerprints in order for Canadian officials to compare the ones they have on file
Working in Canada
The first step to working in Canada is obtaining your Social Insurance Number (SIN). A SIN is a unique number issued only to you and works as an identifier to both provincial and federal governments. It is a 9-digit number and it allows you to work, file taxes and even receive certain benefits such as Employment Insurance (EI) and the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
How to Find a Job in Canada
Canada has a bustling economy and the opportunities are endless when it comes to the types of work available. We have published an article specifically on finding a job as a newcomer (especially if you have been granted an open work permit) as a great first step towards settling and working in Canada.
Don’t forget to bookmark our careers page for more job related content.
Newcomer to Canada and Settling In?
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Canadian Work Permits - The Takeaway
If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been granted a Canadian work permit in Canada this year, congratulations! If you have applied and are still waiting for a response, you’ve made a wise choice to join such a beautiful and robust nation.
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