Work Permits – Working in Canada

A Canadian work permit is the permission to take a job within Canada if you are from a foreign country. You usually need a work permit to work in Canada. In some cases, you can work without a permit or job offer in Canada.

For the most part, before employers in Canada can hire a foreign worker, they must get an Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). A positive LMIA proves that the employer has tried and failed to find a Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill the position, so they need to hire a foreign national instead.

When a foreign national applies for most Canadian work permits, they need to have a copy of the positive LMIA and the LMIA number included in the application. However, there are some exceptions.

There are basically three kinds of Canadian work permits:

  1. Closed LMIA-exempt Work Permits
  2. Open Work Permits
  3. Closed Work Permits

Most Canadian work permits are closed work permits, which require a positive LMIA. A closed work permit is issued to a foreign worker to work in a specific position and for a specific employer that is listed on the LMIA.

An open work permit, on the other hand, lets foreign workers work in any position, for any employer, anywhere in Canada. Since open work permits are not restricted to an occupation or employer, they do not require an LMIA. You also do not need to have a job offer to apply for an open work permit.

Closed LMIA-exempt work permits are kind of in the middle. They allow foreign workers to work for a specific employer in a specific position, but do not require an LMIA.

Jobs exempt from an LMIA

Closed LMIA-exempt work permits authorize a foreign national to work in a specific position for a specific employer, but don’t need a positive LMIA. Usually, whether or not a closed work permit is LMIA-exempt depends on the nature of the job.

Intra-company Transferees

International companies can temporarily transfer employees to a Canadian branch without requiring an LMIA.

International Trade Agreements

Some international Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) contain provisions to make it easier for businesspeople to work temporarily in the signed countries. While foreign workers covered by an applicable FTA still usually need a closed work permit, they are exempt from the LMIA requirement. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are both examples.

Significant Benefit

This exemption can be applied if your employer is able to prove that you will bring an important social, cultural, or economic benefit to Canada. For example:

  • Technical workers, creative and performing artists, self-employed engineers, etc.
  • Intra-company transferees with specialized knowledge that will contribute to the Canadian economy through their specialized skills and experience
  • Workers under Mobilité francophone

Reciprocal Employment

This exemption allows foreign workers the opportunity to work in Canada in specific industries where Canadians have similar opportunities in other countries. For example:

  • Professional athletes and coaches working with Canadian teams
  • Professors, guest lecturers, and students participating in exchange programs

Entrepreneurs & Self-employed

Foreign nationals who want to work for themselves or operate their own business temporarily in Canada need to demonstrate that their business would generate significant economic, social, or cultural benefits for Canadian citizens or permanent residents to be granted a LMIA exemption.

International trade agreements

Some international Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) contain provisions to make it easier for businesspeople to work temporarily in the signed countries. While foreign workers covered by an applicable FTA still usually need a closed work permit, they are exempt from the LMIA requirement. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are both examples.

French-speaking skilled workers

French-speaking skilled workers who have a valid job offer in a province or territory outside of Quebec may be exempt from needing an LMIA.

Intra-company transferees

International companies can temporarily transfer employees to a Canadian branch without requiring an LMIA.

International youth exchange programs

Canada also participates in some international youth exchange programs that allow young people to travel and work in Canada without requiring an LMIA. For example, the Young Professionals category of International Experience Canada for individuals with a job offer in Canada that contributes to their professional development.

Minister-designated exemptions

This exemption applies to specific situations and is at the discretion of the Minister of Immigration. For example:

  • Academics, researchers, guest lecturers and visiting professors who are sponsored through a recognized federal program
  • Medical residents and fellows, and people who have received academic awards through Canadian institutions

Contact Us

Consider hiring an immigration lawyer when applying for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA). An immigration lawyer can navigate the complexities of the LMIA process, ensuring that your application meets all requirements.

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A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)

A Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) is a document issued by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) assessing the impact of hiring a foreign national in Canada. A positive LMIA indicates that there is no Canadian citizen or permanent resident to fill a position, therefore enabling an employer to hire a foreign national. A negative LMIA indicates that a position should be filled by a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

  • LMIA Application
  • Median Hourly Wages by Province or Territory
  • Exemptions to LMIA Requirements

A foreign national cannot apply for an LMIA. Rather, LMIAs are documents which must be applied for by a Canadian employer. While sometimes it is possible to hire a foreign worker who is exempt from needing an LMIA, or who is exempt from requiring a work permit, all streams of Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) require that an employer obtain an LMIA in order to hire outside of Canada. As well, many of Canada’s immigration pathways to permanent residency require that applicants show a positive LMIA in order to claim points for a Canadian job offer.

LMIA Application

An employer may submit an application for an LMIA as early as 6-months prior to the intended start date for the position. LMIA application procedures vary depending on the wage of the person being hired. Employers should consult the median hourly wages of their province or territory in order to determine whether their position is considered high-wage or low-wage, as low-wage positions will require the employer to meet additional criteria. There are specialized streams for employers wishing to obtain LMIAs for certain areas of employment.

Stages Guide

  • Step 1:
    Employer applies for Labour Market Impact Assessment
  • Step 2:
    Employer extends Temporary Job Offer
  • Step 3:
    Foreign Worker applies for Work Permit
  • Step 4:
    Work Permit is issued

Step 1: Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA)

Before applying for a temporary Canadian Work Visa, in most cases, you need to qualify for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIAs) from Service Canada. A temporary tourist visa will not provide eligibility to work within Canada.

For Low-Wage LMIAs

The procedures and criteria involved for Low-Wage LMIAs are somewhat different than for High-Wage LMIAs. More restrictions are imposed on Low-Wage job offers than are high wage as follows:

Positive LMIAs for low-wage jobs will now allow employers to hire a foreign worker for only one year at a time.

For organizations with more than ten employees, low-wage foreign workers can make up no more than 10% of the workforce.

Transitional measures will apply to employers whose work forces do not comply with this rule.

Canadian companies in the accommodation and food service sector as well as the retail trade sector will no longer be allowed to apply for LMIAs for jobs in ten lower-skill occupations.

As with high-wage LMIA applications, Canadian companies must now qualify with a higher application fee, complete longer application forms, and keep detailed records about their recruitment practices.

Step 2: Employer Extends Temporary Job Offer

The employer must send a copy of the positive LMIA along with a detailed ‘job offer letter’ to the foreign skilled worker.

Canadian companies are required by CIC to prepare a formal employment contract or what our industry refers to as the ‘Job Offer Letter,’ which must include:

  • Job title for the position
  • Job description
  • Requirements for the temporary position
  • Details about start and end dates
  • Specifics about the salary
  • The name and address of the employer

Canada Service Agency will ensure that the job offer is legit and real. Once the Canadian immigration department has confirmed the job offer with an LMIA, then the CIC will grant employment authorization for the company’s future employees to work in Canada. Once the LMIA is granted, the Canadian employer can extend a temporary job offer to the foreign skilled worker.

Step 3: Foreign Skilled Worker Applies For a Work Permit

Once you have your LMIA and ‘Job Offer Letter’ squared away, you then can apply for a Canadian Temporary Work Permit. If the employer that is hiring you is in the province of Quebec, then you may also need to obtain a Certificat d’acceptation du Québec (CAQ)in order to work temporarily in Quebec. In some cases, when applying for a temporary foreign worker permit, you will be required to attend an interview with a visa officer. If the visa officer is satisfied that the foreign worker’s employment will not adversely affect employment in Canada for Canadians and that the foreign worker qualifies for the position, then a Canada Work Permit will be issued.

Note: In some cases, applicants from certain countries will be required to undergo medical examinations.

Step 4. Get Issued a Canadian Temporary Work Permit

A Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer will issue the Canadian Temporary Work Permit at the point of entry when the skilled foreign worker arrives in Canada. Depending on the foreign worker’s country of citizenship, a Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) may also need to be obtained in order to enter Canada. There are a few more minor steps and processes to obtaining a work visa.

Note: If a certain position of your job is at the NOC 0 (managerial, executive) or NOC A (professional) level, you may be eligible for two-week application processing.

Open Work Permits

‘Open Work Permits’ for PR Applicants

As of December 15, 2012, Citizenship and Immigration Canada announced that they would be allowing permanent resident applicants to obtain work permits while they are awaiting the finalization of their application. This will allow permanent resident applicants to now work while they are awaiting the answer on their application!

Work Visas for Business and Corporations

If you are interested in sending your employees to Canada, you should look into applying for the Intra-Company Transfer ICT Canada Visa. Applying for an Intra-Company Transfer visa allows the company and employee to avoid applying for an LMIA since this is an LMIA-exempt work permit.

Applying for a Canada Work Permit by Occupation

There are many popular occupations for foreign workers looking to immigrate to Canada. Some of those occupations include IT Professionals, Live-In Caretaker Program, Managers, Chefs, etc.

Who is Eligible for the Bridging Work Permit?

• Federal Skilled Worker Applicants
• Canadian Experience Class Applicants
• Federal Skilled Trades Program Applicants
• Provincial Nominees

What are the Requirements for the Work Permit?

In order to be eligible, you must fall into one of the above categories, and you must also meet the following criteria:

  • You are currently in Canada
  • You have a valid temporary Work Permit, and it is set to expire within four months.
  • You have received a positive decision on your permanent resident application under an economic class, Federal Skilled Worker, Canadian Experience Class, or the Federal Skilled Trades Program.
  • You have made an application for an Open Work Permit.

This ‘open work permit’ is a significant program in Canadian immigration and allows applicants to work during the processing of their PR applications.

Electronic Travel Authorization Form Required

Visa-exempt foreign nationals who fly to or transit through Canada need an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Exceptions include U.S. citizens and travelers with a valid Canadian visa. Canadian citizens, including dual citizens, and Canadian permanent residents cannot apply for an eTA.

Important: If you are stateless or if you are traveling with a travel document issued to non-citizens, such as a foreign passport or a refugee travel document, you need to apply for a visa to visit or transit through Canada.

Canadian Working Visas for Skilled Americans

Are you a citizen of the USA who wants to work in Canada? If so, you can fast track your way to working in Canada via NAFTA. Americans are applying for a Canadian work permit in record numbers and, if applicable, you should take advantage of this opportunity! The Canadian economy is strong and is taking in many U.S. Citizens looking for work. The good news is that we have the NAFTA Agreement. NAFTA makes getting a Canada work visa for Americans and Mexicans much easier. What is required is a job offer from a Canadian company in a field listed in the NAFTA agreement, proof of qualifications including work experience and education, as well as citizenship.

Canadian Family Visas

There are alternative ways to make sure that family members that wish to be together can migrate together. Some family members such as spouses and/or dependent children can be included during the initial Canada work visa application for new immigrants to Canada. Other family members such as grandparents must be sponsored by Canadian citizens and permanent residents. Under the Express Entry program, dependent family members of the work visa applicant are also granted permanent residence in Canada. They can enjoy all the same rights to live, work, and study in the country. The Express Entry program helps connect family members of the recipients of Canadian work visas with the rest of country.

Intra-Company Transfer Canada Work Permit

This work permit is intended to streamline the relocation of employees from a foreign-based company to its affiliated Canadian counterpart. The objective of this specific work permit is to foster the sharing of expertise from foreign senior-level or specialized-knowledge employees to Canada. A comparable Intra-Company Transfer work permit exists under the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement. Nonetheless, within this category, foreign nationals from any country could potentially be eligible for an intra-company transfer Canada work permit. Another notable aspect of this work permit is that, in the majority of cases, the applicant’s spouse may be eligible to accompany them with an open work permit.


Applicants must meet the following requirements to be eligible for an Intra-Company Transfer Canada Work Permit:

  • Have worked for a foreign company for at least one year on a full-time basis
  • Held a specialized knowledge position or a senior or managerial position
  • Have been offered a position with a Canadian branch, affiliate or subsidiary/parent of the foreign company

In June of 2014, the Canadian government announced that they will be using a stricter definition of “specialized knowledge” to assess these applications.  They also announced that they are instituting a mandatory wage floor to ensure that foreign workers being transfered to Canadian companies are being offered a wage that is consistent with the prevailing wage in Canada.  To qualify, applicants now must:

  • Ensure that their occupation is consistent with the new definition of “specialized knowledge.” Specialized knowledge for the purpose of this program requires both a high level of proprietary knowledge and an advanced level of expertise.
    • Demonstrating advanced propietary knowledge requires applicants to show that they either have unique knowledge of the company’s services and how they relate to international markets or advanced knowledge about the processes and procedures of the company (such as production, techniques, etc.).
    • Demonstrating advanced expertise levels requires specialized knowledge gained in the past 5 years that makes a significant contribution to the company’s productivity.  This knowledge must be unusual within both the company and the industry and must be necessary for the operation of the business.
  • Confirm that the salary they are being offered in Canada is consistent with their specialized knowledge.  Because the salary of a specialist is typically above average, the salary offered must be above current prevailing wage levels for that occupation as determined by the officer.

These new rules imposed in June of 2014 do not apply to individuals pursuing Intra-Company Transfers through free trade agreements with Canada, such as the Canada-United-States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA).

Canada United States Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) Work Permits

Intra-Company Transfer Work Permit

This type of work permit eases the mobility of employees from a United States or Mexico-based company to a Canadian counterpart, whether it’s a branch, affiliate, or subsidiary/parent of the foreign company. The intent of this CUSMA work permit is to facilitate the transfer of knowledge from a senior manager or an employee with specialized expertise from abroad to their counterparts in the Canadian establishment. To be eligible for this CUSMA work permit, the applicant must have held a managerial or senior role or possessed specialized knowledge in the foreign company for at least one year within the three years preceding the application. Furthermore, if they are offered the same position in Canada, they meet the criteria for this CUSMA work permit.

CUSMA Professional Work Permit (also known as the TN visa)

If an American or Mexican citizen has work experience as a professional in certain occupations and they have an offer of employment in their profession in Canada, they may be eligible for a CUSMA professional work permit.  The applicant must meet the minimum education requirements or meet the alternative credential requirements outlined in CUSMA.  Examples of occupations that qualify for this type of work permit include engineers and accountants.

Can You Turn a Work Visa Into Permanent Residency?

If you are currently working in Canada and you have applied for permanent residence, you may be eligible for a bridging open work permit if your work permit will expire in four months or less. This means you can keep working while we make a decision on your permanent resident application. To qualify, you must have applied under the:

You must also:

  • Currently be in Canada,
  • Have valid status on a work permit that is due to expire within four months,
  • Select “Open Work Permit” as the type of work permit when you complete your work permit application, and
  • Pay the work permit processing fee and the Open Work Permit Holder fee.