Work Permits

There are a wide variety of work permits, including Labour Market Impact Assessment (“LMIA”) Work PermitsFree Trade Agreement (“FTA”) based Work PermitsStudent Work PermitsSpousal Work Permits, and many more categories. Various Work Permit Exemptions exist too. We can help determine which work permit pathway is best for you?

LMIA-Based Work Permit

Applying for a LMIA is a 2-step process.  First, the employer must obtain a positive LMIA Employment and Social Development Canada (“ESDC”) or Service Canada. A positive LMIA will state that hiring a foreign worker for a specific position would have a neutral or positive impact on the Canadian labour market?

ESDC/Service Canada will consider factors such as:

  • Would hiring the foreign worker result in jobs created or maintained?
  • Would skills or knowledge be transferred to Canadians?
  • Is there a shortage of workers for the specified occupation and location?
  • Is the employer offering prevailing market wages for the position?
  • Did the employer advertise or try to recruit in Canada for the position?
  • Is there is a labour dispute in process?
  • Has the employer made reasonable efforts to comply with conditions of a previously-issued LMIA?

Expedited 10 business day processing is available in limited circumstances.

Once a positive LMIA is issued, the foreign worker must use the LMIA to apply for a work permit.

FTA Based Work Permits

Canada has finalized several FTAs which includes countries and economic blocks such as the USA, Mexico, the EU, Korea and some other Asian as well as South and Central American countries.

Common FTA work permit categories include:

  • Professionals:  citizens of FTA countries who meet minimum academic or alternative credential requirements usually with pre-arranged employment in Canada.  (ex: accountants, computer systems analysts, graphic designers, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists and more depending on the FTA).
  • Intra-company Transferees (“ICT”): citizens of FTA countries who have
    • worked with an affiliate of the Canadian company for at least 1 year in the past 3 years; and
    • the position has been executive,  senior managerial, or required specialized knowledge.
  • Investors: citizens of FTA countries who have a “substantial investment” in an enterprise in Canada may obtain a work permit to develop or direct the business.  Though the investment must be “substantial”, there is no specified minimum.
  • Traders:  citizens of FTA countries who are engaged in “substantial trade” in goods and services between Canada and their home country may obtain a work permit to develop and direct the Canadian business.

Business visitors who meet specified criteria do not even require a work permit at all under NAFTA.

Student Work Permits

Students can usually work on the university or college campus where they are studying without a work permit (ex: teaching assistant, researcher, campus bookstore clerk, restaurant attendant, and more).

If you are enrolled and studying full time in a qualifying school, you may also be eligible to work off campus without a work permit for up to 20 hours per week during regular study periods and full time during scheduled breaks.

Graduates of qualifying Canadian schools may be eligible for an open work permit for up to 3 years depending on the program of study and duration of study.  There are strict time limits for applying for such a work permit.

Spousal Work Permits

If you are married or have been living with a common law partner for at least 1 year, you may be eligible to apply for an open work permit based on your spouse/common law partner’s eligible work permit, study permit or work permit exemption. If your spouse or common law partner is sponsoring you for permanent resident status from within Canada, you may also be eligible to apply for an open work permit.

Other Work Permits

Additional to the above types of work permits, there are still other types of work permits that may be available. For example, Canada has agreements with many countries which allow their citizens, usually between the age of 18 to 35, to obtain work permits through those agreements.   Each country has varying options and eligibility, but the main categories are:

  • Working Holiday:  This is the most flexible: allows you to work for any employer, in any occupation;
  • Young Professionals: This is specific to an employer and occupation;
  • International Coop:  This is specific to an employer to work in an occupation related to your studies.

Work Permit Exempt Activities

Some activities may not even require a work permit; for example, religious workers who are preaching, teaching, or counseling in spiritual matters do not usually require a work permit.  Other examples include certain business visitors, performing artists, and guest speakers.

Pitfalls to Avoid

There are numerous traps and pitfalls you may encounter while applying for a work permit. Foreign workers and Canadian companies alike could face serious repercussions for both inadvertent and deliberate non-compliance with immigration laws.  Important issues include: working illegally, misrepresenting or withholding material facts, implications of leaving Canada during renewal processing, renewal limitations, and bans on returning to Canada. At Lowe & Company, we are well acquainted with the numerous work permit and authorizations available. We can lead you through your options and the crucial considerations involved.