A Simple Guide to Canadian Work Permits?

Canadian Work Permit

Although it is increasingly easy to travel to most parts of the world, it can still be challenging to remain in a foreign country for more than a few months or to get permission to work there.

Many countries are positive about immigration and recognise the need to allow skilled workers in from other parts of the world, but there can be several hoops to jump through and a complex series of processes to work through for anyone who is looking to work in a foreign country.

This article will look at the ins and outs of apply for a work permit in Canada how to go about it, who needs them, and some hints and tips for getting the best result out of the process.

What is a Work Permit?

Most countries around the world have some sort of work permit system in order to facilitate the arrival of foreign workers into the country to help them work there. It is common that people born in a particular country will not need a work permit to work there but that people entering the country from outside will need one. This protects domestic workers whilst giving an opportunity for foreign workers.

A work permit is a formal document applied for and granted by the government of a country that enables a named individual to work in the country. It may state:

  • A start date
  • An end date
  • The type of work allowed by the named individual, or
  • A specific job for which the work permit has been granted.

Temporary work permits may lead to permanent work or residence or they may be only for a specific period of time, perhaps a short-term contract on a particular job.

Applying for a Work Permit in Canada

Most people wanting to come into Canada from abroad to work will need a work permit to do so, as per the requirements of the Canadian government, although there are some exceptions. The exceptions tend to be careers or jobs which are part of international treaty or trade agreements or in very specific careers.

Some of the common exemptions include clergy of recognised religious orders, news reporters and other journalists, film crews and actors for a production, athletes who have come to Canada to compete, as well as their coaches. Full-time international students also do not require a work permit for a part-time job if they are working on the university or college campus.

Foreign nationals who are in Canada for a short period of time to facilitate business do not usually require a work permit if only undertaking short tasks over a limited period.

A Canadian work permit may be open (the permit holder can work in any job) or employer-specific (the permit holder can only work for a specific employer)., and each type must be applied for separately.

Most foreign nationals are likely to be successful only in applying for an employer-specific work permit. This work permit may also state the location (e.g., city, branch or office) in which the foreign national may work, so it is important to get that right on the application in order to avoid any problems or issues.

It is also likely that any foreign national applying for a work permit will need a copy of the employers LMIA (Labour Market Impact Assessment) when applying, unless they are coming to do one of the jobs for which there is an LMIA-exemption, in which case an employment number will suffice.

When a work permit has been successfully granted, an application can be made for it to be extended at the end of its period, although it is not guaranteed that the application will be accepted. Many people who apply for and get accepted for a work permit will also need a visitor visa, and acceptance of one does not automatically guarantee acceptance of the other.

The difference between the two documents is that the visitor visa gives an individual the right to enter the country and stay there for a set period of time, whereas the work permit gives the same individual the right to also work in the country. A visitor visa does not bestow upon the individual the right to work and earn a living in Canada.

When applying for a work permit from outside Canada, you may be invited to attend a Canadian Embassy or Consulate in your own country in order for you and your documents to be verified.

When a work permit has been accepted, you will be given a port of entry letter of introduction, and the work permit will be given to you on arrival in Canada.

Hints & Tips

It is important for the employer and the employee to have a thorough grasp of the work permit application process in order to avoid any issues or delays.

The employer should have determined whether an LMIA (see above) is required, or whether the foreign worker is exempt from this requirement due to their job role.

As the foreign worker is likely to be on an employer-only work permit, any questions with regards to where the worker will be working, particularly in terms of locations, should be clearly determined prior to making the application, in order to avoid any issues, problems or delays.

Changes can be made to work permits, if the conditions of employment change for example, and work permits can also be extended. Workers are legally entitled to stay in Canada whilst the application is either changed or extended.

Applications to extend a work permit should be made at least 30 days before the current work permit expires, in order to avoid any problems or the work permit running out.


Foreign nationals can apply for either an open or an employer-only work permit to enable them to live and work in Canada, and although the process can be complex, it is worth it to live and work in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.