Most individuals seeking to join the Canadian work force will require a work permit. The work permit — alternatively referred to as a work visa — is issued to eligible foreign individuals for a specific limited time period.

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The Canadian government also limits the accumulated length of time that non-residents can work in the country. The total number amounts to 40 months or 4 years — regardless of whether worked consecutively or with gaps between work permits. Once the maximum time is accumulated, the foreign worker will have to leave the country and remain outside of Canada for another 4 years to be eligible to work in the country again.

Any Canadian work permit will have an expiration date. The only way to secure a permanent work permit is to qualify and file for permanent resident status with the Canadian authorities.

Canada work permit requirements

All applicants for a work visa must do the following:

  • prove their intent to leave the country after the permit runs out;
  • show sufficient funds to provide for yourself and any accompanying family during your stay in Canada;
  • have no prior criminal charges (this may be verified by providing a police clearance certificate);
  • successfully pass a medical exam;
  • not intend to work for an employer labeled “non-compliant” by IRCC or an employer that does business related to the sex trade.

One of the other major Canada work permit requirements is to have the employer successfully pass the Labour Market Impact Assessment (or the LMIA) administered by Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC).

The other type of work permit that individuals may qualify for is an open work permit. This permit is issued to the following categories of individuals:

  • Spouses of temporary foreign workers (with occupation levels 0, A, or B).
  • Spouses of international students studying in Canada on a full-time basis.
  • Recent foreign graduates of Canadian post-secondary programs.

Unlike the regular work permit that specifies the job or employer the individual may work for, an open work permit does not impose any restrictions, allowing the worker to seek employment with any Canadian business.

Additionally, open work permits do not require individuals to have an offer of employment or a positive LMIA. Open Work Permits do not require an offer of employment or a positive LMIA.

How to apply for a Canadian work permit?

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Obtaining a Canada work permit is a three-step process, the first of which is securing a job offer from a CIC-compliant Canadian employer.

The second step is done by the employer: they have to pass an LMIA to demonstrate to the Canadian authorities that hiring the applicant will not negatively affect the local job market. After a positive LMIA has been acquired, the applicant can use it to apply for a Canadian work permit.

The third and final step is compiling and submitting an application along with all applicable payments. Canada work permit fees are currently at 155 CAD for a single application. Individuals may apply either online or via a paper application.

Applying online has several major advantages:

  • no mailing fees (paper applications have to be couriered to the CIC);
  • faster processing times;
  • online services will signal applicants that their paperwork is incorrect or incomplete;
  • application status can be monitored from within an online account.

The issued work permit will be employer-specific. If the applicant decides to change employers in the future, they must obtain a new permit before getting hired with another Canadian employer.


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