How to Get a Work Permit in Canada?

Foreign nationals will need a work permit before the can start working in Canada. In a few cases, a work permit might not be needed, but in most cases it is mandatory. Here’s all you need to know about work permits in Canada.

Types of Work Permits in Canada

Broadly speaking, there are two types of work permits/temporary work permits in Canada – Employer-specific work permit and Open work permit.

Employer-specific work permit

As the name suggests, the employer-specific work permit can be applied for if you wish to work only for a specific employer in Canada. The employer will have to issue the applicant an offer letter or a copy of the positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) letter.

The applicant will need to complete certain steps of the application of the work permit.

To obtain an Employer Specific work permit, the applicants needs to have the following information:

  •   The name of the employer
  •   The duration of our work
  •   The location of your work

Open work permit

An open work permit lets you work for any employer in Canada. However, the permit prohibits you to work for certain employers such as those who regularly offer striptease services, erotic dances, erotic massage services, or escort services. There are certain eligibility criteria for being able to apply for an open work permit. You should make sure you are eligible before applying.

 Requirements for Employer-specific Work Permit in Canada?

Usually, the applicant for a work permit needs to have a valid job offer from a Canadian Employer at the time of application. Below are the two important steps of applying for a work permit.

Step 1

The first step involves getting a Positive Labor Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) issued from Employment Social Development Canada (ESDC). The Canadian employer is in charge of obtaining the positive LMIA. The employer must submit proof of recruitment efforts undertaken locally, and across Canada. They should be able to show that they could not find a qualified candidate who is a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident.

Step 2

If the LMIA obtained doesn’t have a name, the employer needs to add your name to that LMIA file. If the LMIA was already submitted with the applicant’s name Once the Canadian employer acquires the LMIA, you can apply for the work permit. With an employer-specific work permit, applicants can only work for the particular employer that has the positive LMIA. If you want to change employment and work for someone else, a new work permit for the new employer needs to be issued by the Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

The foreign worker needs to apply for the work permit before entering Canada. In certain cases, it might be possible to apply for a work permit at the border. Once the foreign workers’ application for a work permit is approved, a Port of Entry (POE) letter from the Visa office. The foreign worker needs to show this letter at the time of entry into Canada.


Open Work Permit Requirements

An Open work permit does not restrict the applicant while they are in Canada. They can work for any employer and take up almost any job in Canada. Usually, candidates in the below categories can apply for an Open Work Permit:

  •   Spouses or common-law partners of temporary foreign workers in Canada. The foreign workers should be in level 0, A, or B according to the National Occupation Classification (NOC).
  •   Spouses or common-law partners of foreign students studying in Canada.
  •   Foreign students who have recently completed their post-secondary or higher education in Canada.


Applying for Work Permit while staying in Canada

Only in a few cases, candidates are eligible for applying for a work permit while they are in Canada.

  •   Individuals whose spouse or common-law partner or parent has a valid study or work permit.
  •   Individuals who have a employer-specific work permit and want to apply for a work permit to work with another employer.
  •   Individuals who have a temporary resident permit valid for at least 6 months.
  •   Individuals who have already applied for PR can apply for a work permit while staying in Canada once certain initial steps of their PR application are processed.

If you want to apply for a work permit while you are visiting Canada, you can do so by visiting a Canadian visa office that is responsible for the country you are a citizen of. You can also visit the Canadian embassy or consulate in the United States.


Work permit fees

Foreign workers applying for work permit, need to pay for the processing fee to be able to submit the application. For an employer-specific work permit, the processing fee needs to be paid. For an open work permit, the open work permit holder fee needs to be paid along with the work permit processing fee.


How to extend a work permit?

The foreign worker can request to make changes to the valid work permit they hold; this includes extending the end date. However, the work permit needs to be valid for at least the next 30 days at the time of applying for an extension. Another important point to note is that the work permit can be extended only up to the expiry date of your passport.

If you are getting a new passport because the old one is expiring, you will also need to apply for an extension on the work permit.


Re-applying for a work permit

If the work permit has already expired, the foreign worker will have to apply for a new work permit. However, this can be done only if the work permit has expired within the last 90 days. Along with the work permit application, the foreign worker will also need to reapply for a temporary residence visa in Canada. Please note that the foreign worker cannot work from the time that the application has expired to the time when a new work permit is issued.

Another scenario where the foreign worker needs to reapply for a work permit is if your passport expires. Since the expiry of the work permit is linked to the passport expiry date, the foreign needs will need to reapply for a work permit when your passport expires.


How to apply for a Temporary Work Permit?

For applying for a temporary work permit, the eligible foreign workers first need to apply for the Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) before they travel to Canada. Below are the steps for the application of the temporary work permit.

Step 1 – Employer applies for an LMIA (if applicable)

Employers in Canada who wish to employ temporary foreign workers will need to get an LMIA. The ESDC will issue a neutral or positive LMIA if the employer can provide sufficient proof that eligible candidates are not available for the job in Canada. 

Usually, an LMIA is the first step. However, in certain scenarios, an LMIA might not be required. For example, if the employment is for charitable or religious work or if it is for students to fulfill their academic requirements.

Step 2 – Employer issues the job offer

Once the LMIA is obtained, the Canadian employer needs to issue the temporary offer letter. The offer letter must contain all the details of the employment and needs the LMIA to be attached to it. Then, the candidate can apply for a temporary work permit.

Step 3 – Temporary work permit application

The temporary work permit application needs to be submitted to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). A Temporary Resident Visa (TRV) also needs to be applied for and the temporary work permit can be applied at the Canadian visa office.

Step 4 – The work permit application is processed

When the candidate arrives at the border, the work permit is issued by the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA).

A temporary work permit can be valid for a few days or a few years depending on the requirement. Since by default, a temporary work permit is a closed work permit or employer-specific work permit, the candidate can only work for that particular employer.

Who doesn’t need a work permit?

Certain individuals are exempted from the process of applying for a work permit. They are:

  •   Foreign representatives and their family members,
  •   Athletes and team members,
  •   News reporters and people in the media crew,
  •   Performing artists and Public speakers,
  •   Healthcare students,
  •   Judges and referees,
  •   Military personnel, etc.



Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions over work permits.

Can a spouse or common-law partner work in Canada?

A spouse or common-law partner can work in Canada. However, they will need to apply for their own work permit. They can get an employer-specific work permit going through the same process as the principal applicant. However, in some cases, the spouse or common-law partner might be allowed to apply for an open work permit. This gives them the freedom to work with any employer.


How long does it take for an application for a work permit to be processed?

The time taken to process the application depends on several factors. Applicants can find the average processing time at .


The applicant’s can also check the status of their application online. The online information is updated regularly, so the applicant should check it often to know the latest status of the application.


What are implicit and explicit conditions on the work permit?

The explicit conditions on the work permit are the conditions of the employer-specific work permit. These conditions are:

  •   You can work only for that particular employer
  •   You can only do the stated type of work
  •   You can work only for the stated duration
  •   You can only work at the stated location

Apart from this, the implicit conditions include:

  •   You should leave the country at the end of your authorized stay.
  •   You cannot work for employers whose business involves illegal activities or sexual exploitation of its workers such as strip clubs, erotic massages, escort services, pornographic content creation, etc.


What if the work permit application is rejected?

If someone’s application for a work permit is rejected, there is no formal right to appeal. However, the applicant can reapply if they wish. There are chances that a different officer might process the request and it might get approved. If you feel that your application has been unfairly rejected, you can request a judicial review. A lawyer in Canada can act on your behalf and present your case in the Federal Court of Canada.


Canadian Work Permit during COVID-19


Those who haven’t applied for a work permit yet, need to keep in mind that due to the impacts of COVID-19, IRCC’s processing time is delayed in many cases. Some of the applications are prioritized however, including Canadians trying to return to Canada, vulnerable people and people who perform or support essential services such as agriculture, agri-food, health-care-related occupations.

To keep processing applications from people who are exempt from the travel restrictions, IRCC is temporarily changing how applications are processed for visitors’ visa and work or study permits in Canada.


Applications must be submitted online for work permit from outside Canada, and applicants need to keep in mind they cannot apply for a work permit at a Canadian port of entry during this time unless thye meet these 3 conditions:

  1. Entering Canada from the United States.
  2. cannot travel from inside Canada to the port of entry (in other words, they cannot “flagpole”).
  3. have a valid job offer and meet all other requirements to apply at a port of entry.


All applicants, must also have a plan to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Canada.

Those who have been approved for a work permit, need to  show the following documents at time of travel to show that they are exempt from the travel restrictions:

  • passport or travel document, and
  • proof that they’re allowed to work in Canada, specifically a valid work permit or a port of entry letter of introduction that shows that they were approved for a work permit