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A Brief Look at Work Permits

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Travel restrictions in Canada put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a deterrent to those looking to come to Canada to work. However, some temporary foreign workers may still be eligible to work in Canada. The restrictions currently in place cover what is known as “non-essential” travel, such as vacations. Exemptions are being made for individuals including Canadian citizens, permanent residents, their families, international students, and also temporary foreign workers.

Individuals with job offers still need to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine in Canada, and also require a letter of introduction for a work permit and a valid medical exam for immigration purposes. Also eligible are those whose spouse or common-law partner has a valid open work permit.  Those who do not have one or all of these may not be able to enter the country.

There are two types of Canadian work permits: those that require a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and those that do not. LMIAs are documents that essentially state that an employer has government approval to hire a foreign worker, as no Canadian is available for the position. They are obtained through the federal department of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Obtaining an LMIA is the employer’s responsibility and an LMIA approval letter will be needed (along with the formal job offer) when applying for a work permit. In the following situations, an LMIA may not be required for a work permit:

  • The individual is a dependent of a foreign worker already in Canada
  • The individual has been nominated by a Canadian province to work in the country
  • The individual can demonstrate that their work will provide a cultural or social benefit to Canada
  • The individual is involved in a reciprocal work agreement, such as through an international exchange program or the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA)
  • The individual can prove they intend to do charitable or religious work
  • The individual wants to start or run a business in Canada
  • The individual is transferring positions within a company
  • A French-speaking individual intending to live outside of Quebec
  • The individual is an academic, such as a guest lecturer or visiting professor

Work permits are separated into two categories: open and closed. Closed work permits include employer-specific work permits, where an individual is bound to a given employer. There are also occupation-specific closed work permits, which allow an individual to work for different employers as long as they are in the same occupation. Caregiver programs often use occupation-specific closed work permits. Open work permits allow for an individual to work for any Canadian employer, and a job offer is not a necessary requirement. Not all jobs allow for open work permit holders, however, and it can vary by employer or region. Another type of open work permit is for international students who obtain a Canadian post-secondary education. It is known as a Post Graduate Work Permit (PGWP) and allows the permit holder to live and work in Canada for up to three years.  If an individual’s work permit is due to expire during their time applying for permanent residence, they may obtain a Bridging Open Work Permit (BOWP) that allows them to stay in Canada while their application is being processed. The BOWP applies to the individual and their dependents, if applicable. Other parties eligible for open work permits include spouses or children of temporary foreign workers, spouses or children of international students, refugees, those seeking asylum, and those classified as protected persons.

To request information about immigration to Newfoundland and Labrador, please click here.