If you’re planning to work in Canada, securing a work permit is crucial.

This guide provides an overview of the crucial steps for obtaining a Canadian work permit, whether you’re applying under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) or looking for International Mobility Program (IMP) exemptions. Get the facts and expert tips to enhance your chances of approval.

Key Takeaways

  • Canada offers over 100 types of work permits, mainly divided between the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP), with some requiring a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) and others not.
  • Canadian immigration lawyers provide vital assistance in navigating the complex work permit processes, representing clients in applications, offering strategic advice on immigration programs, and helping with Federal Court work permit refusals.
  • Foreign nationals have various pathways to extend their stay or transition from temporary to permanent residence in Canada, including the Post-Graduation Work Permit for students and the Provincial Nominee Program and Express Entry for workers.

Navigating the Canadian Work Permit Landscape

In Canada, the work permit landscape is as diverse as the country itself, with over 100 different work permit options for foreign nationals. These options fall under two main umbrellas - the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) and the International Mobility Program (IMP). The TFWP focuses on foreign workers filling jobs that Canadians are not available to undertake, while the IMP allows employers to hire temporary workers without needing a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA).

These programs offer a range of opportunities, including:

  • Open work permits, which allow foreign nationals to work for any employer in Canada without needing a job offer or a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA)
  • Employer-specific work permits, which tie employees to a specific employer who obtained the LMIA and offered them the job.

Understanding Labour Market Impact Assessments (LMIA)

The Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA) plays a substantial role in the Canadian work permit process. This document is required by Canadian employers before hiring a foreign worker, serving as a verification process to protect the Canadian labor market. An LMIA is not just a formality; it is an assurance that there is a genuine need for a foreign worker and that no suitable Canadian worker is available for the job.

The process of securing an LMIA involves the employer showing the absence of available Canadian citizens or permanent residents for the job, generally through job advertising and a government-evaluated application process through ESDC. With a positive LMIA, foreign nationals applying for a work permit must include the job offer letter, employment contract, LMIA copy, and LMIA number in their application to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC).

Exemptions to the LMIA Requirement

Despite the pivotal role of LMIA in securing a work permit, several exemptions exist, allowing foreign workers to secure work permits in Canada without an LMIA. These exemptions cater to specific situations, such as those covered under international agreements or intra-company transferees.

For instance, free trade agreements such as the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) include provisions that exempt foreign nationals from needing an LMIA to work in Canada. Similarly, under the Global Skills Strategy, some researchers and highly skilled workers may enter Canada to work for short periods without requiring an LMIA or a work permit.

Intra-company transferees from countries with a free trade agreement with Canada, such as those under NAFTA, can utilize the LMIA exemption code T24, demonstrating their role’s significant economic benefit to Canada.

Temporary Foreign Worker Program: Applying for Your Canadian Work Permit

Under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, the journey to obtain a Canadian work permit starts with obtaining a positive LMIA. This process is initiated by the employer due to business needs and the unavailability of Canadians or permanent residences to do the work.

Once this is secured, the foreign national must include a job offer letter, contract, LMIA copy, and the LMIA number in their application. But, the documentation doesn’t end there. Valid passport, passport-sized photos, and proof of arranged employment, such as a copy of the LMIA and employment contract, are also required. Additional supporting documents may include educational credentials, proof of qualifications, and if intending to work in Québec, a Québec Acceptance Certificate (CAQ).

Work permit applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Prove their intent to depart from Canada after the permit expires
  • Demonstrate that they are not a risk to public security or a burden on the healthcare system
  • Provide proof of their legal status in the country of application if applying from outside their country of citizenship
  • Submit biometric data, including fingerprints and a photo, if required
  • Complete the IMM 1295 Application for Work Permit Made Outside of Canada form, providing personal information

Applicants are required to answer questions concerning their immigration history, criminality, and any military service. If family members will accompany the applicant, each must submit their own application forms. Applicants must demonstrate sufficient funds to support themselves and accompanying family members, and show their intention to leave Canada at the end of the work period. Documents in a language other than English or French need certified translations; the application may also require certified true copies of important documents.

International Mobility Program: LMIA exemptions

There are many LMIA exemptions to apply for a work permit. However, they are very specific. They are created mainly for Canada's interest and following international agreements with other countries. The full list of exemptions can be found here. While there are many exemptions, they are limited to most individuals. It is a common misconception that you can submit a work permit application form, and you will be approved. Again, you either need an LMIA under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, or be LMIA exempt under the International Mobility Program.

You can be exempt from a LMIA for unique work situations, like airline personnel or a professional with specialized knowledge (with employer support). For example, it is in Canada's interest to attract the best students in Canada to pursue a Master or PhD, and then offer a work permit after their studies to work in Canada. As another example, Canada, the United States of America and Mexico have agreed to offer work permits to certain professionals to increase mobility.

How much does it cost to hire an immigration lawyer in Canada?

The average cost of hiring an immigration lawyer in Canada varies depending on the specific services required and whether an LMIA is required.

Can a 40 year old get work permit in Canada?

Yes, a 40-year-old can still obtain a work permit in Canada as there is no specific age limit for Canadian immigration programs. However, age can affect the points awarded in the Express Entry system.

The Role of Canadian Immigration Lawyers in Securing Work Permits

Given the complexity of navigating the Canadian work permit landscape, the need for guidance becomes evident. This is where the role of Canadian immigration lawyers comes into play.  Cedric Marin, a Canadian immigration lawyer since 2018, provides legal advice and representation during the work permit process. He assist employers by identifying the legal steps necessary to bring key employees to work in Canada and helps foreign nationals apply for a work permit.

Lawyers can provide the following immigration services for individuals navigating the Canadian immigration process:

  • Advising on strategies to maintain legal status for employees
  • Helping employers support their employees to obtain permanent residence
  • Ensuring compliance with immigration law and policies regarding hiring foreign workers.

A Canadian immigration lawyer is indispensable to anyone seeking to navigate the Canadian immigration journey successfully.

Legal Representation for Employers and Work Permit Applications

Legal representation by immigration lawyers is important to address the complexity of work permit applications and understanding immigration law. Lawyers help ensure that work permit applications comply with immigration regulations and assist in meeting the eligibility criteria, resulting in an increased likelihood of timely processing and approval.

Immigration lawyers and immigration law firms can help companies in the following ways:

  • Prevent unnecessary costs and delays associated with work permit applications
  • Provide services for efficient and creative short and long-term labor planning
  • Guide clients through avoiding common pitfalls and mistakes that could compromise the success of work permit applications during the appeal process

Strategic Advice on Immigration Programs

Apart from legal representation, an immigration lawyer offers strategic counsel to clients on maneuvering through diverse immigration programs to work in Canada. They leverage their deep understanding of the immigration landscape and tailor their advice to the client’s specific situation and goals.

Immigration lawyers advise clients on their eligibility for programs like the Global Skills Strategy, which offers priority, urgent, or express processing of work permit applications. They can provide critical insights into specific immigration programs based on the client’s career or unique situations, such as those outlined in Free Trade Agreements. By assessing an individual’s eligibility for expedited processing, immigration lawyers can guide through the application process, potentially reducing waiting times for work permit approvals.

Assistance with Judicial Reviews in Federal Court

While work permit refusals can pose a considerable hurdle in the immigration journey, they do not signal the end of the path. Immigration lawyers can assist clients in overturning work permit refusals through requests for reconsideration or an Application for Leave and for Judicial Review in the Federal Court of Canada.

Immigration lawyers offer representation throughout the process, which includes preparation for the application and, if necessary, representation at border entry points. Following a work permit refusal, lawyers provide guidance on re-applying, which may involve submitting new or additional documentation and advice on meeting any mandatory waiting periods before reapplication. This kind of assistance can be pivotal in transforming a setback into a stepping stone towards achieving one’s immigration goals.

Business Immigration and Work Permits

In addition to individual immigration, Canada extends business immigration routes for entrepreneurs and self-employed individuals to secure temporary residence through the International Mobility Program. However, the processing time can be lengthy. However, this opens up avenues for entrepreneurs to bring their business ideas to Canadian soil, contributing to the country’s economic growth.

Entrepreneurial work permits require the applicant to control at least 50% of the business and to provide concrete evidence that their business activities will deliver significant economic, social, or cultural benefits to Canadians or permanent residents. The LMIA exemption code C11 is specifically designated for foreign entrepreneurs who enter Canada to manage their own business and create significant benefits.

Entrepreneurial Work Permit Options

Self-employed individuals and entrepreneurs who can demonstrate ownership of their business and the business’s benefit to Canada can apply for temporary work permits. They should hold at least a 50% ownership stake in the business. A comprehensive business plan indicating the initiative steps for starting the business and financial capacity for sustainability is required for the application process.

Work permits may be issued to self-employed individuals or entrepreneurs for a duration no longer than 12 months, with extensions possible if there is evidence of a concrete plan to hire a Canadian or permanent resident to manage the business.

There are also province-specific programs like Prince Edward Island’s Work Permit Stream through its Provincial Nominee Program aimed at foreign nationals with business ownership or extensive management experience. These pathways open doors for entrepreneurs and business owners to bring their skills, ideas, and investments to the Canadian market, contributing to its economic growth.

However, in recent years, these work permit applications have taken many months, if not years, to be decided. There are entrepreneurial work permit options and a Canadian immigration lawyer can help prepare the application, but they can be quite complex.

Support for Corporate Transfers

For multinational corporations looking to move their skilled employees to Canada, the Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) program provides an effective solution. The ICT program allows multinational companies to temporarily transfer qualified employees to Canadian branches, aiming to enhance global competitiveness and improve management effectiveness.

The ICT work permit aims to create or sustain employment for Canadian citizens or permanent residents while facilitating the transfer of international knowledge and corporate expertise. The applicability of the ICT permit is universal, governed by the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations, and is not restricted by the foreign national’s home country. This program offers corporations a streamlined pathway to bring in their global talent and contribute to the Canadian economy.

Study-to-Work Transition: Post-Graduation Work Permit

The journey for international students, who have selected Canada for their higher education, need not conclude at graduation. The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) program enables graduates from designated learning institutions (DLIs) to remain in Canada temporarily to work and gain valuable Canadian work experience.

As of February 16, 2024, the PGWP program is undergoing some serious changes. Make sure to follow our blog for updates.

For example, students who complete master’s degree programs of less than 2 years (minimum 8 months) may qualify for a 3-year PGWP, as per the rules effective from February 15, 2024. International graduates have a 180-day period following their graduation within which they can apply for a Post-Graduation Work Permit. This program presents a seamless transition from studying in Canada to working in Canada, further enriching the international student experience.

Eligibility Criteria for International Students

While studying in Canada, full-time students with a study permit are permitted to work off-campus for up to 20 hours weekly during academic sessions without needing a separate work permit. However, graduating from a Designated Learning Institution (DLI) does not guarantee qualification for a PGWP. Students must confirm that their school offers programs eligible for the permit.

The duration of the Post-Graduation Work Permit is influenced by the length and level of the completed study program and the expiration date of the student’s passport. In cases where a student’s passport expires earlier than the maximum potential duration of the PGWP, the permit is issued only up to the passport’s expiration date, necessitating a passport extension to receive the full PGWP validity.

Not all types of work experience are considered for the Canadian Experience Class; specifically, experience gained through self-employment, as a student or as an entrepreneur does not count.

Application Process for Post-Graduation Work Permits

The application fee for a PGWP is $255 CAD, while applicants who need to restore their student status need to pay the restoration fee. The current processing time for a PGWP is approximately 101 days, which may vary due to several factors such as application volumes and the accuracy and speed of information verification.

While the primary PGWP application is being processed, the graduate’s spouse or common-law partner may apply for an open work permit. Students can only apply to extend a PGWP following specific instructions by immigration authorities and must submit a paper application to achieve full validity of the PGWP. This ensures that students transitioning to work status have the necessary support and guidance throughout the process.

What is the post graduate work permit in Canada?

The Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP) in Canada allows graduating students from designated learning institutions to pursue Canadian work experience after completing an eligible program, without needing a job offer. This work permit is open and allows the holder to work for any employer, in any occupation, and anywhere in Canada.

What are the two types of work permits in Canada?

In Canada, there are two types of work permits: open work permits and employer-specific work permits. Open work permits allow you to work for any employer in Canada except for those listed as ineligible. You need to be eligible for a work permit program under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program or the International Mobility Program. You cannot simply submit a form to apply for a work permit and obtain a work permit.

Temporary Resident to Permanent Resident Pathways

For individuals who have arrived in Canada as temporary foreign workers, the country presents a pathway towards permanency. Temporary foreign workers in Canada may have the opportunity to apply for permanent residence while on a work permit. This opens up the possibility of making Canada their permanent home, further enriching the Canadian multicultural tapestry.

Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and Work Permits

The Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) enables Canadian provinces and territories to nominate individuals for permanent residence to address specific economic and labor market needs. Candidates are selected and nominated by provinces who assess their ability to contribute to the local economy and likelihood of successfully integrating into regional life. There are specific programs that may require Canadian work experience, which would require a work permit.

Following provincial nomination, applicants must submit a detailed application for permanent residence to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), which includes conducting security, criminal, and medical checks based on Canadian immigration law.

This program presents an excellent route for work permit holders to transition to permanent residency, further fostering their integration into the Canadian community.

Express Entry and Canadian Experience Class

Another popular pathway to permanent residence for temporary foreign workers is through the Express Entry system and the Canadian Experience Class. To be considered under the Canadian Experience Class within Express Entry, applicants must have garnered at least 1 year of skilled work experience in Canada, within the last 3 years, in occupations classified as TEER 0, 1, 2, or 3. Again, a work permit is required for Canadian work experience.

Applicants targeting the Canadian Experience Class need to demonstrate their language abilities in English or French by achieving the minimum scores in approved tests and incorporating this information into their Express Entry profile. Although there is no mandatory education requirement for the Canadian Experience Class, applicants can obtain additional points for having Canadian education or if their foreign education is assessed positively through an Educational Credential Assessment.

Protecting Your Rights as a Foreign Worker in Canada

As a foreign worker in Canada, be aware that you are not isolated, and you possess rights. Temporary Foreign Workers in Canada are protected under Canadian law and have the same rights and protections as Canadian citizens and permanent residents. This ensures that no matter where you come from, once you are in Canada, you are treated with fairness and respect.

Understanding Your Employment Rights

Foreign workers in Canada are protected by employment law which guarantees fundamental rights and workplace standards. Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) must be paid for their work as stipulated in their employment agreement, including provisions for overtime pay where applicable. Employers are required to follow the employment and recruitment standards of the province or territory, ensuring TFWs’ entitlement to health care coverage and the right to refuse unsafe work.

TFWs must receive a signed employment agreement before commencing work, and are entitled to termination pay in accordance with local laws upon layoff without reasonable notice. Knowing and understanding these rights is crucial for foreign workers to ensure that they are not exploited and that their experience in Canada is positive and fulfilling.


Navigating the Canadian immigration landscape, understanding the work permit options, and transitioning from temporary to permanent residence can seem daunting. However, with experienced immigration lawyers guiding you, the journey can be much smoother. They can help you understand the LMIA process, identify the best immigration programs for your situation, provide strategic advice, and even assist with federal court reviews. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a corporate transferee, a student, or a temporary foreign worker, the right guidance can make the difference between a dream and reality. So, reach out to a Canadian immigration lawyer today, and take the first step towards making Canada your new home.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and it is not legal advice. This blog is not a substitute for professional legal advice, and it may not be appropriate for you. Always do your own research and due diligence before making any decisions related to immigration matters. Do not rely exclusively on this blog. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, immigration laws and regulations can vary and change over time. It is important to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer if you are unsure how to proceed.

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